Former child soldiers Prince Cole (left), Kabba Williams and Alhaji Mansaray walk down a road in Lumley village on the outskirts of Freetown. Experts warn that lack of opportunity for young people could plunge the country into violence again.

Jared Ferrie/The National *** Local Caption ***  Security1-Ferrie.JPG
Kabba Williams, centre, walks with two other former child soldiers in Lumley, a village on the outskirts of Freetown.

Former child soldier gets cold welcome from Canada

VANCOUVER // For a former child soldier who speaks for the voiceless even while struggling against grinding poverty, the invitation to participate in an international conference must have seemed a golden opportunity. But Kabba Williams's elation soon turned to anguish when Canada refused to let him into the country, branding him a war criminal despite legal observers who say child soldiers are victims. Mr Williams's story has a happy ending - to the surprise of those watching events unfold. After months of bureaucratic wrangling, at the 11th hour, Canadian immigration issued him a special visitor's permit. Today, a day after Salman Rushdie gives the keynote address at the University of Alberta's Festival of Ideas, Mr Williams will participate in a panel discussion on violence and youth. "I feel extremely delighted. This is a great transformation in my life," said Mr Williams just two hours after touching down in Edmonton. "It's really, really chilly here." The long road that brought Mr Williams from the jungle-clad hills of Sierra Leone to the frozen plains of Alberta was fraught with unforeseen twists and turns. Media pressure was a factor in the government's change of heart, as was an unexpected change of immigration ministers in Ottawa. Through it all, Mr Williams refused to lose hope, even after festival organisers cancelled his plane ticket. "I was shocked actually," said Miki Andrejevic, the festival director. "We gave up and then suddenly we received a call that the visa would be granted." Mr Williams was initially denied entry in August but he did not want to go public with the story because the university was lobbying Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) behind the scenes. Mr Andrejevic said a member of parliament, whom he had promised not to name, made sure Mr Williams's file reached the desk of Diane Finley, the immigration minister at the time. Mr Andrejevic said he learnt that Ms Finley reviewed the case and apparently supported the decision to refuse Mr Williams a visa on the grounds that he possibly committed war crimes. Mr Williams then gave the green light to releasing the story to the media and calls to the minister's office began. Ms Finley's decision coincided with a cabinet shuffle and Danielle Norris, a CIC spokesman, asked for an extra day to respond with a comment. She explained that Jason Kenney, the new minister, might want to take another look at the file. Mr Kenney personally granted Mr Williams a visa, according to Mr Andrejevic. "The phone calls did a lot but, if nothing else, they prompted the minister to look again," he said, explaining that the story would have been embarrassing for the government and particularly for a minister in his first days on the job. "In my opinion it was a smart political move," he said of Mr Kenney's decision to override the original ruling of J Tieman, a visa officer in Accra, Ghana. In a letter made available to TheNational, Mr Tieman told Mr Williams: "There are reasonable grounds to believe that, during the civil war in Sierra Leone while you were a member of the RUF from 1991-1992, you committed a war crime, genocide or a crime against humanity." Mr Williams was six years old in 1991. He was abducted by the Revolutionary United Front, drugged and forced to fight along with thousands of other children. When making his decision, Mr Tieman appeared not to have taken into account international law which stipulates that children under 18 cannot be held responsible for actions committed during wartime. "I think legally they're wrong," said David Matas, a well-known Canadian human rights lawyer. "It's my understanding of international law that a child can't commit a crime against humanity. Child soldiers are victims." Douglas Cannon, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver, agreed that the government's decision could be challenged in court, but said that process would take a lot of time - something Mr Williams was running short on as the conference loomed. "Practically speaking you're really only able to do anything about this politically," Mr Cannon said. The political solution was not to issue Mr Williams a regular visitor's visa. He received a special permit which can be granted "in exceptional circumstances to persons otherwise inadmissible to Canada", according to Ms Norris of CIC. In other words Canada still considers Mr Williams a possible war criminal - a fact that diminishes his joy and relief at being given permission to participate in what he regards as a seminal event in his life. "Why are they still considering me a war criminal?" he asked. "I was used against my will." Mr Williams was one of the first children to be abducted when rebels attacked his village at the start of the decade-long civil war, which was characterised by mass amputations and massacres of civilians. His father and uncle were killed in the attack. "I had no choice but to do what I was ordered to do. If I refused I would have been killed," he said. After six months with the rebels, Mr Williams managed to escape into the bush. He was captured by government troops who made him fight on their side until he was turned over to the United Nations in 1994 for rehabilitation. Mr Williams has managed to emerge from the tragedy that was his childhood with determination to make something of his life. Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, is teeming with former child soldiers who live on the street and often turn to crime for lack of other opportunities. But Mr Williams has worked with the United Nations and such human rights groups as Amnesty International and he now attends university. Mr Williams's achievements were what attracted the interest of festival organisers, said Mr Andrejevic, who called him "exceptional". He said CIC would have set a disastrous precedent if it had not granted Mr Williams access to Canada. "Let's face it, if he gets denied now I think the doors to North America would be closed forever," Mr Andrejevic said. That would have been tragic for Mr Williams, who said his dream is to study humanitarian law in Canada or the United States so that he can more effectively advocate for the rights of children affected by war in Sierra Leone and around the world.

The specs: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E 300 Cabriolet

Price, base / as tested: Dh275,250 / Dh328,465

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder

Power: 245hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 370Nm @ 1,300rpm

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.0L / 100km

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


Bantamweight: Victor Nunes (BRA) beat Azizbek Satibaldiev (KYG). Round 1 KO

Featherweight: Izzeddin Farhan (JOR) beat Ozodbek Azimov (UZB). Round 1 rear naked choke

Middleweight: Zaakir Badat (RSA) beat Ercin Sirin (TUR). Round 1 triangle choke

Featherweight: Ali Alqaisi (JOR) beat Furkatbek Yokubov (UZB). Round 1 TKO

Featherweight: Abu Muslim Alikhanov (RUS) beat Atabek Abdimitalipov (KYG). Unanimous decision

Catchweight 74kg: Mirafzal Akhtamov (UZB) beat Marcos Costa (BRA). Split decision

Welterweight: Andre Fialho (POR) beat Sang Hoon-yu (KOR). Round 1 TKO

Lightweight: John Mitchell (IRE) beat Arbi Emiev (RUS). Round 2 RSC (deep cuts)

Middleweight: Gianni Melillo (ITA) beat Mohammed Karaki (LEB)

Welterweight: Handesson Ferreira (BRA) beat Amiran Gogoladze (GEO). Unanimous decision

Flyweight (Female): Carolina Jimenez (VEN) beat Lucrezia Ria (ITA), Round 1 rear naked choke

Welterweight: Daniel Skibinski (POL) beat Acoidan Duque (ESP). Round 3 TKO

Lightweight: Martun Mezhlumyan (ARM) beat Attila Korkmaz (TUR). Unanimous decision

Bantamweight: Ray Borg (USA) beat Jesse Arnett (CAN). Unanimous decision

The Bio

Favourite holiday destination: Either Kazakhstan or Montenegro. I’ve been involved in events in both countries and they are just stunning.

Favourite book: I am a huge of Robin Cook’s medical thrillers, which I suppose is quite apt right now. My mother introduced me to them back home in New Zealand.

Favourite film or television programme: Forrest Gump is my favourite film, that’s never been up for debate. I love watching repeats of Mash as well.

Inspiration: My late father moulded me into the man I am today. I would also say disappointment and sadness are great motivators. There are times when events have brought me to my knees but it has also made me determined not to let them get the better of me.

Sri Lanka's T20I squad

Thisara Perera (captain), Dilshan Munaweera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Ashan Priyanjan, Mahela Udawatte, Dasun Shanaka, Sachith Pathirana, Vikum Sanjaya, Lahiru Gamage, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay and Chathuranga de Silva.


Hong Kong 52-5 UAE
South Korea 55-5 Malaysia
Malaysia 6-70 Hong Kong
UAE 36-32 South Korea

Friday, June 21, 7.30pm kick-off: UAE v Malaysia
At The Sevens, Dubai (admission is free).
Saturday: Hong Kong v South Korea

'Saand Ki Aankh'

Produced by: Reliance Entertainment with Chalk and Cheese Films
Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar, Prakash Jha, Vineet Singh
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat


Author: Zeina Hashem Beck
Pages: 112
Publisher: Penguin Books
Available: Now


Albania 0 Italy 1
Finland 2 Turkey 2
Macedonia 4 Liechtenstein
Iceland 2 Kosovo 0
Israel 0 Spain 1
Moldova 0 Austria 1
Serbia 1 Georgia 0
Ukraine 0 Croatia 2
Wales 0 Ireland 1

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Western Region Asia Cup Qualifier


UAE beat Saudi Arabia by 12 runs

Kuwait beat Iran by eight wickets

Oman beat Maldives by 10 wickets

Bahrain beat Qatar by six wickets


UAE v Qatar

Bahrain v Kuwait


Zidane's managerial achievements

La Liga: 2016/17
Spanish Super Cup: 2017
Uefa Champions League: 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Uefa Super Cup: 2016, 2017
Fifa Club World Cup: 2016, 2017

The specs

Engine: 3.0 twin-turbo inline six-cylinder
Transmission: eight-speed
Power: 503hp
Torque: 600Nm
Price: from Dh400,000 (estimate)
On sale: now


Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5



Victor Nunes (BRA) beat Siyovush Gulmamadov (TJK)

(Split decision)


Hussein Salim (IRQ) beat Shakhriyor Juraev (UZB)

(Round 1 submission, armbar)

Catchweight 80kg

Rashed Dawood (UAE) beat Otabek Kadirov (UZB)

(Round-1 submission, rear naked choke)


Ho Taek-oh (KOR) beat Ronald Girones (CUB)

(Round 3 submission, triangle choke)


Arthur Zaynukov (RUS) beat Damien Lapilus (FRA)

(Unanimous points)


Vinicius de Oliveira (BRA) beat Furkatbek Yokubov (RUS)

(Round 1 TKO)


Movlid Khaybulaev (RUS) v Zaka Fatullazade (AZE)

(Round 1 rear naked choke)


Shannon Ross (TUR) beat Donovon Freelow (USA)

(Unanimous decision)


Dan Collins (GBR) beat Mohammad Yahya (UAE)

(Round 2 submission D’arce choke)

Catchweight 73kg

Martun Mezhulmyan (ARM) beat Islam Mamedov (RUS)

(Round 3 submission, kneebar)

Bantamweight world title

Xavier Alaoui (MAR) beat Jaures Dea (CAM)

(Unanimous points 48-46, 49-45, 49-45)

Flyweight world title

Manon Fiorot (FRA) v Gabriela Campo (ARG)

(Round 1 RSC)

The specs: 2019 Subaru Forester

Price, base: Dh105,900 (Premium); Dh115,900 (Sport)

Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder

Transmission: Continuously variable transmission

Power: 182hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 239Nm @ 4,400rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 8.1L / 100km (estimated)

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