Child Soldiers Burundi and Sudan 1992-2002 Research Proposal

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Child Soldiers in Burundi and Sudan: 1992-2002

The convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 is one of the most prominent international humanitarian treaties in world history. It entered into force quicker than any other treaty and currently only two countries (the United States and Somalia) have not ratified it.

Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF says that the Convention has become "the centerpiece of a global movement, a movement that reflects a growing awareness of the importance of safeguarding human rights, and child rights in particular."

Yet, during the 1990's, more children in Africa became victims of, and combatants in, war than at any time in history according to a report in Human Rights Watch entitled "Promises Broken."

Named by the International Community for being two of the worst violators of children's rights are the countries of Burundi and Sudan, the situation in both countries is described as critical. Devastating civil wars continue and the Burundi and Sudanese people are subject to gross human rights abuses, such as slavery, hunger, and forced relocation. In the case of Sudan, the army and government militias forcibly recruit underage boys.

While in Burundi, the existence of military schools known as training centers have dramatically increased the number of children 13-18 years involved in military activities.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Proposal on Child Soldiers Burundi and Sudan 1992-2002 Assignment

Perhaps even more alarming than the fact that there are so many children being forced to participate in the military, especially armed combat is the fact that the International Community has done relatively little to stop this gross human rights violation. There has been no major, concerted effort to stop the violence in these two African countries. On the contrary, the limited assistance that has been given to innocent civilians has often been so haphazard that it has actually aided those at war. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, living in refugee situations, yet none of the major world powers has offered asylum to the victims. In fact, the United States has not even endorsed the one international law that attempts to prohibit the use of children in military situations.

There are almost certainly racist implications for the failure of the Western world to become involved in Burundi and Sudan. However, chalking up the inaction to racism is overly simplistic and ignores the many complicated factors that have helped contribute to the world ignoring this problem and allowing these children to be so vastly mistreated. In addition, there is a question of how the International Community could provide meaningful assistance to these children. Any military action against the countries would undoubtedly result, at least in the short-term, in the deaths of the very child-soldiers that the intervening countries would be attempting to save. Furthermore, there is a question about what to do with these children if they were rescued from the area. It is well-documented that adults experience post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related mental health issues. The world's mental health community has not found adequate ways of treating those disorders in adults, much less addressing them in children.

Problem Statement

There are more than 120,000 children under 18 years old who are currently participating in armed conflicts across Africa. Two of the countries most affected are Burundi and Sudan. Both of these countries have been locked in violent civil wars, which are the result of strife that has been building for generations among different subgroups. The violence in both areas quickly erupted to include civilians, many of whom had played no role in the initial attacks or violence. However, as the violence has grown, so has the division in both countries, polarizing people and greatly exacerbating existing tensions. Moreover, as the violence has grown, these countries have seen their adult male populations shrink dramatically due to civil unrest and the HIV / AIDS pandemic, so that, in order to carry on a war effort, leaders have felt it necessary to turn their children into soldiers.


In order to understand the extent of the problem of child soldiers, one must first understand the backgrounds from which these children come. Their countries have both been ravaged by long-standing wars and by the HIV / AIDS pandemic, leaving children vulnerable to exploitation by adults. In Burundi, it is currently estimated that 2% of the adult population is infected with HIV / AIDS.

In Sudan, it is currently estimated that 1.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV / AIDS.

Current estimates may be gaining accuracy, but previous estimates, at least from the governments themselves, tended to be lower than the actual prevalence, with ignorance about the disease, its causation, its transmission, its prevention, and its treatment rampant, especially in Sub-Saharan countries like Burundi. Moreover, it is important to consider how much higher those rates are than in Western countries, and who in the population is most impacted by HIV / AIDS. It is a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the young and those of reproductive age. In addition, due to a lack of treatment availability, especially in the 1990s, it was a diagnosis that was frequently synonymous with death. Of course, this left many children infected with HIV / AIDS, but infected children were not the group left most vulnerable to this condition. On the contrary, older children, born before parental infection, were oftentimes orphaned, and left to care for younger siblings, many of whom may have also been impacted by HIV / AIDS. In addition, nationwide percentages do not give an accurate view of how HIV / AIDS can impact isolated or semi-isolated rural areas, where it is possible, perhaps even likely, for entire generations of families to fall prey to the disease. The parentless children of that generation were especially vulnerable to predation and intimidation.

In addition to wars and AIDS, these countries have experienced problems with hunger and famine. For example, Sudan had the second-highest rate of childhood malnutrition in the Middle East and North Africa for the period in question.

While sub-Saharan Africa generally has higher rates of malnutrition and underweight children, the rates in Burundi were among the highest in the area, with nearly 40% of children considered underweight or malnourished.

While the armies and armed gangs certainly used intimidation and threats to coerce children into being in the army, it is important to consider that some of these children ostensibly chose to become involved in the military, because they could eat if they were in the military. Of course, the choice between starvation and being a child soldiers seems to be clearly no choice at all, but the ugly reality is that military service may certainly have seemed to be a more appealing alternative to some of these children.

Currently it is estimated that there are over 17,000 children serving as combatants in Burundi and Sudan, though that number is extremely difficult to estimate.

Over the ten-year period from 1992-2002, it is estimated that approximately 14,000 children, some as young as 12, served as combatants in Burundi.

However, that estimate was based on the current number of children serving as combatants, leading one to the conclusion that the overall number must be much higher due to the high rate of fatalities among child soldiers. In that same period, tens of thousands of children served in the military in Sudan.

One of the problems with addressing this problem is that it is difficult to quantify, as described in the above paragraph. The best estimates of the number of children who have been used in soldiers in the Sudan places the number in the tens of thousands, but with 2,000,000 dead as a result of the civil war, attributing the cause of death and determining whether casualties were among combatants and non-combatants can be virtually impossible.

Unlike the armies of well-developed countries, which keep meticulous records about their military forces, the armies in Burundi and Sudan are rag-tag operations. They fail to keep even the most rudimentary written records about their armed forces. In addition, it can be virtually impossible for outside organizations or agencies to obtain access, so that they can document the number of children forced into the army. Therefore, the problem of statistical reliability plagues any discussion of this issue.

Legal Standards

Although not all countries agree as to the legal standards governing the use of children in combat, there is an overarching agreement that children should not be used as combatants. Moreover, the vast majority of countries have agreed that children should not be used in military activities. There is an international agreement on the minimum age of recruitment and participation in armed conflict, however that agreement is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce, especially during times of conflict. Non-governmental organizations, such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch can provide guidance to countries, but generally tend to lack the enforcement power to ensure that countries comply with these guidelines. An Optional Protocol to the Committee on the Rights of the Child could play a significant role in establishing legal standards for the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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