FC: CHILD SOLDIERS | by: Alba Muñoz Sánchez
1: PREFACE. | I think “Child Soldiers” is a fascinating topic to study because it is something that is happening now a day in many different countries. It is a problem that not many people try to solve or think about. Personally, I don't know so much information about this topic, and that is also one of the reasons why I want to study it. Countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America are the most common to use child soldiers. The concept of “Child Soldier” is boys and girls under 18 years old who are forced by some kind of organization to serve for their country in wars. Sometimes, they might even be under 10 years-old. I think that boys are normally more likely to be used than girls because they are stronger, and they don't feel fear so easily. When they have to go to serve in wars, they lose their family and their entire childhood. These children come normally from undeveloped countries where they don't get too much education. I guess that every leader from armed conflict that use child soldiers is corrupt, and their governments too. I think that there should be more laws and control for this problem because all those children deserve to have a normal life as all other children. I imagine how difficult it has to be for those mothers who have to see how other people force to their children to go with them to fight, but they cannot do anything because maybe they kill both, the mother and their kids. This is a very difficult problem to solve; firstly because it is happening in places where woman have lot of kids; and secondly because there are too many arms and each day people are fabricating more. The only solution for this problem that I can see is the control of the excessive birth in underdeveloped countries. I don't think that people would give up weapons.
2: TABLE OF CONTETS. | Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 3 - 5 Important Events . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 6 - 9 Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 10 - 13 Impacted Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 14 & 15 Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 16 & 17 Work Cited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages 18 & 19
3: The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) describes the mean of child soldiers as “boys and girls under 18 years-old who are part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity”. These children are from thirteen different parts of the world, and they belong to 51 governmental and non-governmental organizations. Some countries like Iraq organizes military-style camps for children from 10 years old where they learn things such as use arms and the political indoctrination. Many of the kids are forced to wear uniform. The amount of boys and girls used as child soldiers in both, rebels and government side is around 300,000 people according to UNICEF. There are two possible causes why children are used to be soldiers at Liberia according to Kunz’s kinetic model (Kunz was in the Hungarian army, and he wrote his own theory called Theory of the Refugee in Flight which explains the refugee movement in Liberia). There may be an anticipatory motivation, which means that children don't live in good conditions because they might not have a family, or a place to sleep in. The other cause is by acute motivation; this means that they are forced to serve military or political organizations. Also, these different armed groups want them because they are relatively cheap when comparing with adults. They are trusting, and do what older people say too. The leaders get that the children to obey them by using drugs like amphetamines, and indoctrinating, or threaten them. Sometimes the kids just do it in fear. | BACKGROUND
4: Countries like Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and several more, are some examples of countries where child soldiers happen. In Burundi this started with the murder of the first democratically elected president. | In Colombia there are about 14000 child soldiers fighting in their civil war during more than forty years. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 30000 children approximately, it has been discovered that sometimes the kids are forced to kill people and then eat them. In the civil war in Liberia, there have been children fighting on the governments side and the opposition forces’ side. In Honduras, the kids suffer humiliation because their leaders force them to only wear underwear and roll on a stony surface while others beat them.
5: When the children start in armed conflicts, they are forced to do some different things. Boys might be used as fighters at the front line, as human shield, cooks, messengers or spies. Girls are normally used as sex slaves. The children who survive to the wars become more ingenious, but before they get recovered at all, the need some help from experts. There are some companies that help to these children to get back to their previous lives. UNICEF provides social integration programs, to help with family reunification, health care, education, and psychological advice. They also provide them a vocational training to get a job. In some cases, after a war, when children don’t get reintegrated successfully in their normal lives, they might decide to come back to their previous life in armed organizations. Using children as soldiers violates the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was signed in 1989. In 2002 was created a law called the “Optional Protocol” which prohibits children under 15 to participate voluntarily in armed organizations. In 2007, it was introduced the “Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007” that restricts the help from the United States to those countries that are using children in their armed forces. This Act is also helping to end this problem, and rehabilitate children who have been in these organizations before. People are using some types of media, such as newspapers, to distribute child soldiers’ stories, so more people are being aware of this issue.
6: IMPORTANT FACTS Children started being used as soldiers in wars so many years ago, but the number of children has been increasing with the time for several reasons. Children are more docile than adults, and it is easier for them to learn how to kill. Also, they don't think how dangerous the situations they are involved may be, so they can carry explosives or being used as suicide bombs. Decades ago, arms were so much bigger and harder to manage, but now a day, they are so lighter and easy to use that every kid can use them. Some of the consequences that the child soldiers may suffer after being in a war are: Physical consequences, which include damage to the child's brain, cancer and obesity. Psychological problems may be depression, and anxiety. And also, in the case of the girls, they might have gotten sexually transmitted diseases. Some other consequences are that they lose their families and homes.
7: In February 12th the Right of the Child started being used. Since then, that day became the “International Day Against the use of Child Soldiers”. This day is also called “Red Hand Day”. The red hand means “stop”, and the symbol of the red hand forms part of a campaign called “Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers”. In this campaign they look for a better life for children who have been fighting in armed conflicts by integrating them into the society. They also try to stop completely this problem by prosecuting the leaders who recruit the children. Since this campaign started in 2002, two-thirds of the world's countries follow it.
8: In 2009, young people from 101 different countries, organized events to show the rest of the people how important is for this problem to end. Some of the events were marches, exhibitions, conferences in schools In 2009, they achieved over 250000 red hands from people all over the world. With the help of this campaign, since 2002, the number of child soldiers has decreased so much, but there are still about 250000 children fighting in armed conflicts. In Colombia, child soldiers are used to fight in their civil war which has been happening for more than a half-century between the government and the rebels. The kids are normally recruited from schools in mass. In this war, the children were seen mostly fighting on the rebels’ side. The government of Colombia decided to make a law which said that every kid who committed a crime during their time as soldiers, will be sent to prison for eight years. Most of the groups that use child soldiers are anti government, which makes it more difficult to be able to negotiate with them and the reintegration of the kids in their communities.
9: 6. What duties would be expected of younger soldiers when they are in a mission? “Young soldiers aren’t very much trained; the only training they get is how to fire a gun and sent over to the battlefield. As a result, not much is expected of them; they’re supposed to kill anyone they perceive to be their enemies. These young soldiers are the most brainwashed soldiers in the world.” 7. How are younger soldiers armed to fight? Where do they get their weapons? “In general, the child soldier are given an AK-47 which is a very basic weapon used in war around Africa. These young soldiers get their weapons from whoever is their direct supervisor; the young soldiers are also not given enough ammunition and so can die anytime the run out of bullets for example.” 8. What is the general view of your society in relations to the use of younger soldiers? “The society hates child soldiers not only because they make bad soldiers but also because society doesn’t see young soldiers as acceptable in the military. Just like any parent around the world wouldn’t want to see his child in the army, parents in the DRCongo feel the same. Also, with little or no education and a minimal salary, all they do is to rob people of their belongings and kill to survive.” 9. Do you think that younger soldiers should be placed in this situation? “No, they shouldn’t. These young guys are taken in most of the poorest areas of the country and do not have any other option. For some kids, that’s the only way they can provide for their families.” 10. Are girls accepted in the armed forces of your country? “Girls are accepted in the armed forces but African societies in general don’t associate soldiers with female and so it’s difficult for girl to ever join the armed forces even if they wanted to.”
10: INTERVIEW | 1. Is military service obligatory in your country? “No. Military service in the DRCongo isn’t mandatory for anyone; those who enroll into the army do so willingly. There was a time when a two years military service was a requirement for university graduation under Joseph Mobutu’s dictatorial regime.” 2. Have you ever been approached by the military? “No. No one gets approached by the military for any reason unlike some countries where the military run advertisement and enrollment campaign. However, in 1997 during an invasion backed by a neighboring country, many young people were approached by the army in order to reinforce the troops with more men; young people were motivated by an increased in salary.” 3. At what age would service be required or would someone be eligible to join? “An 18 year old person (male or female) is legally eligible to join the military; that’s because 18 is the legal age in the DRCongo. An 18 year old is entitled to any other civic obligations such as voting, signing legal documents, etc.” 4. Who are the people in charge of the armed forces in your country? “(1)The president is the person in charge of the army as the head of the state (2) There are generals for all division of the military (army, air force, navy, etc.) in charge of their respective divisions.” 5. What kind of work are older (more experienced) soldiers assigned? And younger ones? “High military officials make strategic plans such as distribution of troops in different areas as well as fighting techniques. More experienced soldiers fight along with the inexperienced ones and plan the operation on the ground. The inexperienced soldiers are the ones fighting the actual war and are susceptible to injuries, death, etc.”
11: Sometimes, children are also forced to kill or to do horrible things to their family or people in their neighborhood. So, after the war, if they survive, it is difficult for them to go back home. The education for children after the war is vital because they need to mature into a new person instead of continuing being a soldier. They should get a job, and direct their new lives in a direction that motivates them. | Alba Muñoz Sánchez
12: 11. Who do you think would get more traumatized after a war, a boy or a girl soldier? “Girls are more likely to be traumatized after war than boys not only because girls are usually weak but also because they’re more susceptible to rape and all the sexual abuses that are usually conducted by males during the war. Boys can also feel traumatized by having killed so many people during the war and can feel guilty for the rest of their life.” 12. Are there any actions being taken to address this situation? “Many NGO, the UN and many human right organizations operating in the DRCongo address this problem over and over again. They’re many organizations working in reintegrating former child soldiers into civilian life and helping those kidnapped escape. So many initiatives are being put in place to address this situation; though the results haven’t been impressive so far.” | Alba Muñoz Sánchez.
13: 13. Is there in your country any law for the defense of the Child Rights? Yes ---- Are they followed? No ---- Why not? “Yes. We have laws that condemn abuses against children that are passed by congress. These laws are supposed to protect children but the government doesn’t allocate so much money into reinforce these laws. So, the laws only stay on paper and are not implemented as such.” 14. Do you think that this situation will be resolved in the future? Why or why not? “Yes, I’m optimistic about the situation being resolved in the near future because the issue has attracted international attention; not only are Congolese on the ground trying to resolve it but also foreign governments.” 15. Do you think that your country would successfully function without younger soldiers? Why or why not? “The country will definitely function without child soldiers and note that child soldiers aren't used in the regular armed forces but are rather kidnapped and used as soldiers in rebel group. The country's armed forces have never relied on child soldiers and there will never be a time that will happen. The rebels are the ones using child soldiers and once they're taken out of the country, the country will be even safer.” 16. What would you do to improve or to solve this situation? Being still a student, I have very little power to improve the situation by myself but what I do is raise awareness on the issue via social media. I believe that the more people hear about the issue, the more they will be willing to empathize and work toward putting an end to this practice. I’m personally willing to talk about the situation and put an end to it.
14: AN IMPACTED GROUP | In 2007, a clinical psychologist and a geographer did a study to nine boys and a girl who was child soldiers in the Liberian Civil Wars. This study studies how the profile of children is, how their lives are before the war, and what happens to them after the war. The civil war in Liberia killed about 250000 Liberians, and more than 770,000 refugees had to fly to countries in West Africa after the war. Before the ten participants had to go to war, they used to go to school. In general, their lives were normal; and their economy and education was different from ones to other. Some of them were thinking about going to college after high school. “There was no hunger” a participant said. There are two types of causes of why did they go to war: Seven of the participants were orphaned or separated from their families, what led them to join the military; and one of the them said that he had to join the military, or they would kill his family. In some cases, the rebel soldiers killed the entire family but the second oldest son; and he had the option of dying with his family or being a recruit. Most of the children were recruited through coercion or force with usual indoctrination. Also, the girl said that she saw how the men raped and abused the girl soldiers while she was there.
15: Some of the issues that child soldiers had after the war were that they had to leave their houses in Liberia to go live in a refugee camp in Ghana. Shops, churches, schools, restaurants, and a market were built in the refugee camp because of all the people that was going there to live. They were also thinking about continuing studying, and thought that it would be important to receive help from other countries for their education. Five of ten children said that they had psychological problems such as psychotic symptoms after the war, and they felt anger toward politicians letting this happen to them.
16: After being researching information about “Child Soldiers”, I found this exciting. I learned several things that I did not know before, and I also realized that some of the information that I thought was wrong. For example, I thought that girls were more involved in child soldiers than just being used as sex slaves for the adult men. I didn’t know that some of the children decide to go to war because their lives are destroyed. In most of the cases is because they don’t have family. Then, when the corrupt leaders tell them that they will be as powerful as they desire, the children accept to go to war. Girls are normally the most traumatized after the war comparing with boys because they are normally raped and abused. Also, these girls may have children which they have to carry around; and sometimes they get sexual diseases. Boys do awful things too when they are serving, but most of the times they only get psychological problems because of the people they have killed. Child soldiers have not exited always. In most of the countries, they are needed just when they are having a big important war. In the case of DRCongo, this problem started in 1997 with the civil war, and it is still happening on the rebels’ side. The armed forces use child soldiers because they don’t have enough money to pay experienced adults. Also, for these kids, the amount of $50 per month means so much. The leaders don’t care if the child soldiers die, so they give them a gun with a small amount of ammunition to kill a few enemy people. Something that I learned during the interview and that I thought was weird was that some years ago, it was obligatory for people to do two years of military service if they wanted to graduate from college. | RESPONSE
17: February 12th has been seated as the International Day Against the use if Child Soldiers. In this day, people send help and force to the organizations that are fighting against this issue. One of the most significant organizations involved is UNICEF, which is trying to help those children who have psychological or physical problems after the war, and trying to make their lives better.
18: WORK CITED | --Child Welfare Information Gateway. “Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect”. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2008) --Kaplan, Eben. “Child Soldiers around the World”. Council on Foreign Relations. December 2, 2005. --Karwowski, Michael. “Child Soldiers in the Modern World” Contemporary Review. Vol. 293 Issue 1703, p. 509-511. Winter2011. --La Shawn Pagan. “Colombia’s war on child soldiers”. Media Global News. The Developing World in Focus. October 4, 2011. --Mafolo, Yves. Student from Oklahoma State University. From DRCongo. April 5th, 2013 --Makamu, Francis. Student from Oklahoma State University. From DRCongo (Kinshasa). April 5th, 2013. --Maslen, Stuart. “The use of children as soldiers: the right to kill and be killed?” International Journal of Children's Rights. Vol. 6 Issue 4, p. 445-448. October 98. --No known author. “Background on Child Soldiers”. Do Something. No known date. --No known author. “Children in Armed Conflict”. UNICEF. P. 2-6. No known date. --No known author. “Factsheet: Child Soldiers”. UNICEF. No known date. --No known author. “Ten facts about child soldiers that everyone should know”. The Independent. Sunday 23 December 2012.
19: --The Defense Monitor, Center for Defense Information. “The Invisible Soldiers:Child Combatants”. Third World Traveler. July 1997. --Urmenyhazi, Attila. “Kunz, Egon Francis (Frank) (1922–1997)”. Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. 11 April 2013. --Vaha, Milla Emilia. “Child Soldiers and Killing in Self-Defence: Challenging the ‘Moral View’ on Killing in War” Journal of Military Ethics. Vol. 10 Issue 1. p. 36-39. March 2011. --Wessells, Mike. “Child Soldiers”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Chicago. November/December 1997. --Woodward, Lucinda, and Peter Galvin. “Halrfway to Nowhere: Liberian Former Child Soldiers in a Ghanaian Refugee Camp” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. May 2009: pp. 1003-1011. PICTURES --Akwei, Adotei. “Ending the Use of Child Soldiers: One Step Forward”. Amnesty Internacional. October 10, 2012. --No known author. “Obama admin says the use of Child Soldiers in conflict is in the ‘national interest of the United States”. Asymmetric Warfare Studies Group. No known date. --Patna, India. “Red Hand Day - Global Activities by Country”. Red Hand Day. 11th Feb 2012.