Acta Universitatis Danubius. Communicatio, Vol 11, No 2 (2017)

Child Soldiering and its Implications for National Security in Liberia

Shittu Raji

Abstract


For fourteen years, Liberia was involved in a bloody civil war, in which the state and armed non-state actors made use of children as soldiers in combat operations. The overwhelming involvement of children in the armed struggles was presumed to be a negative trend that seriously undermined their personal productive capacity and the Liberian national security. This paper examined the use of children as soldiers in Liberia and its implications for the security of the country. The paper explored the causes of the Liberian civil war, the nexus between the war and child soldiering, the factors that aided the recruitment of children as soldiers and the physical and psychological effects of the war on the children.  Findings from the study, which utilized data from secondary sources, were that the Liberian civil wars were caused by structural violence, perpetrated by indigenous rulers against their citizens for decades. Many children were forcefully or willfully recruited by the government and armed non-state actors to prosecute the war. Children were more preferable for the war because they were cheap to procure and easy to be lured into combatant operations because of their tender age and low level of comprehension and perception of dangers associated with war and their less understanding of the implications of their actions for national security at that formative age. The Liberian war had both physical and psychological effects on the children. Apart from the physical destruction of their lives and those of other innocent citizens, many of the child soldiers showed symptoms of psychological complications in form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The paper also found that the use of child soldiers by warring factions in Liberia denied the kids of their childhood with negative consequences for their future progress and prosperity as adults. The reintegration programmes that were put in place for the rehabilitation of the children into the communities ended with marginal success due to concert of internal and external factors. Evidence still remains of past maltreatment and neglect of Liberia’s ex-child soldiers, many of who are still physically and psychologically traumatized having remained largely uneducated, unemployable and thus, vulnerable to permanent poverty and re-recruitment for armed conflicts elsewhere across the world. The paper concluded that the use of child soldiers in Liberia, just like in other parts of the world will not stop until extreme deprivation facing the children, which leads to their impoverishment, is addressed and until they have better opportunities for their personal and group development aspirations. It is recommended; amongst others, that good governance should be pursued to a logical conclusion in Liberia while the government should continue to address all acts of structural violence against the children in the country. 


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