While working in Chad some years back, you knew when there was a spike in the conflict in the North of the country, as you would suddenly notice the lack of street children in town. They had been taken to be used as child soldiers.
CRIN reminds us frequently about the continuing use of children in war, not just as victims but as forced perpetrators, manipulated due to their age.
The UN warned, during the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, that children are becoming increasingly vulnerable to recruitment and deployment by armed groups, as the world’s conflicts become more brutal, intense and widespread.
”Out of 59 parties to conflicts identified by the Secretary-General for grave violations against children, 57 are named because they are recruiting and using child[ren]”, said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Tens of thousands of boys and girls are associated with armed forces and armed groups in conflicts in over 20 countries around the world. Many have been victims of, witness to and forced participants in acts of unspeakable brutality.
In Afghanistan, despite progress to end the recruitment and use of children in national security forces, children continue to be recruited by parties to conflict such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban. In the most extreme cases, children have been used as suicide bombers, to make weapons and transport explosives.
In the Central African Republic, boys and girls as young as eight years old were recruited and used by all parties to the conflict to take direct part in inter-ethnic and religious violence.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations documented new cases of recruitment of children by multiple armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country. The children, in some cases as young as 10, were recruited and used as combatants, or in support functions such as porters and cooks. Girls were reportedly used as sex slaves or were victims of other forms of sexual violence.
In Iraq and Syria, the advances by IS and the proliferation of armed groups have made children even more vulnerable to recruitment. Children as young as 12, are undergoing military training and have been used as informants, to patrol, to man checkpoints and to guard strategic locations. In some cases, they have been used as suicide bombers and to carry out executions.
About the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers
The International Day against the Use of Child was initiated in 2002 when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 2000 and has been ratified by 159 states.
A child soldier of 10 years of age -South Sudan (UNICEF)
Despite a recent peace deal between the warring factions in South Sudan that had fostered hope of a definitive end to the year-long conflict, attacks against civilians persist.
A child soldier of 9 years of age -South Sudan (UNICEF)
According to the UN, armed groups raided a school on Saturday and seized 89 children.
The abduction occurred near Malakal, where thousands of people have taken refuge.
The kidnappers conducted house-to-house searches, according to UNICEF.
Many countries are actively involved in conflict and we should not forget the other countries who produce the weapons and so are engaged by proxy. What words can we tell our children why so many countries maintain their wealth by peddling misery?