The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan

A Survey of Programs on the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers

2. Country Profiles
2.2. Sierra Leone

2.2.1. Current State of Armed Conflict

The rebel war in Sierra Leone, which started in 1991, has been characterized by mass displacement of civilians, looting, destruction of homes and infrastructures, misuse of economic resources and terrible atrocities inflicted on the civilian population such as amputations, rape, mutilation, killing and abduction. The lives of hundreds of thousands of children have been affected through constant displacement, exposure to traumatic events, loss of family members abduction and forced conscription into the fighting forces and continuous violations of their basic human rights. An important element to the continuation of war was the abduction/forced recruitment of children into fighting forces. Children are perceived to be the best fighters, obedient and easily manipulated. With over 50% of the population in Sierra Leone being under the age of 18, and a war that has lasted for over 10 years, the number of children who have been used as fighters/non-fighters is unknown.

Sierra Leone has one of the world's worst records for recruiting children as soldiers. Between 1992 and 1996, the period of the worst fighting between the Government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) an estimated 5,400 children were forced to fight on both sides. In 1997, 60% of a group of 1,000 fighters screened by the Disarmament, Demobilization and Resettlement Committee were children.12 Children abducted over the years have been used as human shields, camp followers, and 'wives' in case of girls and ultimately to be trained as soldiers. The abducted children joined the thousands of other children who were now permanent fighters with the rebel forces.

2.2.2. Domestic Framework for Protection of Children

A strategy for the reintegration of children from the fighting forces was developed through a consultative process led by UNICEF among child protection agencies and adopted by the Executive Secretariat of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR). The strategy is also applicable to other separated children. An agreement was reached with Ministry of Youth, Education and Sport (MYES) on a Community Investment Education Program (CIEP), which provide assistance to targeted schools to support the reintegration of demobilised child soldiers. A preliminary assessment of past and current drug use among former child soldiers was carried out in order to have a better understanding of the care, treatment and reintegration needs of these children. Of the 2,312 children cared for in the established program, 491 children (21%) were still in ICCs at the end of 2000 where they are participating in centre-based education and skills training. Children who have been reunified with their families or placed in alternative care arrangements received some reintegration support as presented in the table below.

Table 5. Reintegration Assistance to separated Children.

Category # Of children Formal education Skills training Income
generating activity
Non formal education
Reunified children 1056 30% 11% -- 5%
Children in foster care 313 88% 12% -- --
Group Homes 176 26% 46% 4% --
Independent living 49 -- -- 84% --
Apprenticeship 121 -- 100% -- --

The Family Tracing team, assisted by the members of the ICC team, took part in the mass-tracing campaign in the year 2000. During this campaign visit was made to three IDP camps aiming at finding some information on the whereabouts of the families of the children currently residing in the ICCs. Total of 27 children took part in this exercise. The exercise produced mixed result; some found information regarding their families and others did not.

UNICEF has been the lead agency in the field of child protection in Sierra Leone since 1993. During the period of the illegitimate AFRC/RUF regime, UNICEF took over the role of coordination and policy design in lieu of the Government in exile. It is in that capacity that UNICEF promoted the creation of Child Protection Committees (CPC) in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Segbwema, Makeni, Kambia and Port Loko. The Child Protection Committee, which is chaired by the Ministry of Social Welfare, comprises of UN agencies, NGOs, Churches and other interested organizations. UNICEF collaborated with the Ministry of Defense to coordinate training of 4,000 new Sierra Leone Army soldiers on child rights, separated children, child soldiers and child protection.

2.2.3. The Dimensions of the Problem of Child Soldiers

Sierra Leone has been in the grip of a protracted civil war for ten years. The war has left tens of thousands of children homeless, separated from their families, psychologically and physically scarred. Their lives have been affected through constant displacement, exposure to traumatic events, loss of family members, abduction and forced recruitment of children into the fighting forces and continuous violations of their basic human rights. However, over the years through extensive work by child protection agencies, many children have been reunified but thousands more continue to await reunification that has been hampered by the non-release of abductees from behind rebel lines, delays in the disarmament and demobilization process and hindered access to many areas around the country.

Table 6. Children coming into the Interim Care Centers and what type of assistance they received during the DDR period in Sierra Leone

Type of Beneficiary # Of Children Total Number
Total received at the ICC 18 191
Total reunified 7 69
Total absconded from the program 0 27
Total transferred from the program 0 25
Total fostered 0 4

Table 7. Child soldiers from rural areas' Interim Care Center in Sierra Leone

Age Group Male Female Total
0 - 5 years -- -- --
6 - 12 years -- -- --
13 - 18 years 15 -- 15

Total children in the ICCs in the three centres = 58 (5 girls and 53 boys)

Table 8. Skills training for children on transit in the ICCs in Sierra Leone

Skills Training Centre # Of participants Total number
Education (KDDO Drop-In Centre) -- 9
Tailoring 4 8
Auto Mechanics 4 9
Carpentry -- 5
Painting and Decoration -- 3
Arts and Crafts 1 1
Motor-bikes Mechanics 4 4
Total 12 39

2.2.4. Measures taken to address the problem by

a) Government
In light of a cease-fire brokered with the RUF in early 1996, the Government of Sierra Leone carried out an extensive needs assessment of war-affected areas as the basis for formulating a national plan for the resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the country. The plan, referred to as the National Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (NRRRP), was presented to the donor community at a UNDP Roundtable Conference in September 1996. At the core of the NRRRP was an initial Quick Action Program (QUAP) that focused on 17 different sectors or program areas considered crucial for the social and economic recovery and revitalization of the country. The QUAP specifically targeted short-term priority areas of post-war reconstruction, focusing on resettlement of displaced persons, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, re-establishment of basic social services, and reconstruction of economic infrastructure particularly related to agricultural production. The signing of the first Peace Agreement between the Government and the RUF in November 1996 gave hope to national and international efforts to begin the recovery process in earnest. Commitments made in September began to become project agreements between donor countries, the GOSL, and various implementing partners on the ground. The Roundtable Conference yielded pledges of approximately US$230 million, and formal commitments were estimated at 50% of this total by November 1996.

During the same period, the Government elaborated a Poverty Reduction Strategy that was anchored on the principle of growth with equity, and developed a Good Governance Strategy that dealt with decentralization of administration, civil service reform, strengthening of civil society, and promotion of transparency and accountability in the public service. These strategy documents were presented to a Consultative Group of donors in March 1997, resulting in pledges of more than US$600 million. The coup of May 1997, however, effectively put the NRRRP, the QUAP, as well as these other program activities, on hold.

In the context of the transition from war to peace, following the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement, the Government of Sierra Leone and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on July 7, 1999, agreed to the disarmament, encampment/demobilization and reintegration of an estimated 45,000 combatants of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone (SLA), Civil Defence Forces (CDF) and other paramilitary units. These provisions as specified in Articles 15 to 20 of the Agreement along with provisions outlined in the DDR program document 1 provides the basis for the strategic framework of assistance to former child soldiers.

The Government presented the DDR program to the Special UN Conference on Sierra Leone, chaired by the Secretary-General, on July 30, 1999. The program was strongly endorsed by the international community. Thereafter, the implementation of phase one commenced under the overall management of the Executive Secretariat of the National Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR). The United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) facilitated the demobilization of children already placed in the interim care centres who had been handed over to UNICEF prior to the establishment of NCDDR and the DDRP, whilst UNICEF agreed to provide policy, technical and implementation support. The primary objective of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program is the consolidation of security and facilitation of the socio-economic reintegration of ex-combatants into civil society.

b) UN agencies
UNICEF has several decades of recognized expertise in issues related to children in armed conflict. Through its West Africa and international network of experts, it is able to mobilize quickly, efficiently and worldwide the technical capacity that is necessary to respond to urgent demands in all issues pertaining to children associated with armed forces.

Since June 1993, when UNICEF received 370 children ranging in age from 8-17 years following the Government announcement of the release of all child soldiers for rehabilitation, UNICEF is one of the UN agencies that have been a partner to Government providing technical and financial assistance to meet the needs of former child soldiers. The conflict in Sierra Leone that started in 1991 resulted in thousands of children being abducted/forcibly recruited into the fighting forces or being separated from their families as they fled the fighting. In 1993, in response to the needs of these children, UNICEF initiated a Child Protection Program in Sierra Leone to specifically address the needs of separated children (child soldiers, unaccompanied children, street children, children in detention and children suffering from war-related stress). UNICEF, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs, as well as national and international NGOs, supported establishment of policies, systems and structures for the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, identification, registration, documentation and reunification of children separated from their families, and provision of psychosocial support to children suffering from war-related stress. During the 9 months of military rule in 1997-98, UNICEF stepped in to fill the gap left by the Government in exile. It promoted the creation of Child Protection Committee at regional and district levels in Freetown, BO, Kenema, Segbwema, Makeni, Kambia and Port Loko. The Child Protection Committees, with UNICEF support, carried out remarkable work during the period of the AFRC Junta, in a very difficult environment. They defended children's rights by reporting, actively advocating for them and obtaining important breakthroughs despite a conflict situation.

c) External Donors
External donors did not finance any projects or programs dedicated to former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Most of the donors channelled their support through UN agencies, national and International NGOs. This because reintegration of children associated with the fighting forces is not a sector specific activity. A holistic approach to the reintegration of separated children is applied to incorporate access to basic services which may be unavailable or which are in need of strengthening such as formal or non-formal education, primary health care and access to safe water and sanitation facilities. National strategic frameworks developed by the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) and National Commission for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reintegration NCRRR) in conjunction with line Ministries, UN agencies and national and international NGOs, outline a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation and reintegration. A comprehensive approach is necessary including access to formal and non-formal education, vocational training, health services, safe water, shelter, household food security, and income-generating activities.

Components developed and implemented by child protection agencies and the MSWGCA are carried out in collaboration within education, health and basic services programs. Developments within the CPN and the establishment of co-ordinating structures on training, foster care, interim care, education, sensitisation, sexual abuse, street children, children in detention, staff development and training of military and police forces has allowed for an integrated approach towards successful reunification and/or reintegration.

d) NGOs
Over 70% of the programs are implemented by national NGOs. UNICEF is the lead partner in supporting these programs for former child soldiers. Under the Child Protection Network (CPN), chiefdom and districts divide areas of operation. UNICEF also assists International NGOs in the field of child protection to implement programs and to provide technical support to national NGOs and Government in the fields of psychosocial support, data management, interim care centre and demobilization camp management, and youth programs. International NGO partners include COOPI, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Save the Children (SCF-UK).

2.2.5. Impact of measures

The development objective for the NDDRP consolidated the national security situation and social stability in Sierra Leone, and revived social and economic of war-affected communities. Overall program monitoring has provided policy level decision makers with adequate information and analysis in regards to these broad objectives of the two national programs. Specifically, the focus for the NDDRP would be on the broader program impact on the security situation in the country and on the impact of successful demobilization on the promotion of social stability. Program monitoring of the NRRRP will focus on the reintegration of target groups such as former child soldiers and the revival of social and economic activities at community level. The main mechanisms used for this level of monitoring will be regular joint multi-donor reviews, regular meetings of the NCDDR and of NCRRR's Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee, supplemented with project specific or national survey data that is independent of the day-to-day operations of the two institutions responsible for overseeing the implementation of the national programs and the CRRP. The impact of these measures was felt throughout Sierra Leone. The total ex-combatants are shown in the table below.

Table 9. The latest disarmament figures in Sierra Leone show the running total up to February 21, 2000.

Group Adults Children Total
RUF N/A N/A 3522
AFRC/Ex-SLA N/A N/A 4499
CDF N/A N/A 3471
TOTAL 10643 849
Current SLA 3804 0 3804
Others (inc. Phase I) 1414 49 1463
TOTALS Ex-combatants


12 Fofana, L. "Sierra Leone Children: Young, armed and dangerous", IPS. July 1997

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