A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a boy soldier

By Ishmael Beah. Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2007

!</public/images/covers/englisch/youth/shadows_on_Africa/A_long_Way_gone._Memoirs_of_a_Boy_Soldier._By_Ismael_Beah.jpg! Ishmael Beah, who was a boy soldier, wrote a riveting story about getting swept up in Sierra Leone’s civil war when he was thirteen. At that time, Sierra Leone was a country deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of sociopathic rebel and army forces.

Ishmael Beah remained largely untouched by the civil war, until rebels invaded his village when he was twelve. Although he managed to escape, he was separated from his family and wandered in search of them for a year, until government armies captured him. He was trained as a soldier and learned to shoot an AK-47. Beah then found himself in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter, transformed into someone as addicted to killing as he was to the cocaine that the army makes available. The frightening years in the army lasted until he was 15. Finally, he was brought to a rehabilitation center, sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. He was “repatriated” into civilian life in the capital, where he lived with his family and a distant uncle for a while, but the war finally engulfed the capital. Once again, 17-year-old Beah was forced to flee, this time to the U.S., where he now lives.

Ishmael Beah and China Keitetsi shared an experience that returning to civilized society was more difficult than becoming a child soldier. Though the credibility of their “fictional” memoirs was doubted (most in question was the age of both, when they entered the war), they draw attention to the fact that even today, children are turned into soldiers and abused in war crimes.