Foday Sankoh was the leader and founder of the Sierra Leonian rebel group RUF (Revolutionary United Front), an organisation that murdered approximately 50,000 people during the decade-long civil war in which over 500,000 people were displaced. Sankoh and his confederates,…
[For ethical obligations, to protect the identity of my relative I’m going to use the alias ‘Mary’]
On the 23rd of July, I interviewed my cousins wife named Mary, who was in Sierra Leone during the civil war that lasted a decade. Mary was merely a child, when she was separated from her relatives and avoided becoming a child soldier herself, when a rebel army began taking children to become part of their forces.
Mary enters my Aunt’s living room with a cup of tea and I ask her whether it’s ok for me to film the footage of our interview, to which she consents to, as long as it is only her voice that is recorded and not her face. As the interviewer and the director, I didn’t want to make her feel obliged to be on film so I begin asking her a series of questions. Mary gives me as much information as I ask, while I am wary not to go into too much detail.
Once I ceased filming, Mary becomes more comfortable and tells me a story of how she and her family thwarted a confrontation with a rebel group. She tells me that she was forced to line up along with other people from her town to be analysed and categorised by the rebel group – a process that involved them partaking in merciless amputations and killings, and recruitment of children for their army based on ‘looks’ and perceived ‘strength’. A British aid helicopter flew over the town around the time her family was being confronted, which forced the rebel soldiers to recuperate elsewhere allowing the rest of people to be spared momentarily.
Mary also describes another confrontation in which her and her sisters disguised themselves as elderly women to avoid being recruited and kidnapped, a concept that saved their lives, as the soldiers where looking to corrupt young children as the front line of force. She laughs as she describes how her and her sisters covered their faces in light powder and wore baggy clothing, figuring out that the soldiers are not interested in recruiting elderly women, which allowed them enough time to escape their district and seek help, although ultimately they were not safe until the civil war finished.
She goes on to describe how her father was captured by a rebel army that included children soldiers, and they were preparing to kill him but for unknown reasons they decided to ‘spare’ him and move on to another village.
When suggesting christianity as a forward movement towards rehabilitation, Mary gives me her honest opinion when she states that ‘These children don’t believe in God, Nathan they are too young to even understand that’ - informing me that children as young as 6, were being recruited and force-fed drugs such as cocaine to loosen their inhibitations and turn them into soldiers.
We came to the conclusion that the only way the rebel armies could have come into possession with expensive stimulants in a still-developing country like Sierra Leone that relies mainly on exports of minerals, is if the government was fuelling them -
therefore the repressive dictator Foday Sankoh was a major influence and catalyst in the civil war, as he was most probably providing these armies with stimulants and various weaponry.
From this intense interview I was able to gather that even if child soldiers are given the opportunity to make better futures for themselves, they will forever be stigmatized and given self-fulfilling prophecies which prevents them from successfully overcoming their difficult circumstances.
Can child soldiers be rehabilitated?’
I am in the process of filming a doc based around the subject of ‘the military’s abuse of children in third world countries’. I mainly want to focus on how audiences perceive the rehabilitation process of children soldiers, and I want to promote brilliant charities that not only stop rebel armies from corrupting children as young as 9 in countries such as Sierra Leone and Uganda, but actually consider the long-term effects of war and how these children can recover from such truamatic experiences. I decided that I wanted utilise my knowledge of drama to create a short documentary that is built up of mainly brief interviews of members of the public. My main interest is the rehabilitation process, as charities and various forms of governmental aid, have aimed to stop the miltary’s use of children, while inadvertly overlooking methods of rehabilitating the child soldiers that have already been brutally traumatised and manipulated by the rebel armies and forces.
I recently watched a documentary named ‘Children of War’ and took some notes. The documentary is set in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and focuses on young 11 year-old Sherieff Koroma, a former child soldier that is receiving no form of rehabilitation treatment, other than getting an education at school. It is slowly revealed to the audience, that Koroma along with thousands of other boys were regularly given doses of cocaine, to make them fight in a war fuelled by blood diamonds. I have concluded from watching this documentary that to effectively rehabilitate this boy, it is necessary for him to show signs of remorse to avoid him continuing down a path one may argue is deterministic. However the likelihood of this occurring is minor, as no active help or therapy is available to this boy to help him cope with the trauma that he has been forced to carry. His faith in God has seemed to keep him on some degree of sanity, though he has shown signs of suicidal thoughts – “I also pray to God to send somebody to help me kill myself”.
As a Christian myself, I have to say that I am disappointed at the fact that in today’s society, the belief in God has been widely frowned upon, while in developing countries that have been hit with extreme poverty, the belief in God is arguably the only thing keeping boys like Koroma sane and alive. Overall this documentary has informed me more as part of the audience and as the director of my own documentary of the cruelty these children face, and the necessity of bringing this subject to the surface of the media.
If U want to help in any way shape or form (dw i’m not asking for $£$££), or if you can direct me to some moving films or docs on this topic, plz comment.
ty 4 reading :}