250,000 children exploited by armed forces across the world
Southern Sudan’s rebel groups are not the only forces in Africa’s largest nation to send children into battle, the UN’s expert on underage soldiers said, with the government and Darfur militias also known to use child fighters.
The latest report on child soldiers by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, documents grave violations against children in 20 conflicts, including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Uganda.
Estimates indicate that, globally, some 250,000 children continue to be exploited by armed forces. Two million children are estimated to have been killed in conflict over the years and a further six million have been permanently disabled.
Using children under the age of 18 as soldiers is against international laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, and is defined as a war crime.
And now northern Yemen.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN chief’s special representative for children and armed conflict, recently began investigating both rebel and government forces for using underage combatants in northern Yemen, saying she is concerned that “large numbers” of teenage boys have been dragged into the five-year-old conflict.
Among the worst violators is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has abducted children into its ranks to wage a rebellion in northern Uganda, eastern Congo and southern Sudan, with leaders declaring plans to rule Uganda based on the Ten Commandments.
“I met LRA children, which if you meet them you will just be shocked, there is no light in the eyes from years of abuse, the marked contrast is really quite remarkable and these children talked to us of terrible abuse, sexual and other,” said Ms Coomaraswamy.
250,000 children exploited by armed forces around the world is a shocking statistic.