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Posts Tagged ‘Child Soldiers’

written by: Maria Dieci

In the past week, there is one crisis that has gotten a lot of media attention: the issue of Somali child soldiers.  This catastrophe has not been on the forefront of the international agenda in the past, merely flying under the radar as something that no one wanted to deal with directly.  This is no longer.  The United Nations classifies the Somali Transitional Federal government as one of the “most persistent violators” of sending children to the front lines.  The Somali government deploys hundreds of children – some as young as nine – to make up its army.

In 1991, the Somali government collapsed, leaving the country lawless and disorganized. Children were robbed of opportunity, of safety, and of a future.  Vulnerable and hopeless, these children were the perfect soldier recruits.  Today, the vice-chairman of the Elman Peace and Human Rights group, Ali Sheik Yassin, estimates that 20% of government troops and 80% of rebel forces are children.  It is disheartening to hear these numbers and to think of the lost childhoods behind them.

In the past few days, the United Nations has taken a strong stance regarding this issue.  It stands ready to “adopt targeted and graduated sanctions” against commanders who recruit child soldiers.  The president of the Somali government has taken action per the prompting of the international community.  He has ordered the military chief to “conduct a full review” on the issue and demobilize under-age army recruits immediately.

There is hope for the children who are victims of this crisis, and for Somalia. If successful, policies developed to stop the use of child soldiers in Somalia could serve as a model for the demilitarization of child soldiers in other areas. The initial policies outlined by the UN are only the beginning of solving the problem, however.  Children who are released from their military service are often traumatized, unable to reintegrate into society, and ostracized by their villages and families.  They need to be presented with opportunities to complete their educations and rehabilitation programs so they can take their lives back and turn their futures around.

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