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UNICEF: Liberating Liberia's War Generation
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UNICEF: Liberating Liberia's War Generation

Sunny fought twice in Liberia's civil war: first with the rebels when he was 12 years old, and again for the government when he was 17. Now aged 20, Sunny has been enrolled in a UNICEF-supported program, which is teaching this former child soldier how to be a farmer. 

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Produced by UNICEF Television.

Learn more about UNICEF's efforts to train and educate former child soldiers in Liberia.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Brutal marks of war and neglect are stark in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. But unseen is the damage to an entire generation. Not just once but twice Sunny fought in Liberia's civil war. First when he was 12; drugged up and fooled into thinking war was fun, he fought for the rebels. Then, when he was 17, he fought on the side of government forces. Now, Sunny is planting seeds, but his scars and his memories of being exploited will always be with him:
SUNNY [Not his real name]
At which time I was a little boy, I was only used: "Go and get, go and do this," and I'd go and do it, and "Go and get me this," and I go and get 'im. But I was with the general and, because, anywhere he goes, I follow; anything he wants me to do, I did.
VOICEOVER
He is one of more 11,000 Liberian youngsters directly involved in the 15-year conflict. Today, it's drama of a different kind. They're learning Shakespeare, being counseled, and coming to terms with their past. At this resource center supported by UNICEF and ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department, young Liberians are beginning to pick up the pieces of their lost childhood.
CORINNA KREIDLER [ECHO Field Expert]
They don't have any skills or very few: those few they learnt, for those who did some training courses. Their education level is relatively low. And also their frustration ... their tolerance to accept frustrations and to resolve problems with peaceful means is limited because that's not what they learnt. They learnt that if they have a weapon, they are the boss man, they are the strong people, and they can just impose whatever they want on other people. And of course in Liberia in 2007 things don't work that way anymore.
VOICEOVER
Help from outside has laid a firm foundation, but Liberians themselves have had to make it happen. Daniel Swaray has seen how work and play can rehabilitate former combatants.
DANIEL SWARAY [Sustainable Development Promoters
Ganta]: The growing stage of a child is very important. Play is one very important aspect of the growth of a child and, if you lack play, you lack your childhood. And this is one thing that they were lacking very much. So, when we came to them, they did not even understand what play was. Most of the trainees we have there were fighting for opposing forces, and they were chasing one another with guns. But now they are playing together, eating from the same bowl.
VOICEOVER
In the wake of recent elections, all the signs are looking good for the country. Bright-eyed children are back at school, new construction abounds. But Liberia's new government sees children as its most valuable asset.
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF [Liberian President]
The government will protect the children, first of all ensuring that they have the means to get an education, and of course in our carrying out of the rule of law, to ensure that any action against them will be dealt with in our laws. This refers particularly to our young girls who have been subjected to rape.
SARAH CROWE [UNICEF]
What about your vision for the future of Liberia's children, in general?
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF
To ensure that all of our children have an educational opportunity, in even the most remote village in the country.
VOICEOVER
For so long Sunny too was deprived of so much. Going back home and learning a new trade has given him, like so many others, new hope.
SARAH CROWE
This skills training that you're doing: are you happy with it, is it a good thing?
SUNNY
I am very happy with it because I want to learn, and then do something to improve myself -- and improve my country as well. So I am very happy with it, it's fine, it's going down well with me.
SARAH CROWE
What do you want to do when you finish your training?
SUNNY
When I finish my training if my choice is given to me, I will try to have my own agricultural fields as we are doing, and then try to learn some things, and then practice what I was taught. That's what I want to do, yes.
VOICEOVER
Progress is promising here but there's concern that the international community may drop the ball on Liberia and not give the youth a fighting chance of a better future. In Liberia, this is Sarah Crowe for UNICEF Television. Unite for Children.