When you think of war in Africa, or even conflicts, who do you imagine standing on the front line You think of grown men, adults, standing tall and fighting for what they believe in. But in reality this is not the case. They are children. These child soldiers are used like pawns in a game of chest, moved around, manipulated and made to be the expendables. They are powerless, nameless and are the foot soldiers of these conflicts, which they have no real knowledge of.
A child soldier is a person under the age of 18 who most of the time, unwillingly participates in armed conflict as part of an armed force or group. These children are usually taken from their villages and manipulated into becoming soldiers or slaves through the use of coercion, drugs and alcohol. A great example of this is in the 2006 feature film, ???Blood Diamond??? directed by Edward Zwick. The son of one of the main characters is taken as a result of the R.U.F taking over their village and massacring the majority of the people who live there. The son, Dia, is then taken to be trained as a child soldier where like many of the children that have been upducted, he is given a nickname such as ???Baby Killer???, “Born Trouble” and “See Me No More”. Giving nicknames to the newly recruited soldiers, is a way of giving the abducted children a sense of normality, even though it is everything but.
These Children are taken because they are seen as superfluous commodities that are impressionable. These child soldiers are usually taken at the young age of about seven, so they are robbed of their childhood, exposed to death, massacres and killing all before they develop the process of determining what??™s right or wrong in certain situations. That fact alone shows that under extreme conditions, even the most warm hearted child could be manipulated into becoming a killer.
These child soldiers are the victims. They are exploited, violated, and engrossed into a world that authorizes killing. They are abducted from the villages, which is one method in many steps that induces fear, brutality and mental manipulation to achieve respect and conformity by the commanders. This method makes the children fearful of them, which in turn demands obedience and respect, making many of the abducted children willing to take on missions that are beyond their league and experience. It has been quoted by one rebel commander from the Democratic Republic of Congo that ???Children make good fighters because they??™re young and want to show off. They think it is all a game, so they??™re fearless???. This fearless attitude that they develop towards fighting, comes from the simple practice of carrying a gun. They see themselves as indestructible because that is what they are taught. They may be first taught to be a porter, a messenger and some even spies. The main way these children are taught is by doing. This means they are exposed gradually to more and more violence, and are made completely oblivious to the consequences and effects of their actions. Many of them tend to receive little or no training before being thrown into the firing line.
The use of these child soldiers on the front line is slavery. These child soldiers are made to recruit more children and take place in abductions in villages that their armed group is taking over. The use of these children as slaves is not uncommon. They are made to use the natural resources of their land to further fund their armament/militia needs. This type of slavery has been portrayed in the book ???Heart of Darkness??? written by Joseph Conrad where the people in power were corrupt, they imprisoned the natives (which are the children), stole from them, plundered the earth??™s natural resources and they murdered anyone that got in their way.
Life on the front line for these children can bring them face to face with the horrific images of war. These images often leave the child scarred, emotionally as well as physically and the wounds are deep. These children have had their lives taken away from them, their childhoods snatched out of their small hands, their innocents forced from them, robbed of an education and been forced to kill which contributes straight back into the ever continuing circle of death and violence. Amongst all victims child soldiers are amongst the saddest of conflict. These children are stripped of their identity and are made to grow up so quickly. If they survive their time as a child soldier they often find it difficult to rehabilitate because most of them turn to those drugs and the alcohol that gave them that indestructible feeling.
Over 300,000 children under the age of eighteen have been coerced to take up arms as a child soldier. Most child soldiers under the age of eighteen have been recruited into Governmental armed forces. The youngest child soldiers are 7. Over 50 countries currently recruit children under the age of 18 into their armed forces.
These statistics are real.