Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Child Soldiers

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Ishmael Beah speak regarding his book, "A Long Time Gone," and about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. He is currently on a book tour that Starbucks is promoting. He is a remarkable young man who found a way to regain his humanity after experiencing and taking part in horrific acts.

Beah's main message is one of hope and humanity. He does not believe in placing blame on the children involved in the conflicts for the horrible acts they have committed but rather to focus on rehabilitation. The children had no choice but to commit those acts - kill the enemy or be killed by your fellow soldiers.

Beah got lucky because UNICEF stepped in and selected him for rehabilitation. Other children aren't so lucky. They either die really young or find a way to survive but are unable to leave the rebel group. Many of these kids become addicted to the violence much in the same way that they are addicted to the drugs the leaders of the groups feed them.

Today, I found this on regarding child soldiers in Uganda. The piece discusses that many children (female and male) are kidnapped in order to be conscripted. They usually see the murders of their parents and other family members and are brainwashed with drugs and propaganda in an effort to make them loyal little soldiers.

No comments: