Monday 26 October 2009

Child soldiers

Just been to see Johnny Mad Dog – the story of a group of boy soldiers in an unnamed African country. It’s an odd thing to say about such an enveloping, gut-wrenching film but in some ways the story seemed to me a little sanitised.

There was almost no examination of the way their kidnappers turned terrified children into terrifying killers. The boys also seemed to have something of a charmed life. We did not see them being wounded, maimed and killed in the numbers that surely would have been inevitable, nor, therefore, the effect this would have on their comrades. Nor did we see the fate of those who are captured. Nonetheless it is an extremely powerful film on an important subject.

The Brookings Institute have estimated that child soldiers fight in about three quarters of all the world’s wars, while in 2007, Human Rights Watch put their number at up to 300,000.

Among those currently on trial who are alleged to have used child soldiers are former Liberian president Charles Taylor (see my blog of July 15) and Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga (see my blogs of Jan 29 and March 23). While in February, three rebel commanders in Sierra Leone were convicted of forcing children to become soldiers. (see my blog of March 4)

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