Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative Set to Begin New Project in Sierra Leone

Report
from Child Soldiers Initiative
Published on 11 Feb 2013

February 11, 2012, (FREETOWN) — The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative will mark February 12, the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, in Freetown on Tuesday as it begins a new project in Sierra Leone.

The project, which launches this month, aims to establish new training and education programs in an effort to directly prevent the future military use of children in the region by working with youth and the security sector.

It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 child soldiers were recruited during the West African nation’s 11-year civil war, which saw a further 2.5 million Sierra Leoneans displaced and 50,000 who lost their lives. Many members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) have direct experiences with child soldiers during this period, or were themselves recruited as child soldiers.

At the request of the Office of the Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma, the Initiative’s Executive Director Shelly Whitman and her team will be meeting with military, police, government officials, educators, nonprofits, and former child soldiers.

“Sierra Leone is situated in a corner of West Africa that has a particularly violent history. Its neighbours – Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Mali – have all experienced extended periods of armed conflict and there is a constant risk of violence spilling across Sierra Leone’s borders,” said Dr. Whitman.

“Yet at the same time, Sierra Leone has maintained a laudable degree of stability since the conclusion of its civil war in 2002. Notably, it has begun to establish itself as a key African peacekeeping nation, recently contributing troops to the UNAMID force in Sudan and now 650 troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). We view this project as a remarkable opportunity to work with Sierra Leonean institutions to ensure the military recruitment of children never resumes, and that this initiative will help with the government’s overall priority of furthering the consolidation of peace in the country.”

In addition, hundreds of students will mark the international observance in Edmonton, where Whitman and her team will be Skyping in from Sierra Leone for a discussion on the issue. “Child Soldiers: Caught Up in Conflict” is a conference organized by the Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal, a North-America based non-profit which focuses on global issues by promoting awareness and engagement among global youth.

Youth from Canada and the US have been working together online for the past seven days sharing ideas on discussion boards and blogs while being mentored by former child soldiers and activists. Senator Roméo Dallaire will also participate in the conference via video. The stream will be broadcast online to the world.

This morning, Dr. Whitman met with Peace Educator and newly-elected Member of Parliament Hon. Dr. Thomas Mark Turay, who said: "What I like about General Dallaire is that when he transitioned from his experience in Rwanda—he could have been beaten or defeated. Instead he has committed his life to changing the world, and I believe this is an excellent initiative."

Project details

• In keeping with the organization’s focus on prevention, the project will see the establishment of youth-oriented education programs on child soldiery, with an emphasis on legal rights, tactics, and methods of escape. The aim of this exercise will be to incorporate this knowledge in school curricula nationwide.

• The project will also see the establishment of new military and police training on the prevention of the use of child soldiers, shaped by years of research and trainings throughout East Africa, incorporated into the RSLAF training regime, in an effort to prevent future use and to break down stigmas facing former child soldiers. To date, the Initiative has trained more than 500 military, police and peacekeeping officers in 50 countries. This country-specific training will:

  1. Outline the major security issues related to the phenomenon of child soldiery;
  2. Identify strategies for preventing the recruitment and re-recruitment of child soldiers;
  3. Improve interactions between security forces and child soldiers in the field, with the overall aim of protecting children from manipulation by armed groups;
  4. Work with the legal instruments that guide the protection of children in conflict situations.

Project partners

  • Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone
  • Ministry of Defence, Joint Force Command and various formations and units of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF)
  • Child to Child Trust, UK
  • Former child soldiers
  • Local non-profits
  • Police and community leaders

Media contact

Matt Campbell matt@childsoldiers.org +232 076 48 50 48 (Freetown)

About the organization Founded by retired lieutenant-general and celebrated humanitarian Roméo Dallaire, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is a global partnership committed to ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers worldwide, through ground-breaking research, advocacy, and security-sector training.