"Children should never again be used in any capacity whatsoever as actors or instrumentalities in furtherance of war or acts of violence, regardless of any justification offered for such acts."-Joseph Kaifala
This is an oral-history project dedicated to recording testimonies from all those who survived the Sierra Leonean civil war to ensure that the history of the civil war is preserved in order to help prevent a repetition of similar atrocities.
Full-length testimonies, as well as shorter and more accessible video clips, will be available to the public, accompanied by written transcripts for easy browsing online. Testimonies will be presented in numerous ways as part of larger educational programs for high schools and colleges in Sierra Leone and the U.S, and as an exhibit in a future memorial in Sierra Leone, which the Jeneba Project will be developing at a later stage.
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The testimonies will provide a meaningful framework to publicly explore the traumatic memories of political violence; debate difficult questions about human behavior and choices in difficult circumstances; highlight the problematic nature of rigid ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ labels; and ultimately provide future generations and leaders with powerful lessons about the importance of human rights and democratic values in preventing intolerance and violent expressions. During the decade-long brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, children, for instance, were both primary victims of atrocities and principal perpetrators of violence as child soldiers.
The project will serve as a platform for justice, granting an avenue to the voices and experiences of those who were most affected by the war and continue to be most vulnerable in society. Moreover, it will provide survivors room for individual healing through reflection and help build a collective narrative.
Audio-visual testimonies will also help educate the public about Sierra Leone’s post-conflict realities and further the Jeneba Project’s goals of providing educational opportunities for Sierra Leonean youths. Many children were robbed of a childhood due to the war, and the Jeneba Project is providing opportunities to acquire education, and encouraging them to become agents of change within their communities.
In an interdependent world, no catastrophe is local. We must learn from the history of Sierra Leone and undertake the moral responsibility to prevent such crisis in the future. We hope this project will be helpful in the advocacy against the use of child soldiers everywhere.
THE IDEA: INTERVIEW WITH ISHMAEL BEAH