James Ellery, a former top director in British security firm, Aegis, has said that former Sierra Leonean child soldiers were ignorantly employed as mercenaries in Iraq because they were cheaper to afford than Europeans.
He said that contractors essentially recruited people from countries “where there’s high unemployment and a decent workforce”. In other words, they take advantage of countries where people go through hardships. Sadly, they fixed Africa in this category and without considerations or inquiries hired former Sierra Leonean child soldiers in order to reduce cost.
“You probably would have a better force if you recruited entirely from the Midlands of England… But it can’t be afforded. So you go from the Midlands of England to Nepalese etc, Asians, and then at some point you say I’m afraid all we can afford now is Africans.” – James Ellery, Aegis Defence Services
In 2004, Aegis Defence was contracted to ensure the security of US military bases in Iraq. From then till 2011, the security outfit recruited from Nepal, Europe, United States and later from Africa. History has it that Aegis founder, Tim Spicer played a part in the ‘arms to Africa’ scandal. His other company, Sandline had imported 100 tonnes of weapons to Sierra Leone.
Report says that of an estimated 2500 recruited soldiers to fight in Iraq, some were former Sierra Leonean Child Soldiers. These recruited African soldiers settled for $16 (£11) a day. There couldn’t be a clearer way to rub in Africa’s economic instability.
“There’s an inherent racism in paying security guards less depending on the country they are coming from when they are facing the same risks as a guard from the UK.” – Onwurah, All-party parliamentary group on Africa
The post-civil war Sierra Leone saw the demobilization of well over 7,000 children by the UN mission. In a filmed documentary, the testimonies of the former Sierra Leonean Child Soldiers reveal their psychological battle.
“Every time I hold a weapon, it keeps reminding me of the past. It brings back many memories.” – Gibrilla Kuyateh
Under the United Nation’s stipulation, no Child Soldier is liable for war crimes. Thus, James thought it would have been ‘wrong’ to ask if they were former child soldiers or not. He also mentioned that the contractors rejected any recruited African soldier with deformities or health issues.
“Because you don’t want people dying after you’ve put them through expensive training and then they die because they’ve got Aids and so on.” – James Ellery, Aegis Defence.
It is sad that Africans are exploited to this magnitude. First these former Sierra Leonean child soldiers go through brutal ordeals from the civil war; then they are recruited again, scrutinized and re-trained for more conflicts. They end up being traumatized, all for $16 a day.