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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Sat Mar 23 19:30:06 2002
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 11:13:48 -0600 (CST)
From: Child Labour News Service <yatra@del2.vsnl.net.in>
Subject: Child Labour News Service Release - March 15 2002
Organization: Child Labour News Service
Article: 135281
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Former child soldiers said to be back on front lines

BBC Online [22 March 2002]

Former child soldiers are once again being conscripted to participate in Liberia's civil war as fighting between government forces and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) moves closer to the capital of Monrovia.

In Liberia's past conflicts, boys as young as 6 years old were forced to fight for Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and other rebel groups. In exchange for their years of fighting in the jungle, the former warlord promised them rich rewards when they helped him reach the capital. Out of estimated 15,000 child soldiers who fought during Liberia's civil war, only 4,300 have been demobilised.

But five years after Mr Taylor was elected president, scores of young ex-combatants are on the streets of Monrovia, trying to eke a living from cleaning windscreens, begging or stealing.

Some of them tried to return to their villages when the war was over, but they found their houses razed and their families dead or missing.

Liberian Defense Minister Daniel Chea however, denied the government was forcibly conscripting children, arguing that young people are patriotically volunteering for such duty. He also criticised the United Nations for failing to fulfil its promise to reintegrate former combatants in Liberia and Sierra Leone, adding that many of the rebels the government is now fighting are former child soldiers recruited by the rebel LURD.

At the end of our civil war in 1996, there was this promise that the UN was going to come out with a comprehensive program for the reintegration of former fighters into society, he said.

Unfortunately that wasn't done in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in other places. Because those young men and women who were exposed to violence for seven years, were only disarmed and demobilised but with no proper incentive to be reintegrated into society, says Mr Chea.

They were left alone, guns for hire... They've been recruited by LURD forces, by the greedy, failed politicians to make war, he adds.