Saturday, October 31, 2009

Child Soldiers in Congo

The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict estimates that in Congo, there are about 30,000 gun toting children under 18. Instead of going to school, they are trained to kill by the very adults who are supposed to be protecting them. Both genders participate in the conflict. Girl soldiers, on the other hand, are also used as sex slaves. Most of them end up pregnant and/or catch sexually transmitted diseases.

The Congolese government has done nothing to demoblize these child combatants. The few transition centers are run by organizations like UNICEF but they aren't able to accomodate all the children. So a majority go without counseling and educational/life skills training.To make matters worse, many of the children are orphaned as a result of the conflict, which makes it easy for the militias to kidnap the kids again. Those who try to return to their families are rejected because of their association with the rebels. They end up living on the streets.

The girls have no other choice but to sell their bodies to the UN peacekeepers. It's no wonder that many kids rejoin the rebels in order to get food and money.This vicious cycle of poverty can only end if a ban on arms trafficking to militias is enforced.

It's time that the western governments and corporations stopped profiting from wars in Africa and focused more on creating a better world for all people. Afterall, Africa's children have the same fundamental rights as kids everywhere.

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