Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

1
Child Victims, Young Combatants

In August 2002 I visited northern Sierra Leone, which had recently emerged from its decade-long civil war. In the searing heat of a remote village, a 15-year-old girl named Fatmata sat with her listless baby girl on her lap in a dirt-floored hut that had never been graced with electricity or running water. Like many people from Sierra Leone, Fatmata was eager to tell her story so the world would know of the enormous needs she and her people face. Speaking in a monotone voice betraying heavy emotional burdens, she said, “The rebels—they came and attacked my village … They burned many homes and took girls like me as wives. I was 12 years—just a young girl … I was so scared.” Unlike some girls, Fatmata had not been gang-raped, a tactic the rebels had used to terrorize civilian populations. But her life had been very difficult. “They made me carry supplies—really heavy things—on my head, and I thought we would be shot.” When I asked about her captor, whom she referred to as her “husband” because she had lived with him and had eventually borne his child, she replied, “My husband … he beat me and had sex with me. He protect me some, too … 1 got pregnant and had my baby in the bush.” When I asked whether she had received any medical assistance while giving birth, she shook her head to say no, and her eyes glazed over in the blank stare one sees all too often on the faces of children who have experienced war’s horror firsthand. “Now,” she said, “I have AIDS and my baby too …I’m too poor to buy medicine… What will happen to me and my baby?”

Fatmata’s case, like the phrase child soldiers, offends most people’s sensibilities and challenges cherished assumptions about children, hu-

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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