Former Child Soldiers of Liberia
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The children of Liberia face a difficult future. They have all missed out on their education and growing up with their parents and families.

Transcript


Narrator: As the convoy crosses the border, rebel leaders are signing up to yet another stage of the peace process. This is the day all arms should have been handed in. Jacques Klein: This is a historic day for Liberia. The joint declaration about to be signed reaffirms the warring factions as well as the Liberian people desire for peace. Narrator: The politicians might have been signing up to peace but on the streets; violence reemerges for the first time in a year, clear evidence that tension is never far from the surface. UN peacekeepers impose a strict curfew. Dr. Moses Jarbo: We are at a critical junction. There is still potential for an explosion in this country if we do not have the resources to make sure that the combatants are engaged in a positive way. For 20 years, the only means of survival for the combatant have been the force of arms. These combatants, a hundred thousand plus those that are also affected by the war must also be taken into consideration. We need money to help the combatants. We need to create access to opportunities that many of them have never had. There is a shortfall. Abass Kanneh: A hungry man is an angry man. You don’t keep men hungry for a long time. You are standing amongst thousands of angry combatants here now, no jobs. What job will we have? We beg and a beggar is not a normal man. So, beyond begging, confusion can break out. So, it is true if there are no jobs, there will be problems. Narrator: Lessons at an interim care centre, where children caught up in the fighting stay before being returned to their parents. So far, according to UNICEF, 85% have returned home but Moses is in limbo, still waiting to go back to his family. Viola Richards: Since he left his parents when he very small, he joined in the fighting force. He doesn’t stay in one place. He wants to move around. He wants to get around off the fence because the commanders of these guys are still around. Definitely we get problem with them. They respect their commander more than you and me because they take command structure from their commander. Narrator: Because they have been separated from their parents for so long, these commanders are often the only family they have ever known. Moses: This is Nasty, Nasty Plasty. This is Watanga, commanding general. Watanga: I’m the former commanding general, commonly called Watanga. We’ve got so many kids that are not going to school and they are living all over in the town and if they causing problems, we are the ones that have to answer for it and we are getting tired of it. Scorpion: There was an orphan crisis during this war and there were so many of them. I became like a father figure. They loved me and I loved them, so they started to hang out with me. I was a commander and they were very small and they decided to follow me on the front line and that’s how I got to know him. Narrator: For Moses, and all the boys, these are complex relationships; power, control but also perhaps some genuine affection. Abass Kanneh: Come here. See this? These are children born in the war. He’s not at the age of fourteen yet but he was born in the war. These children lost their parents. Who can we take this man to? We are the commander responsible for them. At the end of the day, he also comes to my house to find food to eat. I cannot eat rice and then leave him out. That is the situation on the ground here. Narrator: But Moses does have other friends. Peter handed in his weapons at the same time but unlike Moses, he’s now back with his family. Moses: Can your mother take good care of you? Peter: Yes, my mother takes good care of me. When you’re with your mother, they would be able to take good care of you. Moses: I hope so. I really want to be with my mother now. Narrator: Peter’s mother explains how hard it was. Maggie: Some people were running away from the bullet and even left their children behind and the children got lost from them. They couldn’t go back to look for the child, somebody might pick the child up and they wouldn’t know the right person to take the child. Some child would live and some would not live. If you’re not lucky, you lose that child which is very painful in the war. As a mother, it’s painful. Peter: Because of the war, the war was coming; there was nobody here to teach because everyone was running away. I want to learn. I want to be someone in the future to help my family, that’s what I want to go to school for. George M. Wolo: One student here will obey to learn then tomorrow, what will you be? You will become president. You’ll be good. You help other people to live a good life, understand? If you look at the percentage of illiterate, it is higher than the literate. So, this is very important for us to understand each other. We’ve got to develop Liberia. If we are not educated, we will always be fooled by a few people and people will mislead us and every time we’ll run against each other. If children are educated they will know that they have a value, they will understand their value. Narrator: After missing out on over a decade of education, getting all the children back into the classroom is critical to rebuilding Liberia. As well as schools, there are also centers where children who have been demobilized can learn practical skills. Kardi Julia Juma: One thing in Africa generally is lack of employment opportunities because we don’t have loads and loads of industrial factories and organizations coming up and opening companies here. So, you have to learn a trade. Something has to be done to make a living and if not so, they will still end up in the streets and ending up in the streets is not a better future for us.