Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Brainwashed to kill

Child soldiers are as old as our history but still play a big part in the wars over the entire world. Often is assumed that child soldiers are only present in third world countries, countries in where the governments have no control over what happens in their territory. This is a mistake, of course the majority of child soldiers are present in those countries but also in developing countries, child soldiers play a part in wars.

In the whole world there are about 300.000 child soldiers, exact numbers can't be given as this is impossible to determine. Most child soldiers belong to groups that don't allow overseers to count the numbers. 

Child soldiers by continent

In the picture below you can see in which countries children under the age of 15 are still used as soldiers in armed wars. Something to keep in mind is that more than sixty countries all over the world recruit children with the age of 17 for their army, examples of those countries are the USA, Belgium and Holland. In the rest of this article I will focus mainly on the group under the age of 15.

How the children become soldiers

There are two ways of becoming a child soldier, those are voluntary and involuntary. The group that voluntary become child soldier do this because of conditions such as being an orphan or children from extremely poor and broken families. By becoming a child soldier, they find protection, housing and food. Others join voluntary to avenge the death of one of their relatives. It’s important to keep in mind that many of these children are no older than 8 years. Children of 8 years old are easy to manipulate.

The majority of the child soldiers are involuntary. Most of the time, they are abducted and forced to become child soldiers. In Uganda alone more than 30.000 children were abducted and forced to become child soldiers.

Why using children as soldiers and its terrible consequences

Children are small and don’t attract much attention. Besides that, guns available now a days are easy in use and also for children easy to carry. So why invest in adults which are way more expensive to upkeep but don’t bring more destruction then children. Children you can manipulate to make them do exactly what you want them to do.

Young children don’t have any awareness of dead, which makes then brave, without fear. They are useful for different purposes. Many child soldier don’t only fight, they are also used as messengers, suppliers and sadly enough as sex slaves. People using children as soldier don’t care about the consequences that their actions have, they think about themselves and nothing more.

The consequences for child soldiers are immense, the last ten years more than 2 million of them died during war. And even when they survive it all, the mental, psychological and physical problems make it almost impossible to ever return into society. Many of the former child soldiers suffer from aids but also have concentration problems, depression, nightmares or are extremely aggressive.

International law and child soldiers

There aren’t many countries who acknowledge child soldiers. You can find an article in The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 38, (1989) that children under 15 years should not be used in armed conflicts, even if it is voluntary. This Convention on the Rights of the Child about involvement of children in armed conflict was ratified by all governments in the world - except Somalia and the USA.

In 2000 the first real international convention against child soldiers was made, sadly enough the convention is not ratified by many countries.

So, who help child soldiers recover?

Fortunately enough there are many organizations that try to rehabilitate the child soldiers. All those organization have united in the Coalition to stop the use of Child Soldiers. Together the organizations offer the child soldiers shelter and programs to reintegrate into society. More about these originations and their programs you can find on

Some tips for books and films:

• Kill your family first by Peter H. Eichstaedt (Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army)
• Child soldiers by Myriam Denov (Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front) 

• Witlicht (Dutch movie, English spoken, that gives a realistic view on child soldiers)



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