Can Guinea's ex-volunteers
pick up where they left off?
The impact of a conflict is often felt long after the rifle is put
away, as many of Guineas ex-volunteer soldiers can attest. When
rebels ravaged communities along Guineas southern borders in
2000, hundreds of thousands of Guineans rose up to defend their country.
In so doing, many of these volunteers -- often young men, but also
women and elders -- abandoned their education or professional training.
Four years later, many face considerable difficulties in rebuilding
While some former volunteers have successfully found their way back
into the workplace or into military careers, others, lacking education
or training, remain unemployed and unable to provide for their families.
Yet others have taken the road to drugs, thievery and/or aggression
toward civilians, in some cases with weapons that were provided to
them during the attacks. A number also continue to volunteer their
services for the national army, but struggle to survive without pay
for their work.
In Nzérékoré, for example, a group of frustrated
ex-volunteers took the city hostage to bring attention
to their situation and demand that they be provided assistance. The
event underscores the need for pro-active programs targeted at this
population, rather than having to take reactive measures when tensions
and frustrations reach the boiling point among these increasingly
The Network is conducting research on the estimated 350,000 volunteers
dating from 2000 attacks to determine their current socio-economic
status, get information about other ex-fighters and delinquent youth,
and find out about their needs. The next step is to launch a project
to help the young ex-volunteers get a new start in life.
The project MARWOPNET looks to launch in 2005 will provide training
and tools in various fields, such as agriculture and animal husbandry,
as well as small enterprise development and conflict resolution courses.
The project would also provide for some basic needs and services during
the post-training transition phase.
of a union of volonteers in Gueckédou with
of a MARWOPNET evaluation team
EARN ENOUGH WITHOUT STEALING":
One Former Volunteer's Story
I was doing business along the border at Mafarnah in Forecariah
when the rebel attacks occurred. I sold used clothes and bought rice
and oil to resell. My business was profitable. I bought some land
back home in my village, near Dubreka, to grow peanuts, which I used
to fund my trading business. With the small business, I was able to
reinvest in the land.
I was 21 when I was recruited to volunteer in the military. My country
had been attacked and I had to defend my people. They gave us machetes,
shotguns and clubs. We were the scouts; they put us up front when
we would patrol the bush at night. It was suffering. When we were
in the bush, we had to find something to eat ourselves.
There were girls and women who entrusted themselves to us. I lived
with a girl who had asked me to keep her safe from the fighting. When
my girlfriend gave birth to our first child in 2001, I finally had
to quit the military to find a better way to support our family.
But to start up a business, you have to have money. I had lost my
business and didnt have any more cash. Before the fighting,
I had received a loan to start farming, but afterwards, I was no longer
credit-worthy. My mother is dead and my father is elderly, without
I had no choice but to steal. I stole six thermoses from a vendor,
three of which I resold and three of which I kept to start selling
coffee in the street. I still have to steal. We live day by day. Some
days I make enough money to survive, but others I have to steal food
or medicine for our three children.
I keep in touch with my brothers from the military. Some have been
recruited by the army, but many others arent doing anything
now. Some of them quit school or their apprenticeships to volunteer
in the army and cant get started up again.
My only hope is to find work where I can earn enough to survive without
stealing. I would like to be a truck driver. Learning is easy but
finding work is hard. I would also be very happy to do agriculture
volunteer Mohammed Alias Keita, age 25, Conakry
OF A SURVIVOR:
doesn't ask one's age"
am 89 years old. I am one of the survivors of those abducted by the
rebels to Liberia and Sierra Leone during the 2001 attacks on Gueckédou.
I was living in the Kango neighborhood, situated about 3 kilometers
from the Makoua River that separates Guinea and Liberia.
I remember well what happened to me during the attack, Saturday, Janurary
12, 2001. Everyone fled when bullets rained on the town of Gueckédou.
The only ones who stayed behind were the elderly, handicapped, and
the seriously ill resting in their homes in a state of agony, because
one didnt even speak of a hospital at this time.
Its difficult for me to talk about what I experienced during
my days with the rebels. Two armed young rebels around 20 years old
found me alone in my house. One of them asked me to have sexual relations
with him, but his friend forbade it and asked him to bring me along
with them. This was the start of my calvary.
During this unfortunate time, seeing people kiled before our eyes
become a regular event. There were around 50 of us, all taken from
Gueckédou. The itinerary was the following: Gueckédou,
Lorombah and then Foya, in Liberia, where we spent 2 months in the
bush. Each time the Guinean army came to attack the rebels, they made
us go in the bush. A lot of the captives found their death there.
After all the combat that had gone on, bodies were decomposing there
and no one was there to bury them or take them away. After Foya, they
marched us on to Bouédou in Sierra Leone, where we spent another
three months. There we were also chased by soldiers sent by the Guinean
army, which finally liberated us and drove us to Séfadou, also
in Sierra Leone, where we spent another two months and twenty days.
From there, they took us to Freetown,
the capital of Sierra Leone, in an IRC vehicle. After a week in Freetown,
we boarded a boat for Conakry, and eventually returned home to Gueckédou
in an HCR car.
What happened to me is so horrible it is hard to recount . I didnt
think that a youth of 20 years would have asked me to have sexual
relations with him. I didnt think that I could have walked more
than 300 kilometers on foot. I didnt think that someone could
have killed another human being before my eyes. I didnt think
that I could have traveled among putrifying corpses. I didnt
think that I could have lived among drug users. I didnt think
that I could have lived like primitives in makeshift shelters constructed
by ourselves in the bush, surrounded by wild animals. There wasnt
much of a difference between us and the animals -- only the life of
a human being is in the hands of God.
Death doesnt ask ones age. Among the captives in my group,
I was the oldest and one of the rare survivors.