Case Study One: Recruitment of Children

Discuss the similarities and differences in the recruitment experiences of the children in the three scenarios described above?

Sierra Leonean children who lost family members were vulnerable to recruitment into the government forces, based on their need for security and food, but were also vulnerable to forced recruitment into the rebel forces due to their unaccompanied status. These children are often embittered and marginalized by poverty or are seeking avenge for lost family members. These unaccompanied boys and girls are able to join the government forces due to the lack of birth registrations and the recruitment quota that places pressure on recruiters to record false ages.
Children with family members are also at risk for recruitment into both the government forces and into the civil defense forces. As adults are unaware of the psychological and social impact of child militarization, relatives often allow children to follow them in joining the government forces or encourage their children to join the civil defense force, Kamajors. Children may be attracted to the notion of invincibility imagined by the Kamajors, and in the aftermath of conflict when new identities are being constructed, the Kamajor cult could fill a dangerous gap for ethnic identification. Children seeking adventure or stimulation are also recruited in the government forces and risk being attracted to the growing myth of magical powers of the Kamajors.

What kind of impact do you think the differing recruitment experiences might have on children associated with an armed group in terms of future development?

In terms of future development of the children who are associated with armed groups, children from all three of the differing groups (A, B, and C) will most likely experience the various effects of child militarization, including but not limited to things such as trauma and PTSD. (Also important to keep in mind is that not all children may have trauma). However, the children from the groups may also have experiences that differ because of the reasons for recruitment. For example, children of group A who joined government forces may become disillusioned and develop issues of trust for authority/systems/families/government, depending on what kind of experience they had. If children of A and B had been pushed or persuaded into joining forces by family, they may experience a sense of betrayal and possible resentment or anger, which might cause divides between families in reintegration. Those who chose to join forces, rather than having been forced, might struggle with feelings of regret. Reintegration will most likely be quite different for each of the differing armed forces. Differences in levels of stigma and discrimination will probably exist for the various groups. Where children from group A may be seen as “heroes”, group B might be feared, and group C also discriminated against negatively. How the children are perceived in terms of criminal responsibility, (are they more victims or perpetrators?) will also most likely contribute to how accepted they will be by communities. Depending on the situation, children may also be reluctant or unwilling to reintegrate into communities for various reasons. For example, there may be positive elements associated with their experiences in the armed forces, such as increase status, respect, freedoms, power, and opportunities to learn skills. Especially in regards to recruitment A and B, where recruitment was not forceful, children may have joined in order to escape a unsafe, insecure, or otherwise negative situation to which they may not want to return to. Recruitment B is also unique in that it is a cult, which the children may be unwilling to leave.

What do you think of the descriptions of children who “joined voluntarily”?

There are certain “push” and “pull” factors that lead children to voluntarily join armed forces. Some “pull” factors include” training opportunities and education not provided through other traditional means; a sense of belonging and prestige; the excitement or thrill of being in battle; rewards, incentives, and promotions for bravery; and a chance to create a new identity. “Push” factors can include the child’s family members or other loved ones being recruited, survival, children believing that that they will have a chance to defend their family’s honor or will have the ability to send money home.

In what ways do these case studies aid an understanding of the local situation?

These case studies allow us to view varying angles of the child solider situation from a local perspective not traditionally considered.