Guns Instead of Toys
Children should be able to be children, no matter who they are and where from. According to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, adapted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, “everyone under the age of 18 (the definition of a child), regardless of gender, origin, religion or possible disabilities, needs special care and protection because children are often the most vulnerable”.
So far the theory, but reality shows a different picture: chances of children dramatically increase or decrease according where they are born and who their parents are. While in Iceland only 2.9 children in a thousand die, in Sierra Leone unbelievable 160 minors don’t survive the first 18 years of their lives (according to the United Nations Population Division’s List).
Not by coincidence Sierra Leone is the country with the highest child mortality rate, being one of the countries that made the headlines way too often for so called“military use of children”. In a bloody fight for power and money that lasted over 11 years, over 50,000 died and more then 2.5 million Sierra Leoneans have been displaced. Children have been forced to fight on all sides: for the RUF, the SLA and the Kamajors.
Child Soldiers were believed to be fearless and easier to manipulate than adults. Not all of the abducted children were used as fighters, others were abused to be porters, spies, messengers, look outs, and sexual slaves.
The Convention of the Rights of the Child also proclaimed that "State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities." In 1998 the International Criminal Court adapted the decision as an international law, those who fail to obey commit a war crime.
According to the BBC World Service, there is an estimate of 300,000 child soldiers all over the world and the despite of the efforts of several organizations, the number is growing. Some of the countries where child soldiers reportedly are recruited are: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan or Burma. Military use of children must be stopped in order to give all children the chance to become what they are ought to be: the future of our planet and hope for all mankind.
Photo Credits: Creative Common/ Pierre Holtz / UNICEF CAR / hdptcar.net June 2007, Child in a rebel camp in the north-eastern Central African Republic