Ex-child Soldiers Surviving in Post-conflict Monrovia

Ex-child Soldiers Surviving in Post-conflict Monrovia

Ex-child Soldiers Surviving in Post-conflict Monrovia

This article is an opinion edition related to the Liberian society written by the operation team of the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development, the organisation implementing the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index, the SCORE Index. However, opinions expressed in this article are that of the authors and do not represent the positions of SeeD and that of its partners, notably the UNDP, PBF or the PBO and the Government of Liberia. The opinions do not represent the views of WACSI. For more information about SCORE Liberia findings: https://www.scoreforpeace.org/en/liberia

Sixteen years after one of the most devastating civil wars in West Africa, Liberia has made impressive progress towards peace. However, despite the efforts, several obstacles stand on the way of the country to durable peace, stability and shared prosperity. Undeniably, one of the major obstacles facing the country is the issue of the disenfranchised and disconnected youth, infamously known as the “Zogos*”

Visitors of Broad Street, one of the busiest business areas of Monrovia and its surroundings including around the Palm Grove Cemetery will notice many of those young people in the street busy loading taxis, inviting private-owned vehicles to clean, begging, or simply starring abstractedly. It is apparent that many of them are suffering from under-nutrition and other diseases when some are living with handicaps. They would not hesitate to tell people who approach them that they feel they have been forgotten.

In fact, whereas current socio-economic situations draw a lot of uneducated young people in the street, many of the Zogos around Broad Street and its surrounding are ex-combatants and ex-child soldiers who were not rehabilitated after the war and found themselves in the street indulging in illicit and sometimes violence activities to make a living. According to Amnesty International (2004), after the Civil War in Liberia, about 21,000 child soldiers were identified. Across the counties where discussions were held during the calibration process of the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Index, populations associated the Zogos with drug trafficking, pickpocketing, prostitutions and other criminal activities. In addition, 83.6% of the people surveyed identified the incomplete disarmament of ex-combatants as a risk factor in Liberia. This stresses the need for proper actions aimed at rehabilitating ex-combatants and reintegrating them into the Liberian society as constructive forces.

The issue is all the more disquieting as many of those ex-child soldiers have never learnt a qualifying trade and have grown to adult-hood with children born and raised in the same deprivation, hence perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty, insecurity and drug use. Moreover, owing to their past exposure to conflicts and mastery of arms, they could fall prey to armed groups fighting in other contexts. Reports by Human Rights Watch as reported by Reuters found that some Liberians fought during the 2010-2011 post-electoral war in Côte d’Ivoire.

It is apparent that the way forward for the Liberian society has to include strong policies and programs to rehabilitate and socialise the Zogos as a constructive force for the country’s economy. The Government of Liberia’s newly adopted Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, the PAPD, an ambitious 5-year development plan aimed at building a stronger and resilient Liberian society, has youth policies ascribed as a priority.

Youth development outcomes are very prominent in the PAPD with the document committing to “accelerate the process of transforming Liberia’s demographic dividend (its disproportionate youth population) into a potential driver of growth and transformation starting with expanding social inclusion through work and life skills opportunities…” The concretisation of this plan will surely contribute to reconvert these active youth as constructive forces for the Liberian economy. Achieving the effective socialisation of the “disconnected youth” in Liberia would require a comprehensive approach including psychological support, counseling and medical support in addition to training and reintegration in the society and a follow-up over a long period of time.

This article is an opinion edition related to the Liberian society written by the operation team of the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development, the organisation implementing the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index, the SCORE Index. However, opinions expressed in this article are that of the authors and do not represent the positions of SeeD and that of its partners, notably the UNDP, PBF or the PBO and the Government of Liberia. The opinions do not represent the views of WACSI. For more information about SCORE Liberia findings: https://www.scoreforpeace.org/en/liberia.

About Authors:

Ike Dagli

Dr Ilke Dagli has a degree in European and International Politics from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, and completed her MSc in Security and Development at the University of Bristol. She has been working closely with CSOs and SMEs in Cyprus as a project coordinator, project developer, consultant and facilitator since 2006. She co-authored and coordinated myriad local projects such as The Civil Society Dialogue Project, Cyprus Community Media Centre initiative, Access Info Cyprus Project and Play for Peace Project and was closely involved with the ENGAGE Do Your Part for Peace project as a facilitator. Ilke recently completed her PhD on “Securitisation of Identities in Conflict Environments and its Implications on Ontological Security” at the University of Warwick, where she has been teaching World Politics since 2013. She has acquired several research grants for her fieldwork including one from International Peace Research Association Foundation (IPRAF). Ilke is also a Migration Fellow at the Institute of Migration, Turku, Finland and has been a Country Expert for Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) joint initiative of the Department of Political Science, The University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, USA since January 2015. Ilke, who started working as the Senior Researcher for the SDI in October 2016, transitioned into the SeeD Head of Operations position and also acts as the Regional SCORE Specialist for Eastern Europe in April 2017.

Cleophas Torrori

Mr. Cleophas Torori (Kenya) has more than 23 years of development work, 14 of them in the UN, primarily UNDP, and 9 years of them served between Liberia and Sierra Leone. Following a career in the University, Mr. Torori joined UNDP in 1999 working as a UN Coordination Specialist with the Kenya UN Country Team where he worked for 5 years. Between 2004 and 2010 he worked with the UNDP Liberia Country Office as Policy and Capacity Building Specialist attached to the Policy and Strategy Unit (SPU). He left Liberia in September 2010 on re-assignment to UNDP Sierra Leone where he served as CTA, Public Sector Reform. He returned to Liberia in April 2013 to assume his current position where he leads UNDP’s programme team in the design, implementation and monitoring of UNDP-supported programmes. Mr. Torori specializes in public policy analysis, with emphasis on governance, public sector reform and capacity building and was extensively involved in the design and implementation of projects such as the Senior Executive Service (SES), the TOKTEN and the Liberia Emergency Capacity Building project through which highly skilled Liberians, mostly from the diaspora were identified and recruited to support the reforms. Mr. Torori was instrumental in the formulation of the first ever Modernization Plan for the Liberia Legislature and was task manager for the award-winning 2006 Liberia National Human Development Report entitled: “Mobilizing Capacity for Reconstruction and Development”. He holds a Master’s Degree in Government from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Ako Essan Emile

Over the past 10 years, AKO has worked in the fields of peacebuilding, conflict management and community development. Prior to joining SeeD in December 2017, AKO worked as a Researcher with Interpeace Côte d’Ivoire and as a Project Manager for Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in the former conflict zones of Western Côte d’Ivoire. AKO started his professional career in 2008as a broadcaster in a community radio station and subsequently rose to the position of Managing Director. The radio station gained a strong reputation in Côte d’Ivoire in 2013 and 2014, reflecting AKO’s commitment to promoting intergroup dialogue, reconciliation and community resilience. In 2015, he was selected as part of President Obama’s flagship program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative (MWF-YALI). He attended a Civic Leadership Institute at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in 2015 and completed a Professional Practicum at the Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa in 2016.AKO holds Master degrees in Peace Culture and Conflict Management, and Linguistics. He has several certificates in civic leadership, sustainable development and environmental management and he has completed several online courses on conflict, war, peace, terrorism and public-private partnerships.

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