There are approximately 300,000 child soldier in the world today and 120,000 of these are present in Africa, Rwanda in one of the places in Africa with a very high ratio of child soldiers. These children are abducted and then brain washed and manipulated in order to make them killer, spies, messengers etc. They are given fire arms at such early age and trained to not feel anything when they kill someone. Most of the times these children are abducted but there are also times when they voluntarily come and join the groups in trying to escape the poverty as, as soldiers they do get food, shelter and medicines.
According to a survey about 20,000 child soldiers have been part of the warfare in Rwanda till date. Even though reports have been given by the government of Rwanda that there are no child soldiers in their government, reports keep on coming regarding the presence of child recruitments. In the late 20th century the Ministry of Defense of Rwanda agreed to demobilize the child soldiers. These children were then sent to the re-education centers where they were given the basic education.
There has been no claim made by the armed opposition group regarding the non-recruiting of child soldier neither is there any information present on the number of children present in these groups. According to a report children are also being abducted from places like Kenya and are sent to Rwanda to be trained as child soldiers. These children and young men are abducted from their homes, road sides, markets etc. The Kenyan agents are said to be a part of this and are given $500 for every 150 people that they send.
Serious measures need to be taken in order to deal with this issue. Efforts also need to be made in improving the rehabilitation and education centers so that the children who are able to get away from these groups can get back what is left of their childhood back and try to lead a normal life. They should also be provided with sufficient security as, it has been reported that these children are afraid to leave the rehabilitation centers and go home when its time because they are scared that their kidnappers would come back for them and such incidences have been seen as well.
Background to child soldering
Today, in the world the total number of child soldiers is about 300,000 and from among these 300,000 children 120,000 are present in Africa. The behavior that these children are subjected to each day is very abusive and unfair. Global efforts are being made for these children to help them become children again by bringing changes in their devastating and harsh lives. These are many organizations that are trying to provide help to these children and to rehabilitate them (Aptel, 2008).
Usually the age of these child soldiers is from 15 to 18 years, however, in some cases there are kids as young as 7 years of age as well. There are a number of ways through which the kids in Africa can become soldiers. There are some children who are brain washed and manipulated by the elders while some are recruited so that their families can stay protected. Another reason for the children to become soldiers is that they are provided with shelter, medical attention and daily meals, all of these are things of very high importance in these areas (Aptel, 2008).
It is not only the rebel forces by whom the children are recruited as soldiers but the paramilitaries and government forces are also involved in recruiting them. Few of the countries in Africa in which the child soldiers are being recruited are Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Leone and Sierra. Children are not recruited only to be soldiers, they can be recruited to act as messengers, spies or cooks, but their lives will still be very hard. A lot of the female children are forced to provide the rebels with sexual services (Nyankanzi, 1998).
The reason behind the abduction of children and forcing them into becoming rebels is that the rebels want to have a control over them and they want the mindsets of those children to be turned into those of the killers. When the children are captured they are scared so badly that they are willing to do anything in order to be free even if it means killing innocent people, doing hard labor or leaving their families. Soldiers beat and humiliate the children in order to make them see themselves as worthless and instill fear in their hearts. These children have no choice but to be slaves all day long and if they try to resist they are beaten again. They are forced to carry the heavy things which have to be transported and they are trained in using the firearms (Scherrer, 2002).
At time the way that these kids are taught about the usage of a firearm is by having a gun handed over to them and asking them to kill another child. They are then told to not feel sad or remorseful about killing the other kid as, they probably will have to kill others innocent people as well. At times these children are drugged and then sent in the search of landmines which is a suicide mission. Even if the children are freed or they escape from the rebels, returning back to a normal lifestyle becomes very hard for them. Even after rehabilitation which becomes very important for them, they are never able to get back to the normal lifestyle (Sebarenzi and Laura, 2009).
The Rwandan Conflict and the role of child soldering
According to an estimate in Rwanda alone there are more than 20,000 children who have been a part of hostilities. Even though it is being claimed by the government of Rwanda that today there are no children present in the government forces but reports still continue to emerge regarding the presence of child soldiers with regards to the periodic fighting in Rwanda with the Hutu armed groups as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo the fighting which is taking place in order to support the opposition forces present there. Children are still being trained by the Hutu opposition forces. These recruitings are not only being done from Rwanda but from the neighboring areas as well (Sebarenzi and Laura, 2009).
Almost two decades ago in a genocide the number of Tutsis killed reached 800,000; a continuation in the armed conflict among the members of the Hutu (which has majority of Rwandese Armed Forces), Tutsi (which has majority of Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) as well as Interhamwe militia. Around the end of the 20th century there was a slight decrease seen in the conflict however, due to the occasional outbursts the occasion still remained tense. For more than a decade now the opposition forces have the support of RPA in trying to depose the former President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is mainly due to the failure of Kabila in expelling the extremist Hutu militias who are responsible for violating a lot of humanitarian laws and international human rights (Sebarenzi and Laura, 2009).
It was until the end of the 20th century that there was an alliance in the support provided by Rwandan government in the DRC for armed groups with the Ugandan forces; however, later on deterioration in the relations was seen. 700 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the fighting which erupted in the two countries in North-eastern DRC. Uganda was accused by the Rwanda government of mobilizing, harboring and training anti-Rwanda elements in order to destabilize Rwanda. It was in the very beginning of the 20th century that the relations between Rwandan Hutu armed groups and FNL which was a Burundian opposition group ended (Sebarenzi and Laura, 2009).
The role of Rwandan Government
Local Recruitment Law and Procedures
According to the Article 5 of Ordinance No. R/85/25 regarding the creation of Rwandan Army, it is said that the creation is based upon voluntary recruitment. The minimum age for contract non-commissioned officers, privates and corporals according to the legislation is 16 years. However, exception can be made with regards to the age as well as the educational level of recruits, but this can only be done by the Ministry of Defense (Straus, 2006).
For the commissioned officers, the minimum age for entry in schools is 17 years whereas, the Ministry that is in charge of the Armed Forces can derogate from this rule. 16 years is the minimum age for the non-commissioned officers and there are no provisions to derogate from this (Straus, 2006).
Recruitment and Exploitation of Children
It is the government forces and the paramilitary groups which are aligned with them that keep on recruiting the children as soldiers. Presently, there are 3 schools which are operating for non-commissioned officers. According to an estimate more than 45,000 children…