Although ousted President Charles Taylor, once a warlord himself,
introduced the concept of child soldiers to Liberia, they exist
in every region of the world. Child soldiers have fought in recent
wars in Asia, Latin America and the Balkans. Some estimates put
the number of child soldiers between 300,000 and 400,00 worldwide.
groups of Liberian child soldiers, known as Small Boy Units, fight
for all major factions in the 14-year-long civil war. They fight
for the rebel groups Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
(LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) as well
as for the government forces.
Once a part of the units, the boys are often given cocaine and
other drugs for courage. They believe that if they wear bullets
in their hair and special clothing, including wigs and women's
clothing, they will not be harmed during battle. They are given
new names -- battle names -- and told that if they resist, they
will be killed.
Fourteen-year-old Dukuly fought for the government during the
most recent bout of fighting in Liberia.
"The first time I saw fighting I was 10 years old,"
Dukuly said in a New York Times report. "[Rebels and the
government fighters] shot up my home and we all run in the bush.
My parents, everybody run away, me too. I started running and
they opened up firing. They captured me."
The former child soldier, now living in a shelter on the outskirts
of Monrovia, recalled being forced to fight by government soldier
and rebel forces in previous battles.
feeling bad," Dukuly said. "I killing people's forces
fighting my brothers, killing my brothers. But I had no choice.
Many, many days I did not want to go fight, but if I did not,
they would kill me."
UNICEF plans to begin the demobilization process immediately.
"We are starting to deploy our colleagues now, putting our
services into place, establishing contacts with the leaders of all
military groups to get them to commit to the protection of children,"
The war in Liberia began 14 years ago and has left more than
100,000 people dead. Currently, the United Nations estimates that
some 500,000 Liberians, including thousands of children, are without
food, shelter or access to clean water.
Annie Schleicher, Online NewsHour