North Africa: Child soldier recruitment still rampant

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The recruitment of children into militia groups is still a concern in northern Africa as recruiters use child soldiers already in their ranks to lure new recruits with money, clothes and cigarettes. The revelation, made by Amnesty International, also highlights the role of family or ethnic loyalties in the recruitment process. Countries like Sudan and Chad were especially identified as nations where the recruitment of infants into governmental and rebellious brigades is still rampant.

“It is tragic that thousands of children are denied their childhood and are manipulated by adults into fighting their wars. This scandalous child abuse must not be allowed to continue” Erwin van der Borght, Africa program director for Amnesty International told the Associated Press.

Experts say the children can be easily recruited because of poverty. Recruiters are reported to have paid children between $20 and $500 to join.

Some children agree to join the brigades in order to seek revenge for relatives killed, while others see it as a family obligation, the report revealed. In some cases, the children are abducted and forced to join the armed forces.

The exploited children mostly originate from Sudan and Chad, two countries that suffer incessant wars and conflicts

Amnesty International based their report on interviews with 41 former child soldiers and a range of officials between April 2009 and October 2010.

The child exploitation in Chad and Sudan has continued despite limited cross border fighting between the nations following improved governments relations.

However, the unrest in the Chad-Sudan region children have often been targets of government brigades and rebel forces with some Darfur rebels maintaining bases in Chad, and the Chadian groups maintaining bases in Sudan.

“I became upset because people were killing some of my relatives and pillaging our goods. While in the rebellion living conditions were difficult but we had enough food. What was the most difficult was taking part in the fighting. Many of us were my age. There is nothing joyful in the rebellion,” Amnesty International quoted a 17-year-old former child soldier.

“At home we did not have enough for everyone, so I wanted to better our situation and join the army to help my family and my mother,” the 17 year old child soldier added.

According to reports, Chad’s east is a temporary home to more than 250,000 refugees who have fled the conflict in Darfur. There are also camps for 187,000 Chadians displaced by fighting locally and in Darfur.

Children in most conflict zones around Africa remain human resources for war.

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