Children of War
Opening with shots of children at war, "Blood Never Dry" cuts to Carlos Bernard reading an extract from a diary of a 16 year old child soldier, named Dee, from Sierra Leone.
|“||I fight with them plenty times. We went and destroyed towns. We burned houses. After the fighting we arrest some people. The commanders told us to kill them. At that time, we killed them. My commander -- that commander is very wicked. He gives you a knife to kill somebody. If you not, also you will do. When he gave you the knife, he said "Look at this person. Kill this person". If you deny, he will slaughter you also. So that's why I do so. The name that they give me, the fighting name, is "Blood Never Dry". So my name is that.||”|
As Kiefer Sutherland describes the growing problem of child soldiers in Africa, video clips of children brandishing weapons are shown. Sutherland explains that there are over 250,000 children involved in armed conflicts all over the world, with at least seven countries in Africa using children in combat. Dr. Alem Hailu of Howard University explains that the Africa is the worst place for child soldiers. His claims are reinforced by Joseph Mettimano of World Vision, who says that commanders instil so much fear into the children that they dare not leave their combat roles. He goes on to say that some have even been forced to kill friends and neighbours, on occasion even by simply biting them to death.
Felix Unogwu, a Children and Youth Specialist from "Search for Common Ground" explains that in certain areas human intestines have been used as rope to block roads to stop people from crossing, enforced in some areas by nine-year-olds. Clearly affected by the stories, he urges the idea that children should be "at home, watching TV, playing with their friends, going to school", instead of "killing others and eating their hearts". Unogwu tries to create a visual impression for the viewer as to the induction of most children; at night they hear noises outside, and so go downstairs only to see both of their parents being killed. They are then told that their own option is to go with the soldiers who killed them. He concludes by saying that most children go as they need a supply of food and some guidance, and the soldiers are all that is left.
Cherry Jones then reads another child soldier’s extract, this time unnamed.
|“||I don't know what I was fighting for. The rebels just told us that we are fighting for the people. I don't know what the war was all about because at the time, I was not really old enough to understand these things.||”|
P.W. Singer, the author of a book entitled "Children at War" explains that three out of every four wars in the world has children involved in the conflict. In the past decade, an estimate two million children have been killed in armed conflict, with around six million being injured or disabled.
Mary Lynn Rajskub reads a third diary extract.
|“||They forced me to join them, and I said I will not join them. And they killed my small brother to join them by force. There I changed up my mind and joined them.||”|
Mettimano says that in most areas there are very few options for children for work or school, and the prospect of regular food which comes with going with the soldiers is encouraging; "It is not until they actually join these ranks, until they are abused, until they are beaten, until they are forced to kill that they realise what they have got themselves into." Colby Goodman, a child soldier specialist of Amnesty International explains that children are used because they can be easily manipulated.
Carlos Bernard reads a fourth extract, this time relating to drugging of the soldiers.
|“||During the time I was with the drugs, I was not feeling anything bad when I'm at the front. I raped women. I killed children. And naturally, sometimes my head... sometimes my head just blow up. Even my friend who was standing beside me, if I started going off-head, I just pull my pistol and fire him sometimes. Yeah. That's why they call me "Blood Shed". Whenever I am at my base, I don't feel anything bad||”|
Singer reiterates the fact that children are forced to do drugs, which they then become addicted to. He also says that some drugs, especially local ones, have gunpowder added to them, which they believe gives it "a bigger kick". Mettimano explains that the drugs were another reason that children were unwilling to leave the rebel forces; the commanders could provide them. Bernard then reads another quote from a child's story.
|“||The rebels trained me on how to use a gun. They showed me how to dismantle a weapon and how to put it back together again. They showed me how to fire the gun and how to clean it. They taught me how to make sure I don't get injured when it recoils.||”|
Rajskub then reads another extract regarding a ten year old child who attended primary school whose parents were both killed when the rebels came. They then took the child and trained him to fight. The child says that he got sick the first time he killed someone. Mettimano begins to talk about the girls who are abducted, many of whom are forced to become sex slaves to their commanders. A whole host of other problems can arise from this, including sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and alienation from others. Cherry Jones reads a seventh extract about a child scared the first time he was told to shoot someone. Alem Hailu says that there used to be measures to protect women and children from such violence, but these have been violated now. Singer says that soldiers consider fighting children "the toughest dilemma of their career because no professional soldier wants to fight children." Jones reads another extract.
|“||I feel so bad about the things that I did. It disturbs me so much that I inflicted death on other people. When I go home, I must do some traditional rights, because I have killed. I must perform these rights and cleanse myself. I still dream about the boy from my village that I killed. I see him in my dreams, and he is talking to me, saying I killed him for nothing. And I am crying.||”|
Mettimano says that many children cannot go back to their hometowns because of what they have done. Rehabilitation after fighting is the next topic of discussion, with Singer explaining that the children need someone to talk to after their traumatic experiences. Mettimano says that it can be helpful for the children to get a job, and World Vision provides work experience that can help divert thoughts from their past. Goodman says that children can make it through such experiences due to their resilience. Singer says that most people want to ignore the issue of child soldiers as it makes them uncomfortable, but the best thing that can be done is to help those who have gone through the experience.
Sutherland ends the documentary by explaining that many are trying to help these children, and lists two websites were viewers themselves can help.
Background information and notes
- The documentary is directed by Henriette Mantel.
- The documentary is produced by Tal Vigderson
- The websites mentioned by Kiefer Sutherland at the end of the documentary are: