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Child Soldiers And Blood Diamonds

My Report on Child Soldiers

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My Report on Child Soldiers
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Recently I watched the movie Blood Diamond and I thought it unearthed some very good topics for a final project. I have decided to research child soldiers around the world, but more specifically in Africa where this movie takes place. This movie showed a graphic portrayal of life in Africa ranging from rebellion, child soldiers, the slave trade and everything in between.  The main plot of this movie is a rebel raid on a village for slaves to work the mines and for kids to fill their ranks. The movie tells the true life account of a father who was forced into slavery. While working the mine he finds a large, very rare pink diamond that he uses in his pursuit to rescue his son from the life of a child soldier. I have always been interested in child soldiers since first hearing about them several years ago, but this movie really opened my eyes. I plan on researching the effects war has on these kids, both mental and physical. The conditions these child soldiers experience affect both them and their communities.  

The definition of a child soldier is a child under the age of 18 who directly or indirectly participates in a military or political armed conflict. These include children recruited to the country's armed forces or to non-governmental military organizations, even if the country in question is in a state of peace. (The South African Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect)

In over twenty countries around the world, children are direct participants in war.  Most countries that have child soldiers are poor African countries and the poor South Asian countries. There are an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in current armed conflicts. The most common weapons are AK-47s and M-16s, due to the high number of these weapons on the market and the relative lack of skill required to become proficient with them. Child soldiers participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare, such as serving on the front lines of combat or as human mine detectors (they are often sent out in front of the older, more experienced troops in an effort to clear a safe passage). Other jobs include suicide missions, carrying supplies, and acting as spies, messengers, or lookouts.

 While these kids are soldiers they are subjected to horrific violence on a routine basis; the girl soldiers are often raped by the other soldiers and are forced to do sexual favors for the older officers and commanders. The boys are often forced to rape the captured women from the raided villages. Children are even sometimes forced to commit atrocities against their own family or neighbors. Such practices help ensure that the child is "stigmatized" and unable to return to his or her home community. The movie Blood Diamond illustrated this aspect in very good detail. 

 Children make good soldiers because they are physically vulnerable and easily intimidated; this makes them very obedient. Many of the kids are so young that they can be brainwashed into believing that what they are doing is perfectly acceptable.  Many are abducted or recruited by force, and often compelled to follow orders under threat of death. Other children join armed groups out of desperation. As society breaks down during the conflict, it leaves children no access to school, driving them from their homes or separating them from family members. Many children perceive armed groups as their best chance for survival. Others seek escape from poverty or join military forces to avenge family members who have been killed.

As a result of the excessive amounts of brutal violence and other horrors these children have been exposed to and participated in, many of them have serious mental and physical scars after they grow up. In some countries there are treatment centers that are trying to recuperate these child soldiers. According to the South African Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (SASPCAN) there are several issues to consider in healing trauma, which are:

 The state of terror – living with extended violence and war, dynamics of force, authority and obedience, psychological manipulation, the use and abuse of mind-altering substances, post traumatic stress disorder, the severance of all primary familial ties, surrogate attachments based on total power, dependency and survival – traumatic bonding, cultural and communal estrangement, political and economic fragmentation.

 After diagnosing the trauma you must then begin the recovery of the patient.  These rehabilitative programs do this by first deconstructing the past and then reconstructing the future. Recovery involves an intensive three-stage process: 1. Establishment of safety, 2.Remembrance and mourning, and 3.Reconnection with ordinary life. The two main recovery models currently in use are the Treatment model and the Sanctuary model.  In the Treatment model your main goals are:

Concentrate on safety, stimulating social contacts, opportunities, learning to handle aggression, learning to relate constructively with adults, learning to deal with the past, learning to deal with PTSD symptoms, and finally learning to deal with drug abuse. 

The Sanctuary models’ main focus is merging the troubled youth into a nurturing community that creates a feeling of safety, and promotes well being. The focus here is on a therapeutic community rather than an individual therapist -client relationship. They show a good example of this in Blood Diamond  when  an older man brings the kids into a safe community where he  can begin the task of reintegrating them into normal society.

 During my research for both essay three and the final project I was able to gather a lot of information on the topic of child soldiers and as a result the environment that fosters the growth of such soldiers. The websites I visited were full of information regarding the plight of child soldiers and are full of personal accounts from former child soldiers and their families.  These accounts are heart breaking and make it clear that this is not the sort of environment that you would want yourself or kids to grow up in. The movie Blood Diamond turned out to be a very accurate portrayal of blood diamonds (diamonds that come from conflict areas and were mined using slave labor) and as a result child soldiers. Everything I found during my research was portrayed and supported in this movie. 

In recent years there has been several treaties signed in an effort to put a stop to the use of children in war. In 2000, the United Nations adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This protocol prohibits the forced recruitment of children under the age of 18 or their use in hostilities. It also makes it a war crime to enlist or conscript anyone under the age of 15 for use in active armed conflict. To date, it has been ratified by more than 110 countries and was passed unanimously.  The International Labor Organization passed a similar ban on the recruitment and use of child soldiers, this treaty has been ratified by over 150 countries.  Although both of these agreements make it clear that it is against international humanitarian law to have children under the age of 18 participating as active soldiers, it doesn’t guarantee it. This is due to the fact that most places that employee child soldiers, are poor war torn areas with few natural resources. These areas are often run by rebel militias and gangs that need a steady supply of soldiers, to fight for and control the natural resources of their country.