Child soldiers are one of the greatest disservices of any war.
Taking a young person out of their childhood and forcing them into the violence that is an inescapable part of war is a reality that should never come to pass.
Unfortunately, however, it does. A United Nations document has alleged that South Sudan’s government is recruiting child soldiers again.
Child soldiers are defined as anyone recruited to join an armed unit who is under 18, and the International Criminal Court considers the recruitment of anyone under 15 to be a war crime.
The country has been standing on the precipice of a renewed civil war as peacekeeping efforts have repeatedly failed. According to the document both the government and the rebels use blackmail to coerce families into giving up their children to fight.
It reveals an initiative where President Salva Kiir appointed a senior official to lead the recruitment effort. Accordingly, government forces, or their supporters, are said to have recently used intimidation to recruit an entire village of boys, some as young as 12 years old.
The UN document alleges that the recruitment drive began shortly after the UN Security Council approved sending 4,000 more peacekeepers to the East African nation last week. It is unclear how many children were taken.
In a more statistical report, UNICEF says at least 650 children have joined armed groups in South Sudan this year alone. Overall, around 16,000 child soldiers had been recruited since the country’s initial descent into civil war in December 2013.
UNICEF’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth who recently returned from South Sudan had this to say of the situation; “The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare”. He also spoke of the recruiters saying;
“They believe they can easily control and manipulate young minds,” and that the children “can commit atrocities, and they will do what they are told.”
If the country is again recruiting child soldiers, it is obvious that a renewed civil war is very much at hand and no one is the wiser if the now approved 4000 strong UN peacekeeping force will douse the flames or cause them to flare even higher.