Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone Background

The Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF/SL) invaded Sierra Leone from Liberia in March 1991. Initially they claimed to be a political movement supporting ‘liberation’ and ‘democracy. Instead the RUF, in reality, was an insecurely combined organization of mainly rebellious young people that inflicted mortal disaster throughout the country of Sierra Leone. The political revolution message failed to attract popular support, the RUF board on a barbarian ten-year civil war that had devastating consequences for civilians, in particular children.

General Information about Child Soldiers

The numbers of child soldiers are continually variable given the growth of diverse armed conflicts. The number of children under the age of 18 who have been forced or induced to take up arms as child soldiers is commonly thought to be around of 300,000. Non-governmental military organizations tend to recruit soldiers under the age of 15.Governmental armed forces, on the other hand, are more likely to recruit soldiers under the age of 18. From what is known the age of 7 is the youngest a child soldier can be. Over 50 countries currently take on children under the age of 18 into their militia.

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Figure 1. The African situation since Africa has without any doubt the largest number of child soldiers[1]

What is a Child Soldier?

UNICEF, The United Nations Children Fund, defines child soldiers as "any child—boy or girl—under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity[2].

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers: “Child soldiers perform a range of tasks including participation in combat, laying mines and explosives; scouting, spying, acting as decoys, couriers or guards; training, drill or other preparations; logistics and support functions, portering, cooking and domestic labour; and sexual slavery or other recruitment for sexual purposes.”[3]

Girls are also called child soldiers and this is the case for many reasons. Girls usually fulfil numerous roles. While they are commonly recruited and used for sexual purposes, they are almost always also caught up in other military responsibilities. These include fighting, laying explosives, portering, and performing domestic tasks.

How many child soldiers are there?

It is difficult to give a worldwide number of child soldiers at any one time. There are various reasons as to why exact figures cannot be calculated. An example is that military commanders frequently mask children or do not allow access to observers. Armed groups regularly operate in dangerous, unapproachable zones to which observers do not have access and many children carry out support roles and are therefore not visible in military operations.

How do children become soldiers?

A special report on the impact of armed conflict on children which was created in 1996 explained how children become soldiers. In the report it is stated ‘Hunger and poverty may drive parents to offer children for service or attract children to volunteer as a way to guarantee regular meals, clothing or medical attention. Some children become soldiers to protect themselves or their families in the face of violence and chaos around them, while others, particularly adolescents, are lured by ideology. Children also identify with social causes, religious expression, self-determination, national liberation or the pursuit of political freedom, as in South Africa or the occupied territories." [4] Another reason emphasizes the efficient value of children, especially for tedious tasks. An important explanation to keep in mind could be that child soldiers may be valuable for signalling purposes. A rebel leader may hope to show significance, commitment or terror through abduction of a child[5]. Finally, some people insist that young children are more malleable, adaptable, and obedient, as well as more easily persuaded...
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