Generally stated ,this paper seeks to establish the role of child soldiers in the escalation of armed conflict in Africa. The previous chapters have discussed the regional armed conflicts where child soldiers were used or are being used like the case of DRC Congo. This chapter will critically analyse the use of child soldiers in Liberia. There were approximately 120,000 child soldiers who were participating in armed conflicts in Africa. Out of these, approximately 24,000 were in the Liberian conflict. Liberia is not a poor country. It has natural resources that could sustain its estimated population of 3.2 million people. The question is how the available resources was being utilised and how did it contribute in fuelling the conflict. The availability of precious minerals and hard wood timber in Liberia contributed greatly in escalating and maintain the 14 years Liberian conflict. The age of the child soldier does not guarantee their immunity from being deployed the battlefield because while most are in their teens, some are as young as seven years old. Being so tender in age, they may start out as cooks, messengers, porters or guards, but often end up on the frontlines of combat. In Liberia, many boys some as young as nine or ten man checkpoints. The authority that goes with the responsibility gives them the free rein to harass, loot, terrorize and sometimes, kill civilians. Manning checkpoints gives a child power and influence, even if he is twelve years old. There have been instances where fifteen or twenty boys man a checkpoint and the commander is only ten years old. In long-drawn-out conflicts, children also become a valued resource. Children who have grown up surrounded by violence see this as a permanent way of life. Some having been orphaned, they are left on their own and are often frightened, bored and frustrated, leaving them with little options but to fight. When schools are closed and families fragmented, there are few influences that can compete with a warrior’s life. The human rights violations that occur when children are used in hostilities are not limited to child soldiers killing and being killed or injured. Girls also are used as soldiers, and fall victims of rape and other sexual abuse. The human rights impacts are terrible and far-reaching and have an impact not only on those children directly concerned but also on the families and communities, and continue long after the hostilities have ended . Besides being the continent that has the highest propensity for girls entering forces or groups via abduction or gang pressing, Africa is also the region with the highest number of children in armed opposition forces, numbering to approximately 120,000. In addition to being participant in combat, girl soldiers are often required to perform sexual services. In some cases, girls are in fact primarily recruited or abducted as ‘wives’ or 'concubines', a common practice in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Among the common roles found in countries from every region of the world was the use of girl soldiers as porters, cooks or made to perform a variety of domestic labor, as well as spies and looters in villages taken over by armed forces or armed opposition groups.
5.2Why children become child soldiers
The factors which give rise to the participation of children in conflict are complex. No single model can either explain all the factors, or outline a uniform procedure that will prevent child recruitment, and enable procedures for the demobilisation and social reintegration of children who have participated in conflict. Most child soldiers are from poor or disadvantaged sections of the society in conflict. Children, who live in the conflict zones by themselves are often recruited. Also, those children with disrupted families or no families at all are more likely to become child soldiers. In Liberia, child soldiers we often...