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CNN PRESENTS

Encore Presentation: Return to Freetown

Aired March 16, 2002 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: A war of men, fought by children. Kidnapped. Abused. Drugged. And turned into killers. All in the name of greed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SORIOUS SAMURA, NARRATOR (voice-over): These children became the rebel's most efficient killers. And for most of the last 10 years, bands of them have terrorized my country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A decade of war, and now a fragile peace. But can child warriors ever go home? Return to Freetown, and find out.

AARON BROWN, HOST: Welcome to CNN PRESENTS, I'm Aaron Brown. His was a nation being murdered, a nation dying, a nation being left to die. That is at least film maker Sorious Samura forced the world to take notice of the madness in Sierra Leone. Samura's award-winning documentary "Cry Freetown" opened many eyes to the horrifying truth of the civil conflict in those diamond-rich countries of Western Africa.

Today, as a tenuous peace returns to Sierra Leone, so now does Samura. Only this time, it is not revolution he hopes to document, but reunion. Sierra Leone's long and uncertain road to recovery, as CNN PRESENTS "Return to Freetown."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SORIOUS SAMURA, NARRATOR (voice-over): In the year 2000 my film, "Cry Freetown," at last brought the war's attention to the suffering of thousands of people in a brutal civil war in my country, Sierra Leone. As a cameraman, I have witnessed a terrible war where children were both the victims and the abusers. Thousands were abducted by Foday Sankoh and his rebel army, the RUF, drugged, abused, and turned into killers.

These children became the rebel's most efficient killers. And for most of the last 10 years, bands of them have terrorized my country. The rebels even had a name for them: SBUs -- Small Boy Units.

So now I have come back to find out what really happened to these children, and to try to understand how and why so many of them were driven to kill. After 10 years of civil war, there is now peace in Sierra Leone, supported by the United Nations. But two-thirds of the country is still controlled by the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. As part of the peace agreement, nearly 7,000 child soldiers have been freed by the RUF and, with the help of special charities, reunited with their parents. No one knows how many remain to be released.

The charities have allowed me to return three children back to their families, but will the rebels release these kids, and are the children themselves ready to return?

Sierra Leone is a small west African state of about 4 million people. It achieved its independence from Britain in 1961. What started as a movement against injustice and corruption turned into a civil war and since 1991 that war has become has become a struggle for my country's gold and diamonds between the rebels of the RUF and the government.

This has left Sierra Leone completely divided. I'm now traveling from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, to Makeni, the headquarters of the rebel forces.

(on camera): Down there beyond those hills is RUF country. Until recently, anyone who sets foot here does so only with the RUF permission or at their own risk. But now the U.N. are here and it's supposed to be safe.

(voice-over): Even with the peace process, people are frightened to travel these roads. Everyone is still nervous because of the RUF's occasional rapes and ambushes. Makeni was once a thriving market town, but in 1998, the RUF invaded here with the help of renegade soldiers from the Sierra Leone army. Everyone who lived here fled and now it's the RUF's headquarters in the whole of Sierra Leone.

We have been sent here by Karetas (ph), the agency responsible for getting abducted children back to their families, to meet Mukseen Cece (ph). Mukseen is going to RUF headquarters to negotiate for the release of some children. Whichever kids the RUF choose to release now will be the ones I go back with -- back to the homes and families they were taken from.

(on camera): Mukseen is now meeting with the RUF commander. He's done this before. He's a very impressive man. He's one of my heroes in Sierra Leone at the moment. He was an RUF commander, but the plight of the children got to him, so he left the RUF and he started to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the commanders to release the children. Since then, he's been responsible for the release of over 1,000 children.

(voice-over): Mukseen has had a successful meeting. We have now been giving permission from the RUF to go to two houses in the outskirts of Makeni to pick up two of the children from one home and one child from the other.

We are now heading for the area where most of the young fighters live. They share houses here together like substitute families in place of the real ones they have left behind. Two boys live in this first house we are going to, both are now 18. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how will we get on with these kids? Children who have been abducted, drugged, even forced to eat raw gunpowder to make them so violent they would kill. I want to be able to understand what's happened to them.

(on camera) (translated on screen): T-Boy. Who is T-Boy? Are you the T-Boy? Do you know how to play football?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): Yes, T-Boy. Hello. Sasko Sasko!

SMAURA: Osas.

(translated on screen): You've made me remember another Osas. How do you do?

SAMURA (voice-over): Everyone who lives in this house is under the control of one commander. The women were abducted to become his wives and mothers to the children, and the boys to be his soldiers. So there we can only take two people from this house. The rest will have to wait and pray for their commander to release them.

(on camera): I thank you very much, and we do hope we'll able to find their people and reunite them. Thank you very much.

(voice-over): Whatever they have done together, for the boys this has been their close family through the years of war. They have fought together and nearly died together on more than one occasion.

Sahr Simbo was 15 when he was captured by the RUF and forced to fight in and around Makeni. There he met up with his father, a former government soldier who had also been captured and forced to fight for the RUF. But his father escaped, changed sides and ended up fighting with the Sierra Leone army against the RUF and his son.

(on camera): What would you have done if you had come against your father in a fight?

SAHR SIMBO (SASKO) (translated on screen): Well that, one doesn't think about because once your given -- once they've drugged you that's it. You don't think about anything else. You don't remember about family. You don't remember about nothing.

SAMURA (voice-over): At the age of eight, Tamba Fengai was abducted from his village in the east of Sierra Leone. That was 10 years ago. As well as taking Tamba, they took his mother and an older brother.

(on camera): Did your mother see you before she was taken away?

TAMBA FENGAI (translated on screen): Yes, we were all captured together with my mother.

SAMURA (translated on screen): They captured you and your mother?

FENGAI: Yes.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Where is your mother now?

FENGAI (translated on screen): My mother, she is dead in Guinea. At the time, they took us to their base. She kept worrying and then she died.

SAMURA (voice-over): We traveled to another part of Makeni to pick up the third child. We found her at another rebel house in the outskirts. Her name is Mariama Conteh, and she is quieter than the boys, more troubled. Mariama was 7 years old when she was captured by the RUF and forced to become a domestic slave. Although she says she wants to leave with us, she seems very confused.

(on camera) (translated on screen): Don't you want to stay with your family again?

MARIAMA CONTEH (translated on screen): I want to stay with them.

SAMURA: But you still want to go back to the rebels in Makeni? Why?

CONTEH (translated on screen): The woman in charge had given me orders that even I see my family I must not stay with them. I should go back.

SAMURA (voice-over): Now we'll try and find their families, wherever they are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMURA (voice-over): We have completed the first part of our mission, to return three abducted children to their families. Next, we are taking them to a children's care center, Karetas in government- held Port Loko. This center is a halfway house. The children are counseled and told what is now expected of them back in normal society, while investigators try and find their families.

Mariama doesn't want to talk. It is now becoming clear to me that, like many children who have been abducted, the RUF has a magnetic attraction for her. The rebels have been the only family she knows; suddenly everything is unfamiliar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated on screen): Please stop crying. In this place we're all the same. We know it wasn't your wish. Don't worry. Feel free. We'll take care of you.

SAMURA: The boys who come to this child protection camp all have to have their heads shaved. The care workers here see this as an initiation ceremony to mark the boy's return to normal society. For Sasko, it's not an enjoyable experience. He left the RUF as a sergeant, and is used to more respect. Sasko did much of his fighting in the bush. And as he showed me where he fought, he told me more about those days in the RUF. All child soldiers are forced to take a special oath of secrecy and loyalty. They are led to believe that a black magic curse will injure them if they talk.

(on camera) (translated on screen): What actually happens when you go to these villages to commandeer the people and tell you to join them, if they refuse what do you do to them?

SASKO (translated on screen): Those who are lucky, we beat them and leave them. Those who are lucky sometimes they cut their hands off. Sometimes they shoot them and kill them. The rest, if we've demonstrated with three or four, the other ones would be afraid.

SAMURA (translated on screen): During these demonstrations and to believe that, though it's not your fault, you also took part in some of these demonstrations?

SASKO (translated on screen): No. I didn't take part, but if they gave me one to execute I'd do it. But to say I'll use a machete, chop hand or foot, no.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Well, at that time you were young. Growing up, you didn't know about killing. The first time when you began killing, then you started executing after that, how were you feeling? Were you enjoying it? Like a small boy, were you making fun of it?

SASKO (translated on screen): Well the first time I was given one, I was so afraid, so mad. When they gave me one at first, they then took something and they said I should tie my face, and then they gave me the barrel and cocked it. Then they put it in front of me and said I should fire. After I fired it, then they took it off my face. When I saw it, I feel so bad. Right through that night I was unable to sleep. I was confused.

SAMURA (voice-over): How on earth do you find the parents of fallen children in the mess of a war-torn country? This time we were very lucky. Sasko had told us that the last news he had heard about his father was that he was at a Sierra Leone army base in or near Port Loko, so we asked around in the Karetas camp, and someone knew him.

It's been a strange war for Sergeant Simbo, Sasko's father. He was a rebel, but now he's returned to join the new Sierra Leone Army backed by the British. It's a new, more professional army that is supposed to provide jobs for ex-RUF fighters. I hope they remain loyal.

(on camera) (translated on screen): Sahr, we are going to find your daddy, so I would like you to brace yourself to see your daddy -- hear me?

(voice-over): Sasko told me that he thought I was about to hand him over to the soldiers of the Sierra Leone army, his sworn enemies only a few short months ago. (on camera) (translated on screen): You really want to see this now?

SASKO: Yes.

SAMURA (translated on screen): OK, let's go.

(voice-over): It's been two years since Sasko had seen his dad.

Sasko is a tough character. He's survived brutality, feared for his life many times, and had to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by his comrades as a traitor. He's going to require even more strength to move forward to a new life outside the RUF.

With families divided by wars, it's difficult for parents. They must try and raise their children who have been so damaged by their experiences.

SASKO (translated on screen): Where is my older sister now? Have you still not heard about her?

PA SIMBO (translated on screen): I've still not heard about her, except I have asked my white officers for us to go to Koidu, to go find out about them. But it's all up to God. I'm praying to God. My mama has been killed. I have no other family. God will help us.

SAMURA (on camera) (translated on screen): The people who abducted your son, how do you feel about them?

SIMBO (translated on screen): Well, it's a war, so I won't blame anybody. If it wasn't because of the war nobody would dare take my kids. I will look after them carefully.

SAMURA (translated on screen): What do you want to happen to Sahr now?

SIMBO (translated on screen): I want to take Sahr back as my son, send him to school so he can learn an occupation because he's only my son, my only hope.

SAMURA (voice-over): And then there were two.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMURA: We took Tamba and Mariama to Freetown to the home of a good friend of mine, Mrs. Mani and her family. Mrs. Mani is the wife of a paramount chief of Koidu, where both children were abducted from. And as is traditional in my country, she has an obligation to all the people from her area. Her home has become a haven for people from Koidu, and she is part of the hope in my country.

MRS. MANI (translated on screen): Mariama and Tamba, I know they weren't glad to go with these people. They too belong to a family, so that's why, with all my heart, I received them.

SAMURA (on camera) (translated on screen): But how were you able to get them to relax and mix and play with all your children?

MRS. MANI (translated on screen): You know children are children. Children have no boundaries. If they were adult they would be reserved. But we all know we were in a war. And all of us who were running, trying to escape, we knew that even our own children were being forced, they were caught and forced to do things that they didn't want to do.

(MUSIC)

SAMURA (voice-over): Children like Sasko, Mariama and Tamba have played their part in the latest phase of the civil war. But children have always been involved, and I was one of them.

This is the Methodist Boy's High School in Freetown, and it's where I went to school. I learned many things here, and a lot of it wasn't on the school curriculum.

In my day, a teacher could fail you in your exams if you didn't have them form a relationship with a girl on the streets they've taken a liking to. We had our first lessons in power and how it corrupts. And for most of us who didn't have power in those days, we were all potential candidates for a revolution.

When they took away free education, many of us got together to talk and demonstrate. Then other young people who had dropped out of school joined in, and very soon we were a movement.

(on camera): Then, a former corporal of the Sierra Leone Army started walking together with the youth leaders. He encouraged them to turn protests into battles, and protesters into fighters.

That was the beginning of the Revolutionary United Front.

(voice-over): When I was at school, Cleo Hanciles was one of the most influential lecturers at Frahbi (ph) College in Freetown. He had a big effect on the students there. In fact, he was one of the founders of the movement that was later to be hijacked by the RUF.

Cleo had helped lead a movement aimed at peaceful change, so he remembers only too well when all started going wrong when that former corporal in the Sierra Leone Army, Foday Sankoh, volunteered to serve as the military leader.

CLEO HANCILES: I knew that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) movement we are finished. Then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Foday Sankoh. I mean I didn't know him. Definitely something went wrong -- seriously wrong. And I think every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here who was involved in that -- at that time in organization, we are -- should be very, very, very ashamed that what started off as a noble -- very, very noble patriotic intention degenerated to such despicable level of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SAMURA: For his part in a failed coup, Corporal Sankoh spent seven years in this prison. I wonder, was it here that he devised his cruel plan to build a brutal army out of children stolen from their parents' arms? These pictures were taken 15 years after his release in 1993. By then he had hijacked the well-intention movement I was part of at school and changed it into the Revolutionary United Front, the RUF.

Compared to our innocent ideas as children, it was a monster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take care of the children. Take care of them all. We'll fight to the last man.

SAMURA: The RUF tactics involved cutting off hands and indiscriminate killing. And often these crimes were done by children; children who had been abducted, drugged and trained to become the most vicious, mindless killers in Corporal Sankoh's army. Using abducted children as soldiers was something the RUF and Foday Sankoh not only admitted, but also was proud of.

FODAY SANKOH (translated on screen): You know these are small, small boys. Some I trained; some of them were like this. They said they were going to join me. I trained them because they wanted to fight. You'll see them small, small ones.

SAMURA: And as if this wasn't bad enough, the people who came to protect the innocent from Sankoh and his children's army began abusing children too.

And so there came a time when this country was one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a kid. Peacekeepers, government soldiers and civil defense forces suspected all children of being rebels. And all this in a rich country full of diamonds and gold. And yet we were poorer for it.

Now it's time to take Tamba back home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMURA (voice-over): Tamba remembers he was abducted from a village in the east of Sierra Leone, so we are on a journey back into rebel country to Koidu, where the diamond mines are, and where the rebels quickly took over when the war began 10 years ago.

On the way, we pass through villages and towns that have seen massive destruction and killings. No one was there to count the casualties. Killings often done by children.

We have stopped at a village where Tamba was once stationed. His Small Boy Unit was responsible for defending the village from attack. Mostly it was quiet until one day local defense forces launched an assault on their position.

What Tamba told me about what happened in the village is the most terrible story I have ever heard from a child. This is terrorism that has not just happened and is now over; it's with Tamba and all the children who have experienced this for the rest of their lives.

How do you close the doors that should never have been opened in these children's minds?

Tamba told me how his group had found civilians who had been captured by the enemy. They forced the civilians to show them where the civil defense people were hiding.

TAMBA (translated on screen): This is the place. We killed some of them here. We burned them, we put tires on them.

SAMURA (translated on screen): So you burned the people here. Now listen Tamba, how do you feel? What were you doing? What was your role at the time?

TAMBA (translated on screen): At that time I was dancing. We were dancing and advancing.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Were you shooting? Were you killing?

TAMBA (translated on screen): Yes. We were shooting, advancing. We were shouting. We were happy and we were clapping. We were shooting and some of them were running, but we caught them.

SAMURA (translated on screen): You were not killing at first?

TAMBA (translated on screen): No.

SAMURA (translated on screen): How did you manage to get the mind to kill?

TAMBA (translated on screen): When they caught us (my family) and took us to Koidu, I saw plenty of dead bodies and I was afraid. in fact, they almost killed my mother, saying, "Why are you afraid?" Then they took me away from my mother. My mother was alone. So they took me then with my elder brother and trained us. They gave us gunpowder and we ate it. They put some other medicine in it and that gave us the mind to be able to kill.

After that they caught somebody and gave me that person to kill, and I killed them. The blood, I also took it. They said I should rub it on my eyes, and I did it. That gave me the mind to kill.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Didn't you feel bad or feel sorry for them?

TAMBA (translated on screen): No.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Why not?

TAMBA (translated on screen): Because at the time the gunpowder was working on me.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Today, you're looking around this area. You're looking here. You know you burned some bodies here and you've come back here today. Tell me, what does it look like, Tamba?

TAMBA (translated on screen): Let God forgive me.

SAMURA (translated on screen): It is not your fault, yes? God will forgive you. Me myself understand. It's not your fault.

(voice-over): Onwards to Koidu, where 10 years ago Tamba was abducted. There used to be a town here, but they have dug up the buildings to get at the diamonds underneath. At least Tamba seems happy to be back home.

We're here in the down of Koidu to find out where Tamba's village is. It's been a long time since Tamba was home, and we don't know if his father is still there.

In the end, this was what the war was all about. At first, the RUF sold diamonds they found here to fund their war, and some of those diamonds ended up in the top jewelry stores of America and Europe. Now individual commanders coerce the miners to dog for their own personal wealth. Whatever dreams of real change the RUF had, they ended here in greed in the diamond fields of Koidu.

(on camera) (translated on screen): I heard you say that this place is a promised land. For eight years, you have been digging and you have still not got this promise. When are you hoping to get this promise?

JOSEPH KOROMA, DIAMOND MINER (translated on screen): Well I almost, had it not been for the war, I should not have been like this. You do get it, but sometimes they take it from you, so you won't be able to plan.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Who takes it from you?

KOROMA (translated on screen): The time -- the time that we were fighting. You understand what I mean? During RUF and Civil Defense -- because of war.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Now that we're digging all over this place, where are we going to stay tomorrow?

KOROMA (translated on screen): Well, because we don't have any other work, that's why we're doing this.

SAMURA: This is what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether this place is all holes. I mean, it's just that there is no education. And if there is no education, what else is left for him, except to dig?

And the question is, what future have these young people digging for themselves? What future are they digging for the people of Koidu and the people of Sierra Leone?

(voice-over): But we must get back to the search for Tamba's father. In the market of Koidu, I ask around for directions to the village from where Tamba was taken. It has been a long journey. But for Tamba, he seems more excited of meeting his old friends on the roadside than finding his dad.

Tamba has now become quiet and reserved. For him, the reunification with his father and his younger brother is clearly strange and uncomfortable. I have noticed how he talks about his old friends in the RUF. I don't think his heart is here with his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): As the rebels entered, they shot down people for no good reason, so I took to the heels. Killed dozens of people here. They cut out the throat of some people. They shot some people down. So we took to our heels. They burned down houses. So, a lot of atrocities.

SAMURA (on camera) (translated on screen): How long will it take for you to settle in the family again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): Long time.

TAMBA (translated on screen): That would be a long time.

SAMURA (translated on screen): A long time?

(voice-over): as I prepare to leave Tamba with his family, I'm not sure he will stay. This area is still in RUF control. And after the years he has spent fighting with the rebels, I wonder if he will be tempted to rejoin them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMURA (voice-over): I have come back to Freetown. It is here that Corporal Sankoh returned in 1999 as the victor. When the man responsible for the abuse of Sasko, Tamba, Mariama and thousands of others returned, he arrived not as a rebel, but as chairman of our minerals and mines, and with the status of a vice president.

At peace talks, his military successes have been transformed into government boasts for him and for other RUF officials. His new home in Freetown was a long way from the bush, where he spent 10 long years on his campaign for power.

(on camera): When Corporal Foday Sankoh set up his office here, as the newly appointed chairman for the commission for the management of strategic resources, he must have thought that he and his movement had achieved true victory.

From this place, he controls the island's vast gold and diamonds. He had his hands on the purse strings. And all of the killings, and all of -- all the innocents that had gone before, must have seemed justified to him, because at the big peace conference in Loma (ph) which gave him this job, the big and powerful players in the outside world, like America and Britain, supported his appointment.

And the lesson -- the message of all of us in Sierra Leone learned then was to understand very well that might appears to be right, and that those prepared to be ruthless tend to get what the want.

(off-camera): But Sankoh's privileges did not last for long. In May, 2000, Sankoh's bodyguards opened fire on a demonstration and killed 15 protesters. U.N. soldiers captured some of the bodyguards, but Sankoh escaped. Two weeks later, a Sierra Leonean soldier on the streets in Freetown arrested him.

Today, Foday Sankoh is back in prison. No one apart from senior government officials, knows where he is. A fragile peace agreement has been negotiated for Sierra Leone, and the people here are trying to recover as best they can, despite the memories of death, amputations, and the abduction of their children.

Now it's time to take Mariama back home. Mariama has been staying with Mrs. Mani while we took Tamba to Koidu. She's made some friends, but she's still quiet, and I'm concerned for her.

It was a confusing time finding Mariama's mother. At first, we thought we she was in Koidu, but after three weeks of frustration, social workers found her in Freetown running a market store. Mariama seems distant at the meeting, and it leaves me wondering if it was right to take her away from the rebels.

(on camera) (translated on screen): Did you ever think that you would see her again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one? I not remember, not think of that. God bless you all.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Are you crying? Thank God you've seen them. I told you that we weren't bad people, yes?

MARIAMA (translated on screen): Yes.

SAMURA (translated on screen): You sure? You don't want to go again? You want to stay here with your family, your people? Will you be able to be patient with them because you have been away from them for too long. You'll be able to be patient with them? Will you also be patient with her? You know what she has been through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated on screen): We understand. Blood is blood.

SAMURA (translated on screen): Blood is blood, but...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that we have seen her, we know how we feel.

SAMURA (translated on screen): What sort of future will this child face now that she has come back to you?

PA SORIE MAKOMBO, MARIAMA'S GRANDFATHER (translated on screen): The future she will face? Now as she is, I don't have any other future for her. As she is, if somebody wants her, OK. As she is with me, if nobody wants her I'll look after her. Whatever I feel like doing, I will do it.

SAMURA (voice-over): All three children are reunited. Now we'll leave them time to get to know their families again before we come back to see how they are all getting on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMURA (voice-over): The three children we met are trying to adjust to their new lives. Two weeks after we left him, we made one last journey to the east, to find Tamba and see how he was settling back with his family. His father wants him to go back to school, but everything is destroyed, including the schools.

TAMBA (translated on screen): I want to be a big man. The kind of big man I want to be, when I talk, people listen. That's the kind of dream I was having.

SAMURA (translated on screen): How are you going to achieve that status to be the kind of big man that people will respect and listen to? How will you do that without proper education?

TAMBA (translated on screen): Well, that was spoiled by the rebels. Because if it wasn't for them I would've been a better person. With the help of God. But all the same, I want to learn again.

SAMURA (voice-over): Two weeks after we took him back to his father, Sasko is busy catching up. With the help of his father, his dream is coming true. He's now being trained as a builder. He and is father have both been involved in the war. They've shared enough experience to be able to support each other.

And then there was Mariama. As distant as ever, when we met for the last time. Mariama was clearly not happy. I wondered again if we should not have left her in Makeni, with the people she has spent most of her life with. Like so many thousands of children in my country, she's bought by this war. We can do all the obvious things to help them, but in the end they must forgive us all for allowing what happened to happen to them.

There may be a peace process in Sierra Leone, and Foday Sankoh arrested and imprisoned, but many of the same circumstances that brought about this horrible revolution are still here. Education doesn't get priority. Still, large numbers of children don't go to school and don't see any hope for the future. And now the boys on the side of the streets have new ideas -- ideas we certainly didn't have when we were growing up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): Somebody like me, if you open my heart right now, it's "Britain" that's written in there. We need white people like the British, yes, because they can do better for us. SAMURA (on camera) (translated on screen): How come we can't look after ourselves except if the white man comes and looks after us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): Well, it's because we don't like each other. There's no truth, no love. How will we be able to change ourselves, when there is no truth, no love? You hate this man and he hates the other man. You don't want to see the other man prosper. If this man is earning there, you try to destroy him.

SAMURA (voice-over): I was really surprised to hear this, that we have all given up on ourselves. I just don't want to believe it. But most of the people here agreed.

(on-camera): People here have fought and died and lived and wondered, and many of them simply want to forget about this senseless war. But the question now is: How sure are we that this is not going to happen again, when we still continue to imagine the lies, neglect, and disrespect our young people, the very foundation we all rely on for a decent future?

(voice-over): And Tamba (UNINTELLIGIBLE) after only a short time with his father and brother, he has returned to Freetown. With no school and no prospects in Koidu, Tamba and his dad made a big decision. Tamba asked to come back to Mrs. Mani to go to school, and she has agreed.

MRS. MANI (translated on screen): You are family now, yes? So please make sure you do well. They are ready to help you. We're all going to help you. Yes? For you to get a decent life, so you'll be a big man in the future, yes? So we'll be proud of you, yes?

SAMURA: And will there be peace in Sierra Leone? Only if we march from the shadow of all this evil. There are so many traumatized children trying to live a normal life. Our future depends on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The war in Sierra Leone didn't officially come to an end until the beginning of this year. That's when U.N. peacekeepers finally were able to disarm some 47,000 fighters. But even today, there are concerns that this peace won't last, as tensions now are renewed in the neighboring country of Liberia.

That's this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you in a week.

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