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Atrocity: The Use of Children As Soldiers

by melvin Sat Dec 24th, 2005 at 04:53:48 AM EST

From the front page (with minor edit) ~ whataboutbob

The Sydney Peace Prize was awarded in November to Olara Otunnu, former UN Under-secretary-General and special representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The text of  his acceptance speech can be found here. I would like to expand on one part of his remarkable address below.

From Mr Otunnu's address:

Children are the primary victims of armed conflict.  They are both its targets and increasingly its instruments.  Their suffering bears many faces, in the midst of armed conflict and its aftermath.  Children are killed or maimed, made orphans, abducted, deprived of education and health care, and left with deep emotional scars and trauma.  They are recruited and used as child soldiers, forced to give expression to the hatred of adults.  Uprooted from their homes, displaced children become very vulnerable.  Girls face additional risks, particularly sexual violence and exploitation.


Over 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers - - used variously as combatants, porters, spies and sex slaves.  Tens of thousands of girls are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, including as a deliberate tool of warfare.


Most cynically, children have been compelled to become themselves the instruments of war - - indeed the weapon of choice - -recruited or kidnapped to become child soldiers.  Another feature of these conflicts is the proliferation of light-weight weapons that are easily assembled and borne by children.


Second, all offending parties, governments as well as insurgents, will continue to be identified publicly, in what has been called the `naming and shaming' list submitted annually to the Security Council since 2003. The latest report lists 54 offending parties in 11 countries. These include: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka; FARC in Colombia; the Janjaweed from Sudan; the Communist Party of Nepal; the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda; the Karen National Liberation Army in Myanmar; and government forces in DRC, Myanmar and Uganda.

He talks about the real successes, and concludes with a case study in failure, one with which he is all too familiar, the horror that is Uganda:

I wonder if we have learned any lessons from history.  When millions of Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust in Europe, we said `never again,' - - but after the fact. When genocide was perpetrated in Rwanda, we said `never again,' - - but again after the fact.  When children and women were massacred in Srebrenica, we said `never again,' - - but after it was all over.  The genocide unfolding in northern Uganda is happening on our watch, and with our full knowledge. Why is there no action?

UNICEF has realeased its annual report on the state of the world's children, The State of the World's Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible. While the figures are frustratingly vague (keep that title in mind), UNICEF guesses that between 250,000 and 300,000 children are engaged in armed conflict globally.

NPR segment with Olara Otunnu and Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution. Singer's own writings discuss the subject from many angles, including the vexing subject of American soldiers face to face with 12-year old soldiers. This is difficult. It does no good to look the other way, much as we would like to. This is what war is now, and what it increasingly will be.

The first American to die in Afghanistan was killed by a child.

From Childsoldiers.org, a Canada/Sierra Leone effort to heal the wounds:

I Will Lay Down the Arms now!!

by Rashid Peters, a student of iEARN Sierra Leone

When I was drugged and injected with cocaine, Forced to join the war of stains Brainwashed often and again, I would have told you I have so much to gain With the heavy arms I lug at war. And to convinve me out of it, I will say don't bother!!

Conscritpted away from my mother and father to shoot and murder another I cannot go any further, with this shooting and killing that has no border.

Forgive me now if I injured your brother. I was forced to pull the trigger By elders who made my childhood wither.

Rashid Peters,

iEARN Sierra Leone,

Age 15 years

Two nations have failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Do I have to tell you? Would you like to guess? Somalia and the United States. Bolton, prior to his current job, spoke against every convention on behalf of children and control of small arms sales that came before the UN. But you already knew that.

Resources (Almost literally at random. There are so many.)

Amnesty International

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Human Rights Watch

BBC: Children of Conflict

UN Convention on the Rights of the CHild


NPR: The Forgotten War in Uganda


These Sudanese adolescents chose to walk away:

I'm glad to see you posted this here, and that it's on the rec list so soon. The problem is that there is so little to say. We want to only shake our heads and hope it goes away.

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz
by Chris Kulczycki on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 05:17:25 PM EST
This might sound crazed, but thank you for that reminder from Milosz.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 07:50:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Sri Lanka, for instance, the LTTE will not let go of its child soldiers, since it would face military defeat without them.  To demobilize would require a general solution to the ethnic conflict, which remains elusive.

No negotiated settlement is likely with the LRA.  The Ugandan army cannot defeat it militarily, even after it has committed human rights abuses of its own against LRA suspects.

by tyronen on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 07:00:11 PM EST
Otunnu has strongly suggested (for even a former UN official) that "Naming and Shaming" is not enough. He suggests - I'm sorry, I can't source at the moment - more agressive action against offenders: boycotts, effective ostracism from any talks, etc.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 07:33:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for this post. I have been reading about the challenges of reintegrating child soldiers into societies...it is super tough.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 05:35:52 AM EST
Considering how tough it is to reintegrate adult veterans, imagine children socialized in war.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 05:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doubly so, because the kids are scared they will be re-kidnapped back into the armies they escaped from (or killed for leaving), and are considered outcasts by many cultures. And these children are older than their age, due to their experiences...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 12:19:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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