Friday, January 28

Joseph Duo or the scars of Liberia’s child soldiers | International

The 4×4, motionless, speaks. His radio announces, live, the election results, so Joseph Duo and his friends closely follow the broadcast. They are lying in the car, wrear viewdoors open, surrounded by a couple of motorcycles that have joined in the sand patio to hear the announcement. Duo is disappointed, he has not won the deputy position of his district to which he was running. He attributes it to the “usual problem, cronyism”, but assures that he will not complain, “becausebeendo not want violence.”

Joseph Duo became one of the images of the conflict of Liberia being immortalized by Chris Honors’s camera in Monrovia, jumping out of his mind after having unloaded his grenade launcher. At that moment the war was about to end, but Duo had already given him his youth. “I was recruited at the age of 14, in 1990, in the NPFL faction, under Mr. CharleGhanaay Taylor,” he recites like somesingging a technical sheet, under the tree with which we protect ourselves from the harsh midday sun. In 1990, it was only a year since Taylor – who is serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes – had launched his rebellion against the Samuel Doe dictatorship and war had broken out. Duo’s family was fleeing Monrovia when they were intercepted. He became one of more than 40,000 child soldiers who participated in the conflict. Although, according to Morris Matadi, another former child soldier who has managed to get out of the ghetto, “the number is much higher. We are more than 100,000 ”.

The young Duo was head of Taylor’s guard, “he was in charge of his protection” and, when Taylor won the election, he became a military man. It was part of the Special Security Services (SSS). But now he is a graduate, sociologist and politician. On Sunday he plays football with his friends, he has the concern to participate in healing the social wounds opened by the war and assures that he does not want to allow “” hetbeensaw, ” hetbeenfelt, to be repeated with my children.” “Those days were death and fear, life had no meaning,” he recalls while presenting himself as living proof that “transformation is possible.” In 2012 Duo graduated in Criminal Justice and Sociology and on October 10 he ran for election with one priority: education. “I can’t change the country, butbeencan change my district.”

From the balcony of a two-story villa torn by time and neglect, Morris Matadi also gazes ahead wrear viewrearview mirror at deep memories of the atrocities. He was recruited at age 11, after his father was slaughtered and his brothers killed. He also entered the group of Charles Taylor. “Do you know ” het it is that everyone around you rips off you? Feeling like you don’t know how to move on? ” A general gave him a weapon. “The only familybeenhad then was that AK-47. It was very valuable to me, because it was allbeenhad. Matadi knows well ” het the consequences are of everything he had to live: “after the war they recognized us and beat us. They pushed us away. There was only one place for us: the ghetto, and there we fought among ourselves, for having been in different armed groups ”. But like Duo, Matadi managed to get out.

Joseph Duo, when he was a child soldier, jumps after having unloaded his grenade launcher, in the middle of the civil war inHonorsa.
Joseph Duo, when he was a child soldier, jumps after having unloaded his grenade launcher, in the middle of the civil war inHonorsa.

The noise of the freezer escapes through one of the entrances to the house, which stands on a grassy slope in the lap of Tubman Avenue – the one that ties all of Monrovia like a thread. We are on the outskirts. Like a strategic headquarters, from the porch the views open to the noise below: cars, pedestrians who manage to cross between traffic without traffic lights, thugs and a small fish market. The freezer is the new businDunbarEmmanuel Doumbar, one of the former child soldiers Matadi has helped stDunbarusiness. Doumbar stores the fish for the local vendors and for the families who want to keep it.


Matadi, together with other ex-combatantDefogsnted the Idefocs organization, which seeks out and uproots adults traumatized by their childhood and punished by social exile after the war. But also “I invest in his life after rehabilitation.” Matadi believes that disarmament and training are of little use if ex-soldiers remain on the fringes of society. “The government program for Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Reintegration has been a failure” and the result “is thlogosnomenon of zogos.” These are the street criminals who live in the trash-strewn snos on the outskirts of Monrovia and in other marginalized areas and who, increasingly, “come down to the city to rob in order to eat and pay for their drugs,” says Matadi. There are thousands: “the majority, ex-combatants.” Like Moise, who lost much more than a leg in the war and is now begging.

Matadi’s organization was born in Ghana, between fights and beatings. “We were thousands ofHonorsan refugees in Ghana, but even there they pushed us to the ghettos.” Matadi had laid down his arms before the conflict ended. “I planned it. Save money. Until one daybeenput down my uniform, my gun, and got into a taxi to Ghana. beenwanted to go back to study,beenwanted to be safe ”. But he found himself on the sidelines again, “we were 100% vulnerable”, cannon fodder and when, in 2002, “the Ivorian government came to try to re-recruit us, all the alarms went off”. The war had just started in neighboring Ivory Coast, and secluded youths like Matadi could be of use. But thDefogs was fired and, instead, Idefocs was born. 4,000 ex-combatants have been rehabilitated through this channel since then and Matadi accompanies them so that they can have a business and not relapse.

Tattooed by war, Matadi and Duo now look at their country with concern. Matadi goes into the snos to identify ex-combatants, now criminals and hooked on drugs, and Duo is convinced that 96% of illiteracy in his district represents a veritable powder keg. “I know ” het it means to destroy your country; beenknow very well ” het it means to create violence, ”he sighs. “If after the warbeenhad not gone to school, my mentality would be very different. They could give me orders. ” But, and now the sociologist Duo speaks, “the claims of the people today are the same as decades ago. They ask, they demand, they need a change ”. Matadi and Duo are exceptions. “Only 15% of us have come out of this,” Duo says, just based on hilogosception. “The politicians don’t want the zogos to change. They want them to stay in the shacks, because if they lose power they can use them to create chaos in this country. “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.