So they were well experienced then?

UK firm ’employed former child soldiers’ as mercenaries in Iraq
Former director acknowledges Aegis Defence Services may have recruited former child fighters in Sierra Leone

And I’m really struggling to find out what the problem is here.

Contract documents say that the soldiers from Sierra Leone were paid $16 (£11) a day. A documentary, The Child Soldier’s New Job, to be broadcast on Monday in Denmark alleges that the estimated 2,500 Sierra Leonean personnel who were recruited by Aegis and other private security companies to work in Iraq included former child soldiers.

“When war gets outsourced, then the companies tries to find the cheapest soldiers globally. Turns out that that is former child soldiers from Sierra Leone. I think it is important that we in the west are aware of the consequences of the privatisation of war,” the film’s maker, Mads Ellesøe, said.

Employing child soldiers, obviously wrong. But “former”?

Ellery, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity, told the Guardian that it would be “quite wrong” to ask whether people had ever been child soldiers, as it would penalise people for things they had often been forced into doing.

He pointed out that under UN rules, child soldiers are not liable for war crimes. “They are, once they reach 18, in fact citizens with full rights to seek employment, which is a basic human right. So we would have been completely in error if, having gone to Sierra Leone, we excluded those people.”

13 thoughts on “So they were well experienced then?”

  1. Hasn’t the British Army (&Navy) had a rather long history of recruiting “child soldiers”? Still does it, if we’re defining under 18 as a “child”, doesn’t it?

  2. @BiS – The Navy used to have ships boys – who went on their first voyage at about 10 years old.

    Sons of other officers were taken on as Midshipmen (officers in training) and various urchin types would serve as powder monkeys and other basic tasks whilst getting an apprenticeship in seamanship.

    No-one would claim that life as a sailor in the Age of Sail was wonderfully luxurious but they got 3 squares a day and the chance to fight the French. It was a good system all in all.

  3. “One interviewee, Gibrilla Kuyateh, told the film’s makers: “Every time I hold a weapon, it keeps reminding me of about the past. It brings back many memories.” In extended footage seen by the Guardian he said he was kidnapped at the age of 13 by rebels who also killed his mother.”

    Is this for real? As someone who isn’t a bloodthirsty killer I don’t have experience, but if I’d killed a boy’s mother, I don’t think I’d recruit him, because I might be concerned that he’d decide to slit my throat in the middle of the night.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset


    Yep, I was 15 when I joined. Couldn’t go on active service u till I was 17.5, but I think it’s 18 now.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    I note their contempt for the Army. As if serving Britain, even in a private company, is remotely comparable to serving a drugged up psychotic war lord. It is not putting on the uniform that makes it troubling for children. It is cutting people’s arms off.

    Not a very common feature of military life in the West.

    But as I said, their contempt for the rough men who guard them while they sleep is noted.

  6. Of course it would be much better to let a person who has suffered as a child be unempled in a place with no benefit system. At least they would be protected from obesity.

  7. We’re missing the real story here: globalisation is driving down wage rates for mercenary soldiers. Ot’s an absolute disgrace and we should impose tariffs on Sierra Leonian military suppliers immediately.

  8. “…So we would have been completely in error if, having gone to Sierra Leone, we excluded those people.”

    Well said Sir. If a modern mercenary outfit isn’t for diversity and inclusion what is it for?

  9. Couldn’t go on active service u till I was 17.5, but I think it’s 18 now.

    Yup, minimum of 18 now – we still get errors where soldiers (particularly) deploy with their battalion and get sent home after the admin checks at RSOI.

    Joined at 17 and 7 months, first combat zone at 19.

  10. Always good to see instances of youth training and apprenticeship schemes translating into real jobs for the impoverished young ‘uns.

  11. The Inimitable Steve

    Eh. I’d be annoyed if I hired mercenaries from a supposedly reputable firm and they turned out to be Sierra Leonians.

    Being able to fire an AK47 does not a soldier make.

  12. When I was at the Al Asad USMC base in Iraq in 2006-7, all the internal checkpoints on post were manned by African contractors. Ugandans, we were told, but who knows. They would stop each vehicle, look at your ID and wave you on through. I suspect that these Sierra Leonans were recruited for similar non-combat tasks, so calling them mercenaries is probably a little over-dramatic.

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