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Coalition Calls for UN Sanctions Against African Countries Using Child Soldiers


A coalition fighting the use of children as soldiers is calling on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against African countries that continue to use child soldiers.

In a report detailing the global use of children as soldiers, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers says many children in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda are engaged in war.

"It is estimated that there are approximately 30,000 children who are involved and active with the armed groups," said Tony Tate, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "These include boys and girls as young as nine and 10 years old serving as fighters, porters, domestics, cooks and, in the case of girls, sexual slaves to commanding officers."

Mr. Tate says although the government of President Joseph Kabila has reprimanded its field commanders against recruiting children into units fighting rebels in the eastern part of the country, the practice is still rampant.

The report, that was compiled by organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and World Vision, shows that more than 100,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers in Africa between 2001 and 2004. Of this number half were in the Great Lakes region where regional conflict involving at least seven countries peaked in 2003.

The global report also lists Uganda's government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army as abusers.

"The Lord's Resistance Army involvement also includes forcing children to kill," said Geoffrey Oyat, program manager with Save the Children Fund in Uganda. "Once abducted the children are systematically taken through a system of orchestrated events, which change them from victim to perpetrators because they begin to believe that the only place they have is with the Lord's Resistance Army."

The Uganda government denies the charges it uses child soldiers in its fight against the rebel's.

Mr. Oyat, of Save the Children in Uganda, says although the government tries to distance itself from local defense units notorious for recruiting child soldiers, it is directly involved.

"The truth of the matter is the local defense units are armed, deployed and commanded by the government forces. It is therefore the government's duty to see to it that children are not in the ranks of this category," he said.

The coalition is calling on the U.N. Security Council, which meets Thursday and Friday in Nairobi, to impose sanctions on the countries that continue to use child soldiers.

Henri Nzeyimana of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers read the recommendations. "We ask the U.N. Security Council to refer them to the International Criminal Court for prosecution," he said. "The U.N. Security Council and the African Union should also consider applying targeted sanctions to those parties and governments who continue to flout obligations applicable to them. There can be restrictions on travel, bans on arms trade, military training and assistance, exclusion from governance, and all forms of immunity."

The coalition will not participate in the two-day U.N. Security Council meeting, but says it decided to co-launch the report in London and Nairobi to lobby participants to press their case.

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