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CyberDodo and child soldiers (2-30)

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What is a child soldier?

Child soldier, a terrible term that defines a child, that is a human being under the age of 18, used by armed groups engaged in conflict.

Throughout history, children have been enlisted in the service of wars. It would be correct to say that since the beginning of wars, there have existed child soldiers that is forever. Some might ask why then we should now pay more attention to what they consider the « natural » propensity of man to fight with his fellow human beings, and the dramatic consequences for children thereof.

There are two primary reasons prompting a ban on the participation of legal minors in armed conflicts :

The first is the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, Article 38 of which recognizes the right of children to protection from enlistment in armed conflicts.

The second reason for demanding a total ban on child soldiers is the significant increase thereof since the 1990s, whereby more and more minors are involved in wars, often inter-ethnic conflicts pitting two populations of the same country against one another.

Girls and boys of all ages find themselves exploited for war-time service from kitchens to the battlefield, when not actually sacrificed in kamikaze attacks. Ideologically exploited by adults, according to Unicef in 2007 there were more than 300,000 innocent victims of conflicts that they were too young to even comprehend.

Why use children ?

In many countries including Colombia, Congo, Chad, Sri Lanka, etc., children are made to participate in wars in complete violation of their rights and international conventions duly signed by the governments of their countries. Why then are children exploited in this way ?

The reasoning of those who recruit children in such a horrific manner is as base as it is cruel armies do not have enough soldiers and children are therefore often made to take on various subordinate tasks so that more adults can participate as soldiers. However, the children often find themselves with a gun in their hand rather quickly.

The cynicism of armies that resort to the use of child soldiers has no limit, considering that children are often chosen because they are less expensive in terms of food needs, and they are emotionally more fragile, hence more easily manipulated.

Easy prey

Kidnapped or otherwise forced to become soldiers, these children are completely denied access to an education. Witnesses often report child accomplices to atrocities, including against members of their own families. Child soldiers are profoundly and irrevocably affected by these nightmarish experiences.

Poverty, always poverty

Unable to secure their livelihood, many families living in countries at war will have their children enrolled in the conflict simply to ensure their own sustenance. One or two less mouths to feed may represent a greater chance of survival for these stricken families. Poverty is thus one of the main reasons for the existence of child soldier troops. Without losing sight of other causes, the notion of revenge following the victimisation of a loved one, the liberation of a people or, more mundane, the prestige of a uniform and implicit power are factors particularly prevalent in inter-ethnic conflicts.

For the children, henceforth separated from their families and all source of security, unable to escape, it is the beginning of a descent into a hellish experience. At the disposal of adults for whom they represent mere cannon fodder, they will be « trained » to kill and torture and will ultimately become extremely efficient soldiers sent to the front line to engage in human slaughter.

If and when they survive, ill-adapted as they are, their trauma is of such magnitude that they will remain for a long time disoriented, not to mention with respect to their future- all this as children .

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