(NNPA/GIN)—Recruited voluntarily or by force, child soldiers (boys and girls under the age of 18) are fighting in more than 30 conflicts worldwide—as combatants, messengers, porters, cooks or for sexual services.
The north African nation of Chad, with 450,000 displaced people in its eastern areas, is beset with child soldiers fighting for both government and rebel forces.
Last week, a picture in The New York Times gripped readers with a heart-rending image of small boys, Mohamed, 12, and Ahmed, 15, holding heavy weapons, trained in killing by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Because that government is backed by the U.S., it is likely that U.S. taxpayer money trained and financed these boys.
American military advisers oversee the training of Somali government soldiers in Uganda and officials acknowledge it is impossible to guarantee that American money is not being used to arm children. Fifteen-year-old Ahmed recalled his training: “One of the things I learned,” he said, “is how to kill with a knife.”
“I’ll be honest,” a Somali government official told the reporter from the Times. “We were trying to find anyone who could carry a gun.”
A U.N. report released last month also accused Somalia’s transitional government and the country’s al-Shabab rebels of killing and maiming children.
The United States and Somalia are the world’s only two countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the use of soldiers younger than 15.