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Congo Soldiers

In: Social Issues

Submitted By ericwright248
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When most people associate any words with children one word that will constantly keep coming to mind will be innocence. Yes innocence which is defined as lack of guile or corruption is the word that comes to mind for most people that live in a civilized setting. However in at least 12 countries in Africa I doubt that children bring thoughts of innocence since many have been forced to join militias and rebel groups that are predominantly associated with one word, death. Even though there have been at least 12 countries with a documented history of child soldiers this paper will focus on one country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The research will describe how and why children are becoming soldiers, what life is like for child soldiers, how some children avoid becoming soldiers, and what happens to the soldiers when they become free.
Since 1997 the Democratic Republic of Congo has become something like a never-ending nightmare, one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, causing more than five million deaths. It seems inconceivable that the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and on paper one of the richest, packed with copper, diamonds and gold, as well as immense farmlands of great fertility and enough hydropower to light up the continent, is now one of the poorest, and most hopeless nations on earth. Unfortunately, there are no promising solutions within grasp, or even within sight. One of the gloomiest parts about this nightmarish conflict is the use of child soldiers. The overwhelming majority of child soldiers in the Congo have been kidnapped from their families by rebel groups. It has been estimated that one in ten child soldiers or 30,000 children are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations believes that 15-30% of all newly recruited soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo army are less than 18 years old. One of the reasons the army, and the rebels, use child soldiers is that the enemy cannot find it in themselves to kill children. As a result, the number of recruits remains high as fewer of them are killed during battle. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, child soldiers are forced to commit the most atrocious acts of murder, acts which mentally scar them for life. For example a report from Amnesty International said that as a 15-year old a male soldier named Kalami was forced to kill an entire family. Not only was he forced to kill the entire family but his commanders also made him cut up the bodies and eat them as well. In the report he goes on to say “my life is lost, I have nothing to live for”. This act is just one of the many horrifying examples of the things these children are forced to do by the leaders of these militias. But it’s not only the male children that are forced to do things they have no desire to do, as most female child soldiers are frequently used as sexual slaves by the commanders. Many of these girls will have their first child by 13 and have no idea who the father is because they are sexually assaulted by such numerous amounts of men in the army.
Most child soldier’s lives consist of serving on the frontlines, fighting for control of villages and looting the homes of the civilians. Other children serve as spies, scouts, porters, cooks and bodyguards for officers. But most if not all of the children are given what is called a “morale booster” which is a combination of marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol. Since the overwhelming majority of children do not want to actually commit these atrocious acts of murder, rape, mutilation and so on, this “morale booster” puts them in a drugged up mental state that makes them similar to zombies that are very easy for their commanders to control.
Many of the children are abducted into the army when they least expect it, which makes it almost impossible to avoid. Children are usually abducted when they are at school, walking on rural roads, from their homes in the middle of the night, and even in the middle of the day at gunpoint. So since there has been no prominent research done on how children avoid being abducted into these armies the closest thing to that info are the stories about soldiers that escape from these armies. The only chance for most of these children to escape is at night when they must make their way through an entire makeshift army base without being detected. Many will be caught by fellow members of the army and tortured or killed during this process. Still some make it out but that usually leads to another treacherous task which is to navigate through hours upon hours of jungle as most of these militias are based deep in the Jungles of the Congo. Just because a child does happen to make it through all these impediments that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can just go back home and start their lives again where they left off.
If the children that do successfully make their escapes from these armies find their way home, many are unable to return to their families. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that many people were killed in the numerous wars and some of these children may not have any immediate family left. Secondly, some families will not accept child soldiers back, to them these children have killed and are just not welcome at home. Other families discourage their children from returning home so they can protect themselves from being harmed by other members of their community who think those former child soldiers are responsible for killing or any other ruthless acts. Thankfully for these former child soldiers there are some places in the Congo that have been set up specifically for the rehabilitation of child soldiers by the United Nations, Unicef, and many other humanitarian groups. These centers send these children to school, teach them some sort of trade, but mainly focus on getting them readjusted to civilian life.
In conclusion it seems as though unfortunate as it is for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo these conflicts have no immediate end in sight. Specifically the use of child soldiers in the armies of the Congo has no immediate end in sight. This subject has been a topic debated at the United Nations for years, there has even been a number of a treaties passed. The Democratic Republic of Congo has ratified a number of international treaties which protect the rights of children. In 2001, for example, they ratified the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1341, which called for an end to the recruitment of child soldiers and to ensure their release, return, and rehabilitation. According to reports done by Amnesty International, these commitments have proved to be little more than public relations exercises for the Congo. Hopefully these conflicts in the Congo can come to an end soon and as Olara Otunna a lawyer, and the president of the Uganda People's Congress said “with any luck these children in the Congo will no longer be compelled to become instruments of war, to kill or be killed, and forced to give violent expression to the hatreds of adults”.

Bibliography
Murdock, Heather. "Child Soldiers in Congo Live in Fear and Loathing." The Washingtion Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/19/child-soldiers-in-congo-live-in-fear-and-loathing/?page=all>.
Gettleman, Jeffrey. "NEWS ANALYSIS; The World’s Worst War." The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/sunday-review/congos-never-ending-war.html?pagewanted=all>.
Gordts, Eline. "Congo War: Everything You Need To Know To Understand The Conflict In Goma." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/congo-war-goma_n_2206167.html>.
Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo. YouTube. YouTube, 22 May 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYqrflGpTRE>.…...

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