The Child Soldier: Our Writing
Giving Voice to Youth Affected by War


Child Soldiers -Who Is Responsible
by Alpha Sesay, a student of the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Freetown

We at IEARN SIERRA LEONE - F.B.C. BRANCH believe that
if an answer is to be sought to the issue of child
soldiers, then, we need to find out who is
responsible. If we fail to do this, then I'm afraid,
solutions will be hard to come by.

I am of the firm conviction that the burden of
responsibility does not lie on any one person or set
of people. Various people bear responsibility in
varying degrees.

In the first place, the parents have great
responsibility for the involvement of their children
in armed conflict. It is a common adage that "charity
begins at home" and the bible also states "train up a
child in the way he should grow and when he is old he
will not depart from it". The family is therefore the
first place where the child begins to cultivate values
and vices. If the parents use abusive languages in his
presence, he learns to abuse other people. If in a
conflict situation like Sierra Leone, the parents give
toy guns to children as gifts, he begins to think of
guns when he sees them. If he is given books as gifts,
he cultivates a culture of learning. If given
football, by the time he is big, he knows how to play
football. It is therefore very important to give the
child a very good culture at that early stage. On the
contrary, many parents have cared very little about
the way their children grow up. Some of them have been
the most responsible factor for the involvement of
their children in conflicts. Some parents being rebels
themselves have ended up involving their children in
the war in Sierra Leone. As said in a Creole proverb
"if you ose nor sel you, trit nor go buy you" meaning
if you are not sold by your house, you will not be
bought by the street.

The society also bears some amount of responsibility.
Individuals learn a lot from society. If they belong
to a violent society, they become violent as well.
Socialization therefore plays a very important role in
the child's life.

For those who go to school, the school also does not
go without blame. The school is the child's next home
and teachers have a vital role to play in this. Some
teachers have become rebel sympathizers and they take
time during their classes to conscientize their
students and this influences them greatly. Some
teachers even take these children to ghettos and for
other teachers not sympathizing with rebels, they do
very little in educating the children with regard
their responsibilities as citizens. The school
therefore plays a role in this.

Another responsible factor is that of the governments
that have existed and still exist. These governments
do very little in protecting the interest of the
children. It is the basic responsibility of government
to care for her citizens. The child has a right to
quality education, good health as well as that of
shelter and clothing. Government has cared very little
about these rights. Illiteracy continues to plague the
society. The children have been rejected members of
society. Those close to the powers that be have cared
only for their own children. They have been the only
ones enjoying the national cake. They have failed to
realize that everyone should be equal irrespective of
status, sex, age, tribe etc as stated in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These children
have therefore been very idle members of society and a
common adage states "an idle mind is the devil's
workshop". Those in authority have therefore been very
much responsible in creating bad members of society.
When those with guns come to the children and offer
them hospitability and brotherhood, they are easily
conscientized and get involved in armed conflicts.

The children themselves bear some responsibility for
this. Some have joined rebels willingly. Some have had
opportunities to get out but have refused. Some have
had very good opportunities to live decent lives in
society but have rejected it for very bad ones. They
therefore bear some responsibility especially those
above 15 years.

Finally, those elderly people who have become rebels
need to be blamed. Most children have had no say in
their conscription, but they have been forced to join
and drugged to do very bad things. Some have been
given commands to carry out orders, failing which,
will result in their death. Nobody wants to die so in
order to avoid death, they succumb. Some have seen
their parents been murdered. They are therefore
traumatized and can therefore do anything they are
told. These senior rebels have a very big role to play
in the issue of child soldiers.

Having highlighted the burden of responsibility in
varying degrees on particular sets of people, serious
attention needs to be given to them in order to get
solutions to this problem. The next contribution will
make recommendations to these problems.

Alpha Sesay
Fourah Bay College-USL
FReetown,Sierra Leone.


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