Tuesday, April 19, 2011

child soldiers

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This poem was written by Rashid Peters a former child soldier in Sierra Leone only 15 years old.

When I was drugged and injected with cocaine,

Forced to join the war of stains

Brainwashed often and again,

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I would have told you I have so much to gain

With the heavy arms I lug at war.

I killed and raped and maimed and more.

Abducted away from my mother and father

to shoot and murder another

I cannot go any further,

with this shooting and killing that has no border.

Forgive me now if I injured your brother.

I was forced to pull the trigger

By elders who made my childhood wither.

In reality, child soldiers are children young enough to lift a rifle. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence, some 00,000 children are serving as soldiers in current armed conflicts. These young combatants participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK-47s and M-16s on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors and participate in suicide missions.

Children have now become easy prey for armies. Physically vulnerable and easily intimidated, children typically make obedient soldiers. They are cheaper to keep as they eat less and are easier to manipulate.

Involving children as soldiers has been made easier by the making and selling of inexpensive light weapons. Before, the more dangerous weapons were either heavy or difficult to use, but these guns are so light that children can use them and so simple that they can be stripped and reassembled by a child of 10. The poorest communities now have access to deadly weapons capable of transforming any local conflict into a bloody slaughter. In Uganda, an AK-47 automatic machine gun can be purchased for the cost of a chicken and, in Northern Kenya, it can be bought for the price of a goat.

Children in developing countries desecrated by ongoing civil war find the only road to survival is to wield a gun. In Liberia in 10, children as young as seven were seen in combat because, according to the Director of the Liberian Red Cross, those with guns could survive.

Most of the children in armies come from conditions of poverty and ignorance where they don’t understand war and their involvement is a means of survival.

Children seeking escape from poverty join military forces out of desperation however the majority of child soldiers are abducted and enslaved into guerrilla groups. Children of 15 or younger have been abducted from the villages and the poorest quarters of the cities, as well as from schools to enlarge forces. Once recruited as soldiers, children are treated as adults. Childrens actual duties in warfare cover the whole range of military activities. While children might be thought to be the people deserving greatest protection, as soldiers they are often considered the most expendable. Captured children are forced to kill implicating them in criminal acts making them fear being shunned should they manage to escape back to their community. Thus the army and the elders who stole their innocence become the only choice remaining to these children.

In Northern Uganda the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), an armed opposition movement fighting the Ugandan Government has over the last twelve years abducted more than 1,000 children and forced them to become child soldiers and slaves. Ninety per cent of the LRA are children, mostly aged between thirteen and sixteen kept and forced to work in conditions so appalling that it amounts to slavery.

The abducted children are systematically terrorized and brutalized. Once recruited, children undergo varying degrees of indoctrination. socializing them into violence. The elders in charge control all aspects of the children, they are tyrannized to take part in atrocities and forced to take drugs to overcome their fear or reluctance to fight.

In the civil war in Sierra Leone often after the RUF attacks a village they abduct the surviving children. The children witness or take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives are then removed to special camps, trained usually for about two or three months on how to kill other people. Thousands of children witnessed and participated in horrible atrocities against civilians, including beheadings, amputations, rape, and burning people alive.

Girls are also used as soldiers in many parts of the world. In addition to combat duties, girls are subject to sexual abuse and may be taken as “wives” by rebel leaders in Angola, Sierra Leone and Sudan. In Uganda they are forced into what the children call marriage to senior LRA soldiers or are given as a sexual reward for boy soldiers who are obedient. Nearly 100% of escaped girls and women from Sudan after being child soldiers have sexually transmitted diseases.

Because of their immaturity and lack of experience, child soldiers suffer higher casualties than their adult counterparts. Few peace treaties recognize the existence of child soldiers, or make provisions for their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. As a result, many end up on the street, become involved in crime, or are drawn back into armed conflict. Rehabilitation of the child soldiers is a difficult process. The children have been brutalized and have carried out killings. They have wielded life-and-death power over adults often in their local communities.

It is often suggested that too much money is spent for defense in both the developed and developing countries of the world, and that some of that money might instead be used to relieve hunger and to promote childrens survival and development. But, worldwide, many national budgets stay sharply skewed in favor of defense year after year to secure safety. If security means the protection of our most precious assets, child survival should be high on the agenda of all defense departments. Why isnt it? Perhaps in reality, the operational function of defense establishments is not so much to maintain the security of the country as a whole but to assure that the powerful remain in power. Rather than serving all their citizens interests, defense budgets serve the survival of the rich, not the children or the poor.

The world continues to watch as child soldiers are denied a childhood, only educated in violence in the interest of others. Are they responsible for their actions of destruction if they are forced to carry out these actions? To carry a gun is the cost of their survival but what does this really cost the world? Children uneducated brought up in evil, what is the future? The territorial and civil wars where child soldiers are trapped in torment may be of no consequence to your life. Their suffering however touches and effects everyone’s future as through technology and globalization the world has become a smaller place bound closely together. I am sixteen and comparing my life of opportunity and freedom to that of Rashid Peters a former child soldier a year younger than me makes me question the morals which fabricate society. If I were powerless and suffering, I would hope that those

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