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A telecollaborative Project Between iEARN-Canada & iEARN-Sierra Leone


Our writings section features stories addressing the issue of ChildSoldiers written by youth in Sierra Leone

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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