Every day, many African children find themselves at the frontline of different conflicts across the continent. These are child soldiers, African Child Soldiers. These African child soldiers are not only confined to the hundreds of militia and armed groups, but some of them are fighting in government forces and government-aligned militias.
These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, suffer untold forms of suffering, exploitation and abuse at the hands of their seniors in these armed groups. Child soldiers in Africa are used in various roles in these groups; as fighters, scouts, cooks, porters, guards, messengers and more, while girls are subjected to rape, forced marriages to older men in the armed groups and other forms of sexual exploitation.
Many of these child soldiers in Africa are forcefully recruited into armed groups after being abducted, others join out of desperation, believing that these groups offer their best chance for survival, others are threatened with consequences for them and their families if they refuse to join, while others are driven by poverty, compelled to generate income to support their families.
In 2007, According to a UN report released in 2007, the rate of recruitment child soldiers in Africa has rapidly increased, with seven out of fourteen countries recruiting child soldiers globally being African. More than a decade later, the situation has worsened, with the number of armed groups in Africa having tripled.
While in the ranks of armed group, child soldiers are deprived of basic nutrition and proper living conditions, while at the same time being subjected to drug and substance abuse. This has very significant consequences in their lives, both physical and mental. These experiences take a heavy toll on children’s relationships with their families and communities.
Child soldiers returning to their communities or families don’t have it easy either. Whether or not they get accepted back into society depends on various factors such as their reasons for association with the armed groups and how their communities perceive child soldiers. Some children who try to reintegrate into their communities are rejected or viewed suspiciously, while those succeed in reintegration find themselves struggling to fit in.
Furthermore, families and communities may be going through their own challenges of coping with the effects of conflicts, and may thus have trouble understanding or accepting children who return home. While this is very understandable, communities are families are being urged to view the returning child soldiers as victims of the same conflict, not perpetrators.
Below 18 years, children should not be exposed to such environments of fear and violence. The psychological problems that affect child soldiers after war are immense, for example young girls give birth to children they don’t know how to bring up.
“Any child soldier has to go through a lot of love, care and understanding to become normal a lot of them lose their minds” Emmanuel Jal
“There is no pride in being a child soldier” Emanuel Jal
Why call these youngsters soldiers? Are they fit? What about child slaves.
Unless we teach children peace someone else will teach them violence” Mc Carthy
By: Wairimu Ngandu & Eric Gisore
Also Read: The 77 Percent — The plight of child soldiers in Africa.
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