NO to Child Soldiery
By Omar Rais

May 06, 2007
O“That night, the LRA came abducting people in our village, and some neighbors led them to our house. They abducted all five of us boys at the same time. I was the fifth one. . . . We were told by the LRA not to think about home, about our mother or father. . . . There were twenty-eight abducted from our village that night. . . . Early on when we were captured, the LRA explained to us that all five brothers couldn't serve in the LRA because we would not perform well. So they tied up my two younger brothers and invited us to watch. Then they beat them with sticks until the two of them died. They told us it would give us strength to fight. My youngest brother was nine years old.”

-The words of Martin P., abducted in February 2002 at age twelve.

Child soldiery is a huge issue in the world today. African war zones are flooded with child soldiers. Governments and rebels target kids these days to serve in wars because they don’t have a proper understanding of what is right or wrong. They play with children’s emotions and convince them that serving in the army is mature. That killing innocent people is mature. That torturing people is mature. That cursing, raping and blackmailing is mature. At what cost does maturity come?
Children hold our society together today. It is their right to live prosper and have a healthy environment to become successful in life. Children in developed countries have everything a growing child needs, shelter, family, food and most importantly, education. But what about the less fortunate kids? Kids who live in war zones. Kids who are separated from their families but take their fellow soldiers to be their family. Kids who don’t have food everyday and turn to their commanding officer for food. Kids who don’t receive education but are taught how to use guns instead. Although these kids are brought up in horrible surroundings, they too have the right to a safe, prosperous, happy life. They have the right to succeed, but this right is taken away from them when they are kidnapped from their homes and taken to rebel camps. This is where the innocence of a young child dies and a young death machine is created.
Rebels attack local villagers and tribes and destroy homes, kill, rape women and young girls and kidnap people. After hours of destruction, survivors are killed, amputated or enrolled in their group. Children are taken to rebel camps where they are taught how to use guns, lie, blackmail, and curse because they are told it’s “manly”. I ask you, is it “manly” to hand a 5 year-old, a gun? To teach him how to use drugs? No! It’s cowardly. Rebels don’t have many adults fighting for them. That is why they kidnap kids and make them one of the rebels. In Africa, over 300,000 children serve in rebel armed groups.
This should not be tolerated by us. The UN has made laws against the use of child soldiers in direct hostilities. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 38 under the International Human Rights Law proclaims, “State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that people who have not attained the age of 15 years don’t take a direct part in hostilities.” The International Labour Organization’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 under the International Labour Law states, “Forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict is one of the predefined worst forms of child labour.”
We, as responsible citizens of the world, need to take action against this cruelty towards kids. In 1999, local people established militias in Sierra Leone during the time of the civil war. These people raided rebel camps and brought the children back home. If the people living in combat zones can establish these militias to bring back their children, why can’t we do the same? Everyone, may it be in a group or as individuals, should take a stand against child recruitment into rebel groups or government armies. Write newspaper articles raising awareness about this problem. Raise money for the country so that those who get the children back from the rebels can operate a schooling environment for them. If you have enough money, personally go into the country to check out the problem instead of spending it on your luxuries. Help people establish more rehabilitation sites in the country that will give the children their old lives back, help them find their parents. Do something, get involved and help these kids guarantee a secure future for themselves.

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