Former child soldiers from Uganda and Sierra Leone are reportedly being exploited in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are used as cheap labor for military operations.
These soldiers were recruited to work for Aegis, a private military company that was contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004 to carry out military operations in Iraq, according to a report published by Al Jazeera.
“It’s really crazy in Iraq because since the first day I stepped my feet in Iraq, every day there was a bombing…every day we have rockets fire. Every day I have gunshots,” Alhaji Koroma, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, said.
According to the report, these former African child soldiers were recruited by Aegis to replace Peruvian and Colombian guards who were being paid between $1,000 and $1,200 a month.
But when they came in, the African ex-mercenaries were paid $800 a month – an amount that has now reportedly reduced to $250 a month.
Although this apparent inequality was reported by a commission appointed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 to investigate outsourcing to private military companies in Iraq and Afghanistan, no action has reportedly been taken by the U.S. government to address it.
A psychologist and adviser to the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, Michael Wessels criticized the U.S. government for its continued support of private military companies in the Middle East, saying recruitment of former child soldiers contributes to the current rise in insecurity.
“What we’re doing is, we’re exploiting people, using young people who’ve been child soldiers, deliberately sinking them in to jaws of combat and further violence. Nothing could be worse for these young people, nothing could be worse for security,” said Wessels.
Privatization of War
In 2002, former British Army officer Tim Spicer started a private military company called “Aegis Defense Services” that was later contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense to oversee the communication and coordination of all the private security companies on the ground offering guards to protect U.S. military bases in Iraq.
The company was hired despite Mr. Spicer’s questionable record, after he was adversely mentioned in a major “arms to Africa” scandal in 1998, where his previous company, Sandline International, was found guilty of breaching UN sanctions by importing weapons to Sierra Leone during the infamous Sierra Leone Civil War.
But when the U.S. government decided to end its military presence in Iraq, budgets decreased and the private military companies had to look for cheaper options. As a result, they opted to hire soldiers from developing countries.
Aegis reportedly recruited many former child soldiers from Uganda and Sierra Leone to work in Iraq because they were cheap and readily available.
It is still not clear how many former African child soldiers are currently working for Aegis in Iraq and Afghanistan because the company and the U.S. Department of Department were not available for comments.