By Andrew Field
It is about a year since the United States passed the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, enabling the prosecution of those generals who recruit child soldiers into their ranks. UNICEF dubbed the practice of kiddies at war as ‘illegal and morally reprehensible’ a couple of years back.
The International Criminal Court only recognised the use of children in conflict as a war crime just over 10 years ago. Really? So, when is the World going to stop ‘talking the talk’ and start ‘walking the walk’ as promised by Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict? Not soon, apparently.
No generals have answered for the crime of sending kids to war, well certainly not in Africa. Yet, about half of the World’s child soldiers are fighting small wars and ethnic campaigns in Africa, including Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda.
Rebellions and insurgencies have been raging in Africa for decades, and the warlords just keep on plundering, with children as gun fodder. Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Angola had their wars too, and Zimbabwe, not in conflict, used its ‘Green Bomber’ youth militia to perpetrate ghastly violence against political opposition candidates.
Children in conflict are easy to abduct and then shape their minds to any way of thinking; and to molest and abuse too. Most warrior kids are abducted, subjected to brutal initiation and indoctrination. They are morally degraded and sexually exploited then quickly honed to perform bestial acts and atrocities against the enemy, to loot, exploit and kill.
The boys tote AK-47’s, use hardcore drugs, and smoke and swear like troopers, literally. The girls serve as porters, cooks and sex slaves, being raped by their captors, and frequently offered as human traffic for a hungry prostitution market. Many of these ‘four-foot killing machines’ are slaughtered on the battlefield. It is the ‘blooding’ of the teddy bears!
This is all so morally repugnant to any civilised person. Would elegant people allow this to happen to their own issue? One would suppose not. Yet the civilised World just does not seem to be able to come to grips with the situation. Yes, of course, there has been serious debate in the august chambers of the almighty United Nations, with treaties and human rights laws even being established.
Sure, the Security Council debates these matters, from time to time, and points its ‘fearsome’ finger at offenders, but nothing more. And there are the Conventions and Protocols forbidding this and that in conflict and categorising this war crime and that too. Why, even the International Labour Organisation has predefined the use of children in war as the ‘worst forms of child labour’. Goodness, one can only shudder at the dimension of this toothless dog.
Some are working really hard at the problem. The ‘Coalition to Stop the Use of the Child Soldiers’ is such an organisation. It plays an important role with its awareness campaigning. Various World bodies do likewise, but, frankly, the message just isn’t getting through. Well, not at least to those who believe they can influence change, so it would seem.
Politicians are in the firing line here. Whatever their philosophies, or which ever ‘ism’ is the flavour of the day, World leaders just do not seem to have the moral fibre to act, nor the intelligence to understand the real issues unfolding in African wars. It seems abhorrent to them to be critical, least they might offend, or have the courage to do what is right for the World’s children in conflict zones, especially in Africa.