Guest Author - Aisling Ireland
In the Eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) a war has been raging for well over a decade. While war in all forms may be atrocious, the atrocities occurring in this region are particularly disturbing as they are linked to the most vulnerable members of that country's citizens - children. Children are being used, abused, and irreparably traumatized via their recruitment as soldiers in the warring regions military forces. How is this happening? Read on to learn more about the use of children as soldiers and to find out how you can help put an end to this atrocity.
There are a number of groups fighting the war in the Eastern Congo. These groups include the Mai-Mai, RCD-Goma, and the FDD. The groups fighting in the region may have numerous differences, but they also all have one shocking common denominator. Children. The primary face on the front line in the Congolese war belongs to a child. Children comprise the majority of each of the warring groups military force.
Recruitment of Child Soldiers
How are children recruited as soldiers? Various methods are employed. In some cases, children are drugged. In others children are kidnapped. In some cases, children voluntarily "enlist" as soldiers simply as a means to put food in their bellies. Children sometimes see the "army" as a way out of starvation or a way in which they might save their families. Whatever the manner of recruitment, the result of the child's conscription is the same - appalling brutality, loss of humanity, and psychological scarring that will last a lifetime.
Once children have been drafted into the army as soldiers, they are systematically desensitized to violence. Sometimes children are forced to murder members of their own families in order to permanently mark them as outcasts and to prevent them from ever returning to their families. Children are forced to witness and partake in the slaughter of entire villages, to participate not only in the killing of others, but to engage in the mindless dismemberment of human beings. If the children feel fear or are frightened, they are oftentimes given drugs in order to make them capable of being fearless fighters.
Effects of Child Soldier Campaigns
The most obvious effect of using children as soldiers is the immediate trauma the child suffers as a result of this kind of horrific violence. However, the damage that is done by using children as soldiers, by desensitizing children to violence, by training them to participate in atrocities as those previously described is far more reaching. If we truly believe that children are the future, then what kind of future is being shaped by these children? What kind of world can we look forward to that has its foundation in the minds and hearts of children whose innocence was not just robbed, but robbed and then replanted in violence? If children are taught that human beings are nothing more than an end to a means, then how can they be expected to come out of that world as caring, compassionate leaders who will work toward creating a non-violent, self-sufficient society that values each member of its society? The effects of using children as soldiers may have unimaginable consequences that extend over many future generations.
How to Help
One of the ways to help is to contact your Congressperson and make him or her aware that you consider stopping these atrocities to be of primary importance. Contact Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and urge her to use her influence in the Congo. Or better yet, find out why the United States is one of only two United Nations member countries that has failed to sign and ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child and then add your voice to the chorus insisting that the US recognize children's rights as basic human rights.
*~Aisling Ireland~* is long time human rights activist, a active member of Amnesty International, a One Campaign supporter, writer, and an ordained Spiritual Counselor.
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