Child Soldiers in Africa Part II

Child Soldiers in Africa Part II

5: How are child soldiers recruited?

Children often join armed groups after a carefully planned process, which may include the use of force. Abduction is one way to involve children in armed groups. Children are small and easily intimidated. Therefore, it is easier to force them than adults into armed groups. In addition, children like to move around in a small value and thus become more vulnerable and easier to get hold of.

Children are often forced to come from places where many children are gathered: schools, homes for the orphaned, refugee camps, sports fields or churches. There, the children are often observed according to size and physical condition. Children who “let through” are then abducted, raped and beaten. Occasionally, relatives are killed to scare the children. Children who nectar are often threatened with being killed by recruiters. They thus have no choice but to join the group of rebels.

Children from poor families are more vulnerable than other children to being forced into rebel groups. The heavy burden of poverty and social exclusion makes them particularly vulnerable to being exchanged for armed groups. Other times, the groups demand that a village give a certain amount – a kind of quota. Then one in a quarter of children may be forced to join the rebels. If the village cannot produce this amount of recruits, the inhabitants will be threatened that the whole village will be ravaged. In such cases, the parents have no choice; they must hand over the children to the rebels to prevent death and destruction from happening to the whole village.

Many children are forced into armed rebel groups. But research shows that many of the child soldiers themselves have taken one or another initiative for their own recruitment. It is often a combination of many motivational factors that influence children to join rebel groups when they are not pressured to do so. Joining such a group can give these children opportunities they otherwise would never have had – education, power, money, a form of empathy, training or a sense of participating in something important.

6: The prospect of solving the problem

There are many serious obstacles in the way of a solution to the problem of child soldiers. These children have an immense impact on ongoing conflicts. Their participation has long-term effects on peace, security and development in entire regions and communities. After campaigns have subsided in one country, child soldiers often cross the border to fight as mercenaries in other conflicts. Children who have grown up fighting as the only way to survive and get food will often continue to fight longer than adults. This means that child soldiers can threaten peace and destroy society. In connection with peacebuilding, it is therefore important to tackle this problem.

Many international agreements and conventions have been concluded in order to solve the problem of child soldiers. These agreements affirm children’s innate rights while ensuring regional peace. The agreements deal with the use of child soldiers in violent conflicts and disarmament, demobilization and the return of children to civilian life. Child soldiers make up a large part of many armed groups. It is therefore particularly important that they are involved in conflict resolution. Otherwise, they may jeopardize peace initiatives and may destroy them.

In many communities, child soldiers are included in conflict resolution by being received in rituals of reconciliation . In such ceremonies, the villagers try to purge the child soldiers of what they have experienced of war, death and feelings of guilt and sin. In addition, one tries at the same time to remove retaliatory forces among those a child soldier may have killed. These traditional approaches to reconciliation have proven to be important in bringing former child soldiers back to civilian life and for a lasting solution to conflicts.

In other cases, child soldiers are drawn into their own programs for reintegration . International organizations – between Save the Children and War Child – have established such programs so that former child soldiers have a certain welfare to return to and so that they can build a good relationship with the local community they return home to. Recovering a lost childhood is one of the biggest challenges both for former child soldiers and for those who will help them.

It is important to address the many needs of child soldiers – physical, mental, social and financial – so that they become part of the reintegration during the work of conflict resolution. Failure to do so will make it much more difficult for society as a whole to return to a normal life. Child soldiers can not just keep up with the life they lived, when they have returned.

Life as child soldiers forces them into countless heinous atrocities, often atrocities against their own village communities. In order to be able to become part of these societies again, the relationship must be rebuilt. Both traditional reconciliation rituals and international reintegration programs continue to try to sort out the problem of child soldiers and offer these children a better future.

Child soldier Susan

“In Uganda, a country located in Africa according to, children have come under fire between the government army and the rebel force LRA… LRA forces children from villages they plunder to join them. A 16-year-old girl testified about the terrible thing she experienced when a boy tried to escape:

A boy tried to get away, but he was caught. They forced him to eat a mouthful of pepper and he embarrassed five people. His hands were tied, and they got us other new prisoners to kill him with a stick. … I refuse to kill; then day said that day would shoot me. And they pointed at me with rifles, so I had to do it… » Susan, 16

Child soldiers 2