A Lost Childhood Child Soldiers in Sudan By Maggie Walston
As many as 300,000 children under the age of 18 serve in government forces or armed rebel groups. Some are as young as 8 years old. Their lives mean nothing to the leaders they follow. Here is their story.
Both boys and girls are used as child soldiers. They may serve as porters, cooks, guard, messengers, or spies. They are pressed into combat and sent straight to the front lines or into minefields in front of older troops. Some have been used for suicide missions. Girls may be raped, or given to military commanders as “wives.” Children are vulnerable to military recruitment because they can be easily manipulated and drawn into violence that they are too young to resist or understand. Orphans and refugees are especially vulnerable. They join armed groups because of economic or social pressure and they believe the group will offer food or security. Others are recruited by force or abducted.
Sudan Algeria Angola Burundi Chad Republic of Congo Eritrea Ethiopia Rwanda Sierra Leone Somalia Uganda DRC Papua New Guinea The use of child soldiers is not only in Sudan... it’s all across Africa.
Child soldiers are used in the Sudanese Civil War between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. This war has lasted since 1983. What’s going on in Sudan? When the British ran Sudan as a colony they administered the northern and southern provinces separately. The south was similar to the other east-African colonies, while the north was more like Arabic-speaking Egypt. When the British integrated the two areas in 1946, Arabic was made the language of administration in the south and northerners began to hold positions there. The southern resentment to the northern Muslim Arab domination has caused a civil war, with both sides struggling for regional autonomy.
Few peace treaties recognize the existence of child soldiers, or make provisions for their reintegration into society. Many former child soldiers are deprived of an education, a family, and even food and shelter. As a result, many end up on the street, become involved in crime, and are drawn back into armed conflict.
You Can Make a Difference Encourage your government to sign the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations adopted new Optional Protocols to the Convention in 2000 to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and from sexual exploitation. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict establishes 18 as the minimum age for military recruitment and requires States to do everything possible to prevent people under the age of 18 from taking a direct part in hostilities. Go to http://www.humanrightswatch.org/campaigns/crp/action/index.htm to find out if your country has signed or ratified the Optional Protocol.
Visit http://www.invisiblechildren.com/home.php to find out how you can help these invisible children. You Can Raise Awareness Invisible Children, Inc. is an organization founded by filmmakers Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Lauren Poole from San Diego, California. The organization was started after the founders created a documentary film regarding the plight of people on Northern Uganda caught in the midst of civil war and the use of child soldiers in the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Volunteers are sent to Acholiland, the affected region in Uganda, to aid former child-soldiers in re-integration into normal civilization through education and psychological treatment. Other volunteers have been showing the film at various centers. The campaign has been centered around raising public awareness in the U.S. to spur youth into action for this cause.
“ Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” - William James