Over recent years there has been a steady rise in the use of children in war zones throughout the world. A number of conflicts involve trafficked children.
Sierra Leone, a country situated on the West coast of Africa, is slowly recovering after an 11 year civil war fought between the government and the rebel group RUF (Revolutionary United Front). The forcible trafficking of children during this war was widespread, leaving a legacy one can only imagine.
Up to 10,000 boys and girls were involved in the conflict. They were mainly between 8 and 14 years old and abducted from their villages. Street children, many of whom lost their entire family in the conflict, were especially vulnerable to being kidnapped and trafficked. Their experiences varied according to gender BUT both suffered horrendous abuses.
In an attempt to control the children and turn them into fearless warriors, boys were forced to consume large volumes of alcohol and had gunpowder and cocaine sprinkled into their wounds. This had two major effects: it would make them dependant on their trafficker and it would make them addicted to drugs and as a consequence easier to control. Boys were also forced to kill their own family members, if you can kill your family you can kill anybody (or so the twisted logic goes). The list of abuse goes on…
Known as ‘bush wives’, girls as young as 8, were forcibly married to commanders based in the Sierra Leonean wilderness. These girls were used as sex slaves and were at the mercy of their ‘husband’.
The Sierra Leonean war may be over, but the battle still goes on. Today, all over the world, children are being trafficked into war zones in countries like Sri Lanka, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If you remember one thing, remember this. At the same time a 9 year old child in your neighbourhood is fiddling about with his or her Ipod, another child is fiddling about with their AK-47.