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Former child soldier: "They would point a gun at me and tell me to kill someone, so I did"

21-10-2009 Feature

The testimony below is that of a 17-year-old former child soldier and current student of the Child Advocacy and Rehabilitation Centre (CAR) run by the Liberian Red Cross, which supports children who were affected by Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Students between the ages of 10 and 18 are provided with psychosocial counselling, skills training such as tailoring and masonry, recreational activities and accelerated learning programmes.

 

©ICRC/VII/Christopher Morris/v-p-lr-e-0039 
 
Students at the Child Advocacy and Rehabilitation Centre near Monrovia. 
  One night during the last war (2003) I had a dream, that our neighbourhood was attacked. My father told me to forget about it. He said it was only a dream.

The next day we were walking on the road and we met fighters, strangers with weapons. The fighters asked us who our friends were. They wanted to know which side we were on. If we answered the government, we would be killed, so we answered that we didn’t know.

We were told not to run. My mother ran and she was shot dead right in front me.

They took me and my father and brought us to another area of the city (Monrovia). There they gave me a gun, and taught me how to shoot. I went to the front and started shooting. During one battle, a bullet hit my arm.

When they would capture someone from an enemy faction, they would point a gun at me and tell me to kill that person, so I did. If I didn’t obey, I would be shot on the spot. I saw it happen before to other kids who didn’t obey. Even if they hesitated a moment, they were killed.

The commander was the main person in my life during the war. The only way for me to survive was to stay with him.

During the war my father was wounded and all of my brothers and sisters were killed. I am alone now with my father, who is very sick.

After the war, when I came to disarm, I was put in a displaced camp, where I still live today. That is where I heard about the CAR programme. I applied for it and was chosen.

Despite all I’ve been through, I am optimistic about my future. I think I will be a good person in the future.

Liberia will have a good future as long as we can keep away from war. It ruins everything. My family is gone. My childhood is gone. I can’t get it back.

 This student is studying masonry at the CAR centre. He is one of the most talented mason apprentices, and is confident that he will make a good mason and be able to support himself.  

 
 

  See also special section on Children in war