By Vicki Turakhia
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberian boys are being trained to fight and kill for the loyalist fighters of the former Ivory Coast President, Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo is currently being tried for crimes against humanity.
A group known as the “small boys unit,” are child soldiers fighting in the war zones on the Ivory Coast. The Liberian government has been heavily questioned for the lack of involvement in prosecuting the loyalist fighters responsible for their use of child soldiers.
Children as young as 14 are being recruited as child soldiers for the Ivory Coast. One 17-year old Liberian boy was quoted as saying, “I don’t know the total that we have killed….In this mission, we have our bosses who train us and follow us to the field.”
These 14-17 year old boys are being trained to fight in the war zones of the Ivory Coast, while there the boys receive arms and ammunition, food, and medicine. If the boys get sick money is provided to them for a government hospital stay.
The United Nations has asked the Liberian government to hold the soldiers and mercenaries residing there to be held accountable for the war crimes in the Ivory Coast. Since July of 2011 at least 40 people have been killed during the attacks ,with the increased attacks, the fears are now that the fighting will expand.
Liberian and Ivorian militants have crossed into Liberia for protection or to avoid prosecution after former President Laurent Gbagbo’s government fell. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the Liberian government for failing to take actions in locating and prosecuting those responsible for the fighting in the Ivory Coast.
The Liberian government has affirmed that they are doing everything they can to prevent the use of child soldiers and fighting by Liberians on the Ivory Coast.
However, current actions taken by the Liberian government has proven differently. For example, Issac Chego and A. Vleyee, both mercenaries that have partaken in gruesome attacks, have been released. Chego has been accused of participating in massacres which led to the deaths of over 120 people.
There have been allegations that AK-47 ammunition and camouflage uniforms are being sent to the Ivory Coast to Gbagbo’s loyalists. However, the Ivory Coast Deputy Defense Minister, Paula Koffi Koffi, has stated that Ivorian and Liberian authorities are working together to prevent further attacks by Gbagbo’s loyalists.
These conflicting accounts of the events taking place in Liberia and the Ivory Coast are creating further turmoil instead of providing a real solution.
For further information, please see:
All Africa – Liberia: Fighters Set for Côte d’Ivoire – 7 June 2012
All Africa – Liberia: Gbagbo Loyalists Terrorize Border Towns – Enlist Country’s Child Soldiers – 7 June 2012
Liberian Observer – As Deadly Cross-Border Raids in Ivory Coast Persists Gov’t Fails to Curb Child Soldiers’ Recruitment, says Human Rights Watch – 7 June 2012
BBC – Liberia Minors Used in Ivory Coast Raids – HRW – 6 June 2012