Blumenfeld, Callie

Civil war raged on in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. The civil war began when the Revolutionary United Front or RUF intervened in the country’s attempt to overthrow the government headed by Joseph Momoh. During the war’s beginning years, the RUF took over control of vast areas of territory in southern and eastern Sierra Leone, and these areas were rich in diamonds. The government remained ineffective in responses to the RUF and a military coup d’etat occurred in 1992. The entire social structure of the country broke down during this civil war, leading to the conscription for the use of children in combat by state forces and state supported militia. The use of child soldiers was not a new concept to the people of Sierra Leone, but it became completely wide spread during this civil war.

The breakdown of social structure during this time period influenced the life and daily routines of children in the conflict area of Sierra Leone. The RUF kidnapped and forced children to fight in the civil war, sometimes using alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs to coerce compliance during training and fighting. Girls that were recruited were subjected to rape, gang rape, and other sexual violence acts. The breakdown of the social system allowed for the force conscription of these children and created the system that enforced these horrific acts upon them. Civil war in Sierra Leone degraded the government and the inner workings of society, creating a need for soldiers to fight against the corrupted regimes. The necessity for these soldiers caused by the civil war breakdown in structure called for child soldiers, and therefore caused children to perform acts never before thought of. The new structure of the social system imposed by this civil war influenced the lives of the children conscripted to fight and the lives of the children whose parents and homes were destroyed by the conflict. These children were now indoctrinated with the ideals of the civil war era and were exposed to the multitude of horrors associated with conflict. During the 11 years of the civil war the children in the conflict areas in Sierra Leone grew up committing acts of brutality for the army in which they were enlisted. The complete breakdown of the social structure that comes about during a full scale civil war, and especially one with such violence as seen during the Sierra Leone civil war, allows for the forced conscription of children into the army and therefore alters their ideology and perceptions on the world as they are forced to commit horrific acts of violence, and also alters their daily lives as their homes and family lives are destroyed by the war, or as their individual lives are influenced by being in the army at such a young and influential age.

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