Mali Child Soldiers: They should be in schools not at war fronts!

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    In Mali, children make up more than half of the population and hundreds of them have joined armed groups. These extremely vulnerable child soldiers in such groups may be subjected to arbitrary executions, torture, kidnapping and sexual abuse.
   The conflict in Mali began in
January 2012, but it was in June 2013 that alarms were raised about the number of child soldiers. Mali was faced with a rebel invasion in the North in January 2012, led by the Tuareg
from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and also the jihadist group Ansar Dine. These two armed groups, supported by the Movement for
Unity and Jihad in Western Africa (MUJAO) are on the one hand, accused of having recruited child soldiers into their ranks, and on the other hand, of having
perpetrated acts of violence against these children. Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo took possession of the country during a coup and since 12th April 2012, the transitional President, Dioncounda Traoré, has failed to restore peace and organise transparent elections.
Some children have been sold to arms groups by family members or school officials in exchange for money. Alternatively, children themselves may have been lured in by money and the appeal of
an apparently ‘adventurous’ life.
Their recruitment is coupled with the destruction and closure of schools. It is estimated that 200,000 Malian children have not had access to education since the
conflict began.!!! Children are no longer in schools but in oversized military uniforms, struggling
under the weight of their heavy weaponry.
International organisations have also denounced the government’s detention of children suspected of being soldiers for the rebel groups.
Despite the intervention of France, and the UN resolution to take military action to liberate the country, children’s rights continue to be violated.
These children are surrounded by violence throughout their childhood, which gradually becomes their only kind of
education.
    How can children ranging from ages between 6 and 15 be exposed to this kind of life?! The disastrous effects (including trauma and violent behaviors) this would have on these children is nearly unspeakable!
    For Christ sake, they are children and should be in schools not at battlefields. The guns and weapons should be replaced with pens and books.!
The Government of Mali should take active steps to protect the future of their children, and country. It is also senseless for the Government to imprison child soldiers claiming that they are ‘rebels’. The international community should not ignore these apparent ongoing violations of children’s rights in Mali because irrespective of the country or region, they are vulnerable children and deserve to be protected.

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