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Child Soldiers in Africa in 2013

Updated on September 27, 2014

Introduction

A child in Somalia plays with his toy that gives him his seeming identity and voice: an AK-47
A child in Somalia plays with his toy that gives him his seeming identity and voice: an AK-47 | Source

What/Who is a Child Soldier?

The United Nations defines Child Soldier has a boy or a girl under 18 years old, used as combatants, messengers, porters and cooks and forced sexual slaves to any type of military, paramilitary, governmental and other types of organizations.

A Child Soldier from Sierra Leone
A Child Soldier from Sierra Leone | Source

Why are Africa's Child Soldiers important?

Africa has a staggering 200,000 child soldiers, a majority compared to the number of child soldiers worldwide. Secondly the freedom and international access that most African nations give makes it a place where the international community can help aid or take direct action. Other governments around the world are semi-developed and may ward off outside help.

Tarzan, a gorilla-like hero
Tarzan, a gorilla-like hero | Source
A picturesque Africa is also a place of much trouble
A picturesque Africa is also a place of much trouble | Source

I. When you think of Africa, What comes to your mind?

For me, growing up watching Tarzan, Lion King, and George of the Jungle, I always wanted to visit Africa, that magnificent landscape filled with the most exotic animals. I had a picture of Africa as wild, exciting and free from societal concerns and restraints. But nothing could be further from the truth. Africa is a continent so diverse from its biomes with savannas, deserts, grasslands, forests, rainforests and chaparrals to its countless geographies to sociohumanistic aspects of politics, cultures and religions. These differences have come at a cost, Africa has been torn apart by wars fueled by differences in these very things. At the center of these conflicts, the firewood are the Child Soldiers, often used sacrificially for the sins of the adults.

II. Why should you care about the plight of the Child Soldiers?

  1. The first reason is because the children of Africa will define the face of Africa for the next 50 years. The access the international community has to the continent through tourism and aid may not be there in the future.
  2. A lack of opportunity for these children will be an in opportunity in itself for rebels, governments and charismatic leaders to make use of children through false illusions of hope and opportunity.
  3. Finally you should care because if you are a westerner, its most likely true that money in the billions of dollars goes to Africa in the form of aid. If no one addresses its billions of dollars in aid package will continue to go to Africa, and maybe in even larger quantities should larger conflicts destroy existing infrastructure.

Somalia's Child Soldiers

Source

III. So why are Child Soldiers so prevalent in Africa?

A. Lack of Strong Governments to protect children and enforce laws

  1. Many governments in Africa are unitary states. Unlike the United States which has three branches of government, with checks and balances, in a unitary state you have the whole government as a single entity. This creates room for bribery and corruption.
  2. Secondly there is a lack of strong government, because there is a perpetual cycle of overthrowing governments. Oddly new governments begin as Liberation movements with weapons and child soldiers and end up being the regime they were trying to overthrow. This cyclic nature of violence has left a void in the roles governments should normally play in keeping its citizens safe.

B. Lack of Access to Basic Education

  1. There is a lack of unqualified teachers in rural areas, and the few teachers in urban areas often go overseas or to larger cities for better pay. Brain drain as the term is called happens because people seek better futures outside the country.
  2. There are very few if any proper facilities to teach students in. Classes become overcrowded, supplies short and overcrowded classes are targets for militaries and those who wish to harm or abuse these children.
  3. Finally the lack of access has to do with prioritized military spending over education.

C. Lack of Alternatives

  1. Many Africans lived off the land with surplus to feed their families until western nations like America began to outcompete through unfair trade. African governments now import large quantities of food and farmers have had to turn to risky cash crop business where instead of diversified crops, their way of life depends on the fluctuating price of one cash crop e.g. coffee beans.
  2. Farming once provided stable job security and food during shortages, now they are pressed with increased poverty calling for desperate measures to alleviate income shortages. They'll turn to anyone who promises them a job, and that's dangerous in a continent like Africa where dictators like former Muammar Gaddafi of Libya was giving out large payouts to mercenaries who travelled across deserts to fight for him from neighboring and distant African nations.
  3. Governments have come to favor resources over people as a source of income. Heads of States have favored oil, metal, diamond, and coal markets for quick income. This is reflected in huge international deals with foreign companies such as Coal companies from China, and Metal companies from India. Ultimately foreign companies benefit and the government leaders get the money. The people continue to suffer and the governments are slow in taking an active role in creating opportunities, and providing welfare for the people.

Video below contains realistic hostile situations, and the secret use of child workers and the progress made by Governments

IV. How can we reduce the growth of child soldiers?

While there are many solutions, I believe these are the two immediate goals that should be set.

  1. Increase technical and vocational schooling. Basic education (k-12) should be done by the governments and it'll come around in time but while the government gets itself together, an increase in technical and vocational schooling with provide short-term and long-term benefits socially and economically. It will allow children to explore their hobbies instead of killing others and gain independence with their new skill and knowledge. Like-minded individuals with similar trade skills can create healthy communities and pass on their knowledge and skill.
  2. United States and other western nations need to decrease farm subsidies given to the farming industry. The subsidies allow US farmers to sell their food at below market prices in bulks. These deals are often too good to pass and African Govts import the food. If children are to have job security in africa and a livelihood, western nations need to take an active role in giving billions of dollars to their farmers to outcompete. It's simply unfair trade.
  3. Increasing media is essential to dispelling false information being disseminated by those who have wrong intentions. Rebel leaders scare innocent children into believing the leaders are demi-gods, and fears of magical powers and false information are often followed by violence. The lack of national and continental media powers is a fuel-keg to ignite age old ethnic rivalries that stem from a lack of knowledge and education. Many times even aid organizations cannot properly help the people because information most times are based on rumors and hear-say. Additionally eyewitness accounts are often too late in preventing or reducing violence.

A Brief Explanation of Unfair Competition by Western Farmers

Conclusion

In Conclusion, we've discussed What/Who is a child soldier, Why this problem is so prevalent, and How we can solve this problem. If this problem goes unchecked, Africa will continue in a perpetual state of violence, chaos, and instability. As members of the global community let this information help you to make informed decision in your position to help Africa

Even before their lives have begun, it is already over for many.
Even before their lives have begun, it is already over for many. | Source

Cite This Page

Author: Stanley Soman

Date of Publication: January 5, 2013


Comments

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    • expertscolumn profile imageAUTHOR

      Stanley Soman 

      5 years ago from New York

      Travelin you've got a great point, while many people may have not exactly liked the Kony 2012, it did do a job of raising awareness and turning many people including me to look into the issue further. After studying many perspectives, I've arrived at these solutions listed above.

      Thank you TravelinJack!

      Sherry, definitely its complicated issue. There are so many layers from age-old rivalries, to even blaming European powers for colonizing them in the past. People believe those experiences started all this mess throughout much of the continent, but we have to move forward and I think its by taking one step at a time.

      Pavlo, while general assumptions may be true to some degree, it is even worse to sit by and allow young fresh generations to undergo the same hell they're parents went through. Someone has to step and lend a hand in change, and knowing we are a bit better off should be a incentive and impetus to do something none the less.

    • TravelinJack profile image

      Jack Baumann 

      5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Very interesting and tragic reality. Maybe through enough awareness we will be able to overcome this disgusting life.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      That is really heartbreaking. What hits me when I look at these pictures is that these are such small children. What kind of life can they have? I like your ideas about how to help, but if just reducing the growth of the practice is all we can do, that seems so unsatisfactory. It's a frustrating and difficult problem. Thanks for educating us about this. Voted up and shared.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Great hub! You offer ways to solve this problem, but I think as long as the countries are poor in general, children will be used by those who have money in any way they want. Alas, it is a reality which we can not influence so far.... Shared

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