Friday, February 23, 2007

A small soldier's fight for humanity

News that an indicted recruiter of child soldiers has died brings to mind Jon Stewart's interview last week with one such recruit, Ishmael Beah, author of the memoir A Long Way Gone. After Sierra Leonean rebels killed his family Beah, then 12, became ensnared in fighting for government forces who drugged him with "brown-brown" -- cocaine and gunpowder. He killed for years before ending up at a U.N. center and, eventually, his "second life" in Brooklyn. Beah told Stewart that it's easy to turn a person, particularly a child, into a killer, but it's a long, hard journey to bring the child back to humanity.
Beah had just returned from Paris, where he took part in a two-day conference at which states pledged to redouble efforts on behalf of "small soldiers," as they are called in Ahmadou Kourouma's 2000 novel, Allah n’est pas obligé (translated passages in Diane Marie Amann, Calling Children to Account: The Proposal for a Juvenile Chamber in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, 29 Pepperdine L.Rev. 167 (2002)). Fifty-eight states signed the Paris Commitments to Protect Children from Unlawful Recruitment. The Associated Press reported:

The U.S. government did not participate .... The State Department said the administration objected to some of the wording of the documents but added that the United States remained committed to its treaty obligations to prevent the use of children in combat.

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