Two recent interviews caught my attention, both dealing with the same issue, but from different perspectives.
The first, on TVO with retired Canadian General Romeo D'Allaire and Stephen Lewis, former UN ambassador for HIV-AIDS, and the second earlier today with the New York Times chief correspondent for east Africa, Jeff Gellerman on GPS with Fareed Zakaria.
It was Gettleman who broke down the U-tube video that has been seen by millions of viewers around the world on the terrorist warlord from Uganda, Joseph Konyi, who kidnaps and terrorizes young children into his armies who fight to kill without any evidence of a guiding ideology, purpose or principle. They are kidnapped before they are old enough to have any personal perspective, and are then easily and rapidly brain-washed (Kellerman's word) into killing to comply with the power wishes and the power needs of Konyi. According to the "Times" reporter, while Konyi is one of the worst of this breed of militia leader killing for no purpose or organizing principle, there are many others operating in a similar manner, producing what Gettleman calls "unwars" or conflicts that result in civilian deaths among innocent women and children in several countries in Africa.
While the Gettleman evidence is revolting, and very difficult to confront by any state authorities, given the density of the jungles in which these warring children exist, and the constant movement of the leaders, the D'Allaire interview, dedicated ostensibly to the cause of his life, the elimination of child soldiers from actually participating in such purposeless conflicts.
D'Allaire, the former UN commander in Ruanda when, during the massacre, some 800,000 people were killed, and he, by his own words, 'failed to generate the necessary military support from the west' to enable him to limit the slaughter, has dedicated his life and a non-profit foundation to the elimination of child soldiers.
Both his Ruandan experience and his Canadian upbringing point to his current self-appointed role for D'Allaire, and one of the lines in the interview that is embedded in my memory, in the passionate line in describing a young child soldier who met D'Allaire at a check-point, holding an HK-47 rifle, and who looked into D'Allaire's eyes, with both fear and terror, contemplating whether or not to shoot and kill, the gun having been already pointed at D'Allaire's head. While it was the chocolate bar in D'Allaire's hand that he believes saved him, "the look in his eyes was precisely the same as the look in the eyes of my own son at that age"...demonstrating the point that those children deserve the same kind of youth, education and life that was available to D'Allaire's own sons in Canada.
And yet, the two interviews demonstrate both the horror of conditions in some parts of Africa, including both the proliferation of well-armed terrorists who rape, pillage and kill "wantonly and without purpose" with such ease literally under the radar of the counsciousness and the conscience of the rest of the world, except for the few who actually consider the lives, education, health and hope of children to be worthy of serious consideration, before they become seduced by forces like Konyi or the pirates off the coast of Somalia, whose latest strike was some 2000 miles east of their homeland in The Moldives, through the use of a captured cargo ship as their floating harbour for their robbing, piratting skiffs that strike and run, in open defiance of far superior powers.
Gettleman says that he believes these conflicts using armed and brain-washed children, in the slavery of their leader are becoming the face of the next generation of human slaughter and suffering, and, we would add, the world is literally unprepared, and virtually imcompetent to stop the slaughter.
Is there something wrong with this picture? And, what are the steps that the developed world can take to bring this violence to an end? And, if we do know what those steps are, are we willing to put the time, the money and the talent in the field to bring this horror to a close? Somehow, one has to remain considerable sceptical about the answers to those questions.