Liberia's Child Soldiers: Prospects and Problems
AbstractThe end of the cold war gave rise to expectations that Africa would benefit
from the peace dividend. The euphoria was however short lived. In Liberia, a bloody civil war broke out in 1989 in which thousands of children were used as child soldiers. Surprisingly, not much is known about how they are settling back into civil society after the end of hostilities. This study tries to fill that gap by focusing on the role of social support networks in their rehabilitation. It was found that while civil society is supportive of their rehabilitation, government policies do not target child soldiers. Two NGOs, Don Bosco Homes and Children Assistance Programme, are actively involved in their rehabilitation, and have made tremendous progress in that regard. They face numerous problems: lack of space and funds, inadequate employment opportunitie~ for rehabilitated child soldiers, and non-availability of electricity and water supply. To facilitate the rehabilitation process, there is urgent need to improve the security situation in Liberia to attract domestic and foreign investment and create jobs. It is also important for Charles Taylor to see himself as president of Liberia, and not just the National Patriotic Front, NPLF. Government
should respect the fundament rights of citizens, as perceptions of Charles Taylor as a renegade has made the country unattractive to donors, thereby frustrating its post war reconstruction programmes. The international community must not abandon Liberia, but should engage it conditionally, to promote good governance and avoid another bloody contest for power in that country.