D R Congo: Child Soldiers


Paragraph. Nate Falk Period 4 Hjelmgren

Child Soldiers in the Congo

            UNICEF defines a child soldier as “any child—girl or boy—under the age of 18 who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group, including but not limited to combatants, cooks, porters, messengers, and anyone accompanying such groups other than as family members. This includes girls and boys recruited for sexual purposes and/or forced marriage.” Child soldiers are quickly becoming popular amongst many of the armed conflicts scattered throughout the world for many reasons.

            Child soldiers are used to increase the number of fighters in an armed conflict. They are easily manipulated and controlled, meaning that they are more likely to take orders given to them by adults and/or their superiors. Due to their physical features, such as being small and sleek and not suspected as being armed, children are recruited into armed conflicts. Manufacturing weapons for children is also much less cost-effective than manufacturing regular weapons because weapons for children can be made very light at very cheap prices. Child soldiers are used in many different ways such as: serving in the front lines of combat, serving as scouts, spies, trainers, saboteurs, decoys, couriers, guards, indirect porters and slaves, and landmine “clearers.” Girl soldiers are used as either sex slaves or given as a reward to male soldiers as “wives.” In the entire world, there are approximately 300,000 child soldiers serving as active participants in over 20 different armed conflicts. In Congo alone, at least 20,000 child soldiers have been abducted and trained by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since the year 2002. These children, both in Congo and around the world, range from ages 5-17. From just 1986-1996 in all 30 countries that utilize child soldiers, 2 million child soldiers were killed and over 6 million were injured. For many decades men dominated the death toll in wars. However, because of utilization of child soldiers in the past 23 years, 80-90 percent of casualties in armed conflicts are now women and children. These gruesome statistics truly show the complete and utter disregard for human life.
            There are four laws made by the United Nations (UN) in regard towards usage of child soldiers since they became a more recognized problem in 1986. The first, drafted in 1989, is the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC). Signed in 1989 by the UN General Assembly, the CRC protects children under the age of 15 from involvement in a country’s armed forces. All UN countries, with the exception of Somalia and the United States, have signed and verified this treaty. The next treaty adopted in 2000 and it prevents children from coming into combat or being drafted into a country’s armed forces.  Directly after the treaty was proposed, 94 UN countries immediately signed it and 14 since then have had it ratified. Because of the popularity of the treaty, shortly after it was released an amendment was drafted and added in the same year. The amendment stated that it wanted to limit the amount of “small arms” (the light, cheap weapons for children) that were being produced as well as better protect the human rights of female child soldiers that were being abused by the males involved in the conflicts. Many UN countries approved of this amendment to the treaty and signed it, including the United States. The most recent action by the UN was a pledge that stated once rehabilitation of child soldiers is complete, the UN and many NGO’s will try to provide psychological support, education, and job training to those rehabilitated and reintegrated. A twelve article optional protocol was proposed in 2002 regarding child soldiers. The article says that children under the age of 18 can’t take any part in armed conflicts, higher than the age that was previously listed as 15. The protocol would help lower the rate at which children are forcefully taken into an armed conflict or militia in general. It also says that every country must raise their army enlistment age to at least 18 years old and that recruitment towards anyone beneath 18 is strictly optional and that no other group may enforce them to do so, meaning one group can’t blame another because the original group wanted to recruit children. This document is critical towards ending utilization of child soldiers and has been encouraged to be signed by all countries.
            The use of child soldiers throughout the world is a reprehensible act that should not be tolerated. Employing children to fight adults’ battles not only destroys their future, but that of their countries. The harsh reality of war is usually experienced in conjunction with an introduction to the world of drugs, sex and extreme human depravity. If child soldiers continue to be used in the Congo, the country runs the risk of dehumanizing their youth and demoralizing their nation. A country cannot be run with violence as the primary solution to conflicts, children must be the first to understand this reality; and if they don’t, resolutions in anyone’s lifetime seem impossible.

Works Cited

"Child Soldiers Recount First Killing." Document Page: Child Soldiers Recount First Killing. 28 Apr. 2009. 12 May 2009 <http://elibrary.bigchalk.com/libweb/elib/do/document?set=search&groupid=1&requestid=lib_standard&resultid=68&edition=&ts=B325BDAC8474EC7964D48C7B0155BDA3_1243347714451&start=51&urn=urn%3Abigchalk%3AUS%3BBCLib%3Bdocument%3B163397022>. This gave me a first hand experience at the gruesome bloodshed that has been going on.


"Child Soldiers to be Released Amid Crisis in Volatile East - UN Envoy." Document Page: Child Soldiers to be Released Amid Crisis in Volatile East - UN Envoy. 29 Apr. 2009. 12 May 2009 <http://elibrary.bigchalk.com/libweb/elib/do/document?set=search&groupid=1&requestid=lib_standard&resultid=22&edition=&ts=B325BDAC8474EC7964D48C7B0155BDA3_1243347476415&start=1&urn=urn%3Abigchalk%3AUS%3BBCLib%3Bdocument%3B163165845>. This article has much needed statistics that let me truly know about chils soldiers.


"Study: Child Soldiers Suffer from Emotional Stress for Years." Document Page: Study: Child Soldiers Suffer from Emotional Stress for Years. 20 Apr. 2007. 17 May 2009 <http://www.elibrary.com/libweb/elib/do/document?set=search&grupid=1requestid=lib>. This article had necessary i depth information on the true horror behind cild soldiers.

Nate Falk: Last Updated May 22, 2009