At the outbreak of the Liberian Civil War in 1989, children were forcibly recruited in droves by the NPFL as well as the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). The enlistment of child soldiers became very popular with other rebel factions such as ULIMO, LPC, MODEL, LURD, as well as paramilitary units like the ATU and the SOD. Children of all ages from 6 to 18 were recruited.
Children suffered some of the most horrific crimes committed during the Liberian Civil War and LURD and MODEL insurrections. They forced to kill friends and family members including their parents, rape and be raped, serve as sexual slaves and prostitutes, labor, take drugs, engage in cannibalism, torture and pillage communities. Many were force to be ‘juju’ controllers, ammunition carriers, spies, armed guards, arm bushers and so on. Perhaps, the most shocking crime committed against children was their cannibalization. Rebel commanders organized cooking feasts and served children’s body parts, including their intestines and hearts. The blood of children was collected and cooked into soups in which hearts were served as choice meats for cannibalistic commanders. In other instances, children’s body parts were sold in open markets. The names and identities of several rebel commanders who cannibalized and forced children to be cannibals were identified by children and youth during TRC hearings/meetings and other sources.
Below are stories that emanate from some of these young adult who were once child soldiers.
Nancy K. Gayflor
Born on November 23, 1983, Ms. Nancy K. Gayflor was abducted as child soldiers in 1993 at the age of 10. After a formidable journey with combat, her parents were killed in 1995 and she fled to the Republic of Guinea for refugee. Nancy underwent series of rape and multiple losses such as drop out from school at an early age, abuse of childhood privileges, and loss of parents.
Nancy resumed school in 1996 and completed elementary school but due to financial constraints, she left school to seek for food and shelter in the Refugee Camps. Nancy returned to Liberia in 1999 with the hope of resuming school but was caught out in another war popularly known in Liberia as World War II. With no option, Nancy rejoined her former combat group in 2000 as deputy commandant Girls Wise Unit responsible to identify female enemies of her fiction. She fought until 2003 when former president and rebel leader Charles left Liberia and a new government under the leadership of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was ushered.
Turbulence time and struggle has been major aspects of Nancy’s life. She has since wanted to continue school but didn’t have the support. Her next verdict amidst difficulties and lack of parental care and support was to turn to the street and become a prostitute which took heavy tour on her life thus producing three children in less than five years without father. With all these struggles, Nancy still manage to attend adult literacy school and she graduated from high school in 2010. She expresses gratitude in the War Affected Youth Project and she willing to acquire vocational education that will help creates a space for her in Society. She is going to do Agriculture.
Abducted at the age of eleven (11), Zubah was forced to fight for one of Liberia deadly warrior fiction, so call Liberian United Liberation Movement (ULIMO). He was used to kill and rape young and older women. Zubah lost his parents in 1993 and he went in search of food and was later captured and trained to shoot guns.
ULIMO was predominately Mandingo tribal group, one of the indigenous tribes in Liberia that was targeted by Charles Taylor Forces in early 1990.
In 2004, Zubah was threatened to be killed by his commander and he left the training based secretly and escaped to neighboring Guinea. While on his way, we were recaptured by another Rebel group, Lofa Defense Force (LDF). The LDF was group of kinsmen from Lofa who organized in defense of their county against anyone who intended to remove them from their land. After thorough investigation, Zubah was admitted to fight again on the battle front. Zubah life was crumble and he became a mad young star battling with himself and against anyone who came on his way. After cessation of hostilities in 2003, Zubah life has been in ghetto but he felt the shock of making decision when he saw the achievement of his friend, Sumo I. Jackson who graduated from LTI last year and was convinced to join the cohort of twenty (20) students that right now at the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI). Below is the quotation from Zubah during our psychosocial workshop in Zorzor “People still see us as killer in the community we live. Our voices are not heard and they are like shooting guns in the ears of people. So that’s the reason why I want to try to be a good citizen. We’ve seen the bitterness of war, we were used to do all the killing and it is about time to take a turn by going to school in order to help our community and contribute positive to the development of our country”. He has passion for Auto-Mechanic.
Yekeh, now twenty-nine (29) was abducted at the age of eleven (11) years in 1990. His mother was raped and killed along with his father in Bong Mines which annoyed him to take up arm. Yekeh said he fought for two years with the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) led by Prince Johnson, now serving as senior member of the Liberian Legislature. He committed lot of atrocities that he himself cannot remember all.
In 2004, he escaped to Guinea and enrolled at the refugee school operated by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). He did not continue his education due to lack of support and frustration that got him back into gang, drinking, smoking marijuana and doing all sort things. At age 29, Yekeh feels he has a responsibility to his community and country and that can only be achieved by acquiring skills that will enable him to contribute positively. So he has decided to benefit from the WAY project this year with interest in Plumping.
Abducted at the age of six (6), Mckay turns 24 in May this year. Mulbah explained that his father is a handicap, amputated due to horrors he went through. In 2009, he was forcibly recruited by Charles Taylor Forces to fight. His first encounter was to battle against LURD Forces in Voinjamin, Lofa County.
Mckay still sees the ghost and images of terrors that went on. After the war, his Mom sent him to school but would not continue due to confusion. He admitted that he needs psychological help and he’s willing to leave the street to go to school. He is passionate about Auto-Mechanic.
Emmanuel T. Johnson
Born October 1, 1981, escaped the war in 1990 to the Republic of Guinea. While in Guinea, Emmanuel started primary school in the refugee camp. In 1996, his parents decided to return to Liberia with the hope that the hostility has ended. Upon their arrival, they were caught up in an attack by the Mandingo rebel group led by former National Resistance leader, Alhaji G. V. Kromah, now a professor at the University of Liberia.
He witnessed the execution of his mother along with an array of other family members including his brothers, sisters, aunt and friends. This actually aggravated him to join the fighting forces. Emmanuel said he has been a state of confusion since the war came to an end in Liberia. Emmanuel notes that going back to school is an opportunity for him to learn and help his two kids and family members and to contribute positively to society. He is passionate about Agriculture.
Lamaine A. Fofana
Lamine comes from a minority group in Liberia, the Mandingo tribal group. They are considered the minority because they are in smaller number than any group of tribe in Liberia. They became actively involved with the war due to their position as traders and they are scattered in almost all the counties of Liberia. They were mostly in a revenge position and did all they would to create a space for their voices to be heard.
Lamine was born in April 19984. His entire family was burnt to ashes in a mosque and he escaped to Guinea at the age of six (6) in 1990. Lamine entered primary school in Guinea but he was always troubled by the atrocity committed against his family. In March 1993, he joined his kinsmen, to pay back the atrocities committed against his people. “I fought to the dead end, Lamine lamented in revenge and defense of my parents and kinsmen”. Nothing would stop me he continues and I entered all sort of juju to protect myself, he added. I have come to the realization that the best way to go is to acquire acknowledge in order to help myself and my community. He wants to do Masonry.
K. Lavela Junior
Lavela was born on June 5, 1990 in Zorzor, Lofa County. Lavela entire life was corrupted as a result of the war. He was born and grew up in war situation. He admitted that his father was an ex-combatant who also took active part in the war and whenever his father went on the battle field, he brought him something to eat. Until 1997, himself became a child soldier totting admonition and shooting gun.
What still fresh on his mind is when his Dad and Mom was arrested by LURD and executed in his presence due to their role they played from the unset of the war. Lavela said, he will never-never forget this terrified story. From this moment, Lavela, his brothers and sisters remain orphans with no support. I don’t want to go back to gang, said Lavela. I want to go and acquire skills to help my little brothers and sisters. He passionate about Auto Mechanic!
Pewee G. Gborlie
Pewee was born 1990 at the Curren Hospital in Zorzor, Lofa County. His father was former police man serving before the war in 1990. According to Pewee, his father was executive in his police uniform in 1990 when he couldn’t remember anything, but his mother told him. After the death of his father, they escaped to Ivory Cost where he attended refugee school up to the 9th grade. Unfortunately, his mother died due to the trauma and frustration about their Dad and the suffering in Refugee Camp.
Pewee was left with no hope but to join the last battle commonly known as World War three in Liberia. He was shot in the left arm and still carrying the bullet wounds. Pewee is passionate about Agriculture.
Pewee was born on April 2, 1986. Pewee was abducted in 1993 at the age of seven (7) years. He finds it difficult to explain his story – his father was tied while his mother was being raped and later he and his mother witnessed the execution of his Dad. After the execution, the rebels order him to go along with them. That’s how he got involved with the fighting.
He’s a 8th grade student but have no support. He is passionate about Masonry.
G. Ofantee Geninyan
Abducted at the age of ten (10) years, he was forced to fight. His father was also killed during the war and his mother got paralyzed from stress. He fought with all the warrior fictions in Liberia but he is thankful to God that he is still alive. Since the war ended, Pewee’s life has been marked by smoking marijuana, drinking and living in the street. He wants to learn in order to help his community.
Zaza K. Zawu
Zaza explained, I witnessed the execution of my father and uncle by Charles Taylor rebel in 1990. They excused them of being an enemies. This is what actually caused him to cross over to Guinea to join the other group, ULIMO in order to kill those who killed his father and his uncle. While fighting on the battle front, his mother was killed behind me. This news even made him desperate. He wouldn’t explain all that happened to him but he said he was tire being a in the street as drugs addict and a gang. He wants to learn skills that will help him. He’s passionate about Agriculture.
He explained that he was shot by one of LURD’s forces during the civil crisis and he still carrying the bullet in his body. Cooper joined the fighting at the latter part of the war but he also lost his brothers and sisters. He said there was no care for him so he decided to be an alcoholic and his life was in disarray. He’s willing to go to school and he has passion for Masonry.
Joshua Y. Kwekwe
Joshua was born on November 22, 1969 and joined the army in 1989. During the war, he served as commander of various units recruiting children to become child soldiers. As a result of the crisis, his entire family was killed by the NPFL, Charles led forces. Joshua said that he went to the army with a good intention, but later begin desperate when the rebel swept his village killing everyone.
He later ran from the war and went to Guinea but had to return to Liberia due to harassment from Guinea authorities. Since the war ended, he has no former skills and became a gang leader harassing people and smoking marijuana and cocaine. He wants to acquire acknowledge in vocational education with emphasis on Auto-mechanic.
Militan Y. Zarwu
Militan is a high school graduate and he was abducted as a child soldier in 1992. His parents were killed and later forced to go to the battle front to fight. Militan experiences with the war are terrifying and would not explain any further than this. Whenever he explains his story, he seems like going back to where he came from. Militan hopes to leave alcohol and drugs and acquire skills to help himself and his family. He’s passionate about Agriculture.
Blessing R. Maikanti
Blessing was born in 1986 and begin a child soldier in 1992 when his father was executive by cutting him to pieces before his very presence for US$75.00. His sister and mother were also raped at the same moment and his sister later died as a result of that. Little Blessing had no option but to join the rebel in search of protection.
While in the bush, Blessing said he escaped so many death and armed bushes that only God can give reason why he was save. Since the war ended he has been in the ghetto but with the inspiration from his friend, Sumo I. Jackson, he’s willing to leave the ghetto and go to school. He’s passionate about Electricity.
Sylvester was born in 1988 and abducted as child soldier in 1995. He fought with the LURD forces that captured Charles Taylor national patriotic headquarters in 1994. He was assistant commander of the small boy unit (SBU) and his fighting name was young boy killer. He learned how to rape women at a very earlier age. He has never seem his parents but people told him that they were killed during the war. This caused him to live in the ghetto! He said from this day forward, he will forget about all that happen to him and go to school. Sylvester is passionate about Carpentry.
Jutomu was born on July 6, 1988 and abducted as child soldier in 2004. Jutomu got massing from his parents while on their way to a refugee camp in Ivory Coast and was arrested by the rebel and trained to kill. Since he got separated from his parents he has never seem them up to present. Jutomu escaped several attacks as a child soldiers and little became a commander during the latter part of Charles Taylor Regime. Jutomu went into ghetto life since 2004 and his life has been marked by gambling and taking in of drugs and alcohol. He lives currently on the gold mind but has decided to go school to acquire vocational education in order to help his community. He’s passionate about doing Agriculture.
Dave is 25 years of age and was abducted in 1999 as a child soldiers while crossing the border from Guinea to Liberia. His parents were killed by LURD forces and David was forced to carry ammunition and later became a rebel. David commonly known as the people soldier spent all his life in the gold mind gambling, smoking marijuana and taking in excessive alcohol. David is now willing to acquire skills that will equip him for future challenges. He’s passionate about doing Agriculture.
Moses carry so many bullet wounds in his body. He is 26 years and was abducted in 1993 by Charles Taylor rebel forces. According to Moses, the soldiers entered their village and burnt down the entire village and killed nearly every body with the exception of some children who were able to carry guns and ammunition on their heads. Moses said I was happy to be among those children but later became a fighter and he vowed to fight on behalf of his dead parents and the entire village. Due to the atrocity he committed, he attempted committing suicide after the war. Moses is happy about acquiring vocational skills and he wants to specialize in Agriculture.
Joseph, born on December 31, 1989 he live as a soldier from the day of his birth. His parents were forced to serve as secretary and they later became soldiers to protect themselves. Little Joseph grew up and learned how to shot gun. At age six, Joseph joined Charles Taylor Small Boy Unit that was used as an advance team on the battle field. Joseph managed to survive but finally lost his parents at the latter part of the war in 2002. This situation made him traumatized since the war ended. Joseph said I have come to join my colleagues to go and acquire knowledge that will help me in the future. He’s passionate about Auto-Mechanic.