“The child soldier is described as a ‘pint-sized, tireless baby Rambo who spends his or hers tender years roaming the battlefields of Africa’s civil wars.” “African children are being targeted across the continent as tools of war.”
In today’s day and age, children from all over the world are real soldiers in conflicts instead of playing toy soldiers. These children are being denied their childhood and instead are given a violent and gruesome role to play in brutal conflicts. These children are fighting wars that they had no responsibility in creating. Children are fighting in wars created by their elders. Children are replacing their toys with guns, like AK-47’s and instead of having a chance to attend school, they are being made into killing machines who instantly carry out orders.
This essay I will discuss the problem of children soldiers, with my focus upon Africa in particular, what governments are doing about the problem and the best way to rehabilitate these children as well as reintegrate them into society so as to enable them to have the best future possible compared to a life of violent turmoil. These children are denied their basic rights of being a carefree child and enjoying their childhood by attending school, playing with friends and living in a secure environment. Many children are being abducted from their homes and are forced to join military forces either by government or rebel forces. These children are traumatized, vulnerable and forced into committing horrific acts of violence, just so that they can ensure their own survival.
Poverty, injustice, displacement, lack of access to education and the proliferation of small arms are just some of the factors that contribute towards the recruitment of children as soldiers. In addition to, children not having outside responsibilities, which inhibit them from becoming child soldiers. Globally, there are approximately 300,000 children under the age of 18, being used as soldiers in 33 current conflicts and everyday that number continues to rise. In 1999 it was estimated that more than 120,000 children, under the age of 18, were used as soldiers to fight conflicts in Africa. The countries that were the guiltiest of this crime were the following; Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan & Uganda.
On average, children as young as seven are recruited, however, there have been five year-old children used as soldiers. At such a tender age, it is easy for military commanders to manipulate and train these children into their ideal soldier. Therefore, Human Rights advocates demand that governments who are guilty of using children in their military forces should both admit to this atrocity and then immediately stop it. Military commanders prefer children because of their emotional and physical immaturity, which enables them to be easily manipulated or ‘brain washed’ into the ‘perfect soldier’. If they are not taught, young children are unable to correctly distinguish between right and wrong, in addition to this, children will carry out orders without questions because they are not aware of the consequences of their actions. The fact is that these children have no other choice when it comes to committing these acts of violence. Under the influence of drugs, these children can be easily changed into heartless killers, with no notion of the acts that they commit when carrying out orders. During the majority of the time, especially before fighting, these children are under the influence of such drugs as; marijuana, amphetamines, crack cocaine or even a deadly ‘home made’ cocktail made from gunpowder and other local substances. These drugs make the children fearless for combat, even more so than adults, because these children are also trained to feel no emotions when it comes to murder, either it be the enemy or an innocent civilian. These children show no mercy....