Rebel commanders have constructed four-foot tall killing machines that cut their way through village after village and overrun governments. In its trail are smoking huts and sawed off ears. These Rebel commanders have learned that children are the perfect terrorist weapon: easily manipulated, intensely loyal, fearless and, most important, in endless supply.
Today, human rights groups say, there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. And experts say the problem is deepening as the nature of conflict itself changes — especially in Africa.
Sierra Leone has been plagued by conflict for over 20 years. While peace now exists in the cities and townships of much of Sierra Leone, unrest still lies ready to pounce in its jungles and neighboring countries. The scars of these vicious wars are visible everywhere, and especially on the lost generation of 20 something men. These are the child soldiers of Sierra Leones conflicts. As they grow older they find themselves out of place with society, under employed, and roaming the streets continuing the violence to protect their neighborhoods and family.
Alfred is one of those rebel savages who was brought up with one mentality and that was to kill or be killed. The war is over but the fighting continues over turf spilling out onto the neighboring gang. The battle rages inside as Alfred’s desire to rise-up above his past and become the generation of the future falls further out of reach. The youth of Sierra Leone sing about their past war torn lifestyle and their desire to move past that and rise up to become a new generation. However with all of this hope and desire to change the violence rages on.
With Tens of thousands of youths still out of work years after the end of Sierra Leones civil war leaves crowds of young men left to loiter on Freetown’s street corners. Most of them are former fighters and rebels. The United Nations estimates unemployment in Sierra Leone to be about 70%, which makes it the highest unemployment in the world. Human rights groups have warned about the potential for unemployed youths in Sierra Leone to be drawn into conflict. Alfred’s older brother is currently in Nigeria where he has joined a gang of rebels being financed to increase the small uprising there. It is a constant temptation to these young men to seek acceptance and support by joining one of these rebel gangs financed by Africa’s next warlord.
Alfred was trained in Martial Arts and competed in several international events. With little to no support for his efforts he soon adapted those skills to surviving on the streets. He shared with me a story where he was invited to fight in a tournament in Mali. When He arrived his trainer took the money they were to use for living and eating and returned home. Alfred was left with no money and no food and no way to return. It took him almost 4 months to find his way back home.
Today Alfred is well fed, healthy, and no longer fighting on the streets. He has made more in the last month then he made over the last 3 years. He is supporting his entire family and has a future. You can find him daily in the gym training for the next fight and mentoring others who want to follow his example. He is a leader and an example to others who live the life he used to. This change is only possible because Alfred now has a contract with the newly formed African Fighting Championship promotions company. He has a job, a purpose and most importantly a future off the streets.
AFC was formed this last year in an attempt to take the violence off the street and organize these fighters into a disciplined, structured and safe organization. Fighters like Alfred have been sought out and given an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in the ring. AFC is a for-profit charity designed to give these fighters a future and create a new industry mentoring the children of Africa into responsible and disciplined generation for a future of success and fortune.
“It may not be much, but at least it gives us something to do that can actually lead somewhere, it gives all of us something good to belong to.” Alfred Said, “Violence of any kind is bad but it is who we are and what we do. Now we can make a good living from it by entertaining people instead of killing people.”
This February AFC is making its official launch into the world of fighting tournaments with an 8-man tournament style championship bout. It is a no holds barred last man standing battle that fighters like Alfred have been training for months to be a part of. The winner of the tournament will earn 800 US Dollars. Alfred told me what wining would mean to him. “I hope to be the champion. I am working very hard to prepare myself, we have many great fighters here but I think I can win. If I win the 800 dollars that is more money then I have ever had in my entire life. I can take care of my family for all year.”
AFC is creating a new child soldier. A dedicated, disciplined, and positively motivated soldier fighting for a new Africa; An Africa that Alfred can be proud of.
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Mixed Martial Arts competition company from West Africa, Sierra Leone. Giving opportunities to African fighters to demonstrate their talents and build the industry in Africa.