Child Soldiers

The New Faces of War

The rebels told me to join them, but I said no. Then they killed my smaller brother. I changed my mind.

–L., age 71

By P. W. Singer

One of the original sins of humanity has been its inability to live at peace. From the very beginning of history, conflicts over food, territory, riches, power, and prestige have been an almost constant recurrence. Indeed, much of what is written in human history is simply a history of warfare. The world that we know today, from the states that we live in to the technology that we use daily, has been greatly shaped by violent struggle.2

Yet even in this most terrible realm of societal violence, rules of behavior developed. Among the very first was the differentiation between warriors and civilians. In even the most primitive societies, a distinction was made between those who chose to bear the risks involved in the profession of fighting and those who lay outside the field of battle. In a sense, a bargain was struck. Honor and power were accorded to the warriors. In exchange, civilians were granted a sort of guarantee of protection from their depredations. While it applied to all those who were unarmed, special immunity was usually given to certain groups: the old, the infirm, women, and, most particularly, children.3

While certainly not always complied with, this "law of the innocents" had been one of the most enduring rules of war, arguably the most important of what legal theorists term jus in bello (laws in war). The deliberate targeting of civilians, in particular children, has been the single greatest taboo of all, extending from ancient Chinese philosophy and traditional African tribal societies to the state signatories of the modern-day Geneva Conventions.

Unfortunately, in the chaos and callousness of modern-day warfare, this law has seemingly broken down. Civilians have always suffered in war, but the difference today is that in many present-day conflicts they are the primary target. Tactics of ethnic cleansing and genocide have replaced the strict codes of conduct and chivalry that guided such military social orders as medieval European feudalism and ancient Japanese Bushido. Whereas wars were once fought almost exclusively between soldiers, in recent decades, the worldwide percentage of victims from wars has become predominantly civilian. In World War I, civilian casualties were under 10 percent of the total; in World War II, they had risen to nearly 50 percent. The evolution continued through the next 50 years, to the point that now the overwhelming majority of those killed in conflicts are civilians, not soldiers. For example, of all the persons killed in African conflicts in the late 20th century, 92 percent were civilians. Similar figures hold true for the wars in the Balkans.4 Civilians once had no place on the battlefield; now the battlefield is almost incomplete without them.

In particular, the once unimaginable targeting of children has become a widespread tactic of war. Examples run from the Serb snipers during the Sarajevo siege who deliberately shot at children walking between their parents, to Rwandan radio broadcasts before the 1994 genocide that reminded genocidal Hutu killers to be sure not to forget "the little ones." The resulting tolls from this shift in attitudes are staggering. In the last decade of warfare, more than two million children have been killed, a rate of more than 500 a day, or one every three minutes, for a full 10 years. As you read this article, these numbers are growing only larger.

As the most basic laws of war have been increasingly violated, there is a new, perhaps even more disturbing element: Not only have children become the new targets of violence and atrocities in war, but many now have also become the perpetrators. The use of child soldiers is far more widespread than the scant attention it typically receives.

Twenty-three percent of the armed organizations in the world (84 out of 366 total) use children age 15 and under in combat roles. Eighteen percent of the total (64 of 366) use children 12 and under.5 While the exact average age of the entire set of child soldiers around the world is not known, there are clues. For example, in one survey taken of child soldiers in Asia, the average age of recruitment was 13. However, as many as 34 percent were taken in under the age of 12.6 In a separate study in Africa, 60 percent were 14 and under.7 Another study in Uganda found the average age to be 12.9.8 Indeed, many child soldiers are recruited so young that they do not even know how old they are. As one boy from Sierra Leone, thought to have been 7 or 8 when he was taken, tells, "We just fought. We didn't know our age."9

There's a Child Soldier Near You

By the turn of the 21st century, child soldiers had served in significant numbers on every continent of the globe except Antarctica. They have become integral parts of both organized military units and nonmilitary, but still violent, political organizations, including rebel and terrorist groups. They serve as combatants in a variety of roles: infantry shock troops, raiders, sentries, spies, trench diggers, and porters. In short, the participation of children in armed conflict is now global in scope and massive in number.

Quick snapshots from around the world give us a feel for how child soldiers are being used to achieve political and criminal ends:

The Americas

In the Americas since 1990, child soldiers have fought in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico (in the Chiapas conflict), Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru. The most substantial numbers are in Colombia. There, more than 11,000 children are being used as soldiers, meaning that one out of every four irregular combatants is underage. They have served on both the rebel side, in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) organizations, and with the Colombian government's military and rightist paramilitary groups such as the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC). As many as two-thirds of these child fighters are under 15 years of age, with the youngest being 7 years old.10

Child soldiers in Colombia are nicknamed "little bells" by the military that uses them as expendable sentries, and "little bees" by the FARC guerrillas, because they "sting" their enemies before the enemies know they are under attack. In urban militias, they are called "little carts," as they can sneak weapons through checkpoints without suspicion. Up to 30 percent of some FARC guerrilla units are made up of children. These child guerrillas are used to collect intelligence, make and deploy mines, and serve as advance troops in ambush attacks against paramilitaries, soldiers, and police officers. For example, when the FARC attacked the Guatape hydroelectric facility in 1998, the employees of the power plant reported that some of the attackers were as young as 8 years old. In 2001, the FARC even released a training video that showed boys as young as 11 working with missiles.11 In turn, some government-linked paramilitary units are 85 percent children, with soldiers as young as 8 years old seen patrolling.12 There has also been cross-border spillover of the practice. The FARC recruits children from as far away as Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador, some as young as 10.13

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The majority of child soldiers in Europe have fought in opposition groups in the east, serving in Chechnya, Daghestan, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. For example, young teens fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the war against the Serbs in 1997–98. Many children have since joined the other Albanian rebel groups attempting to break away bits of territory from Serbia and Macedonia, serving in both the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB) and the Albanian National Liberation Army. In Chechnya, Russian commanders are now wrestling with the fact that, as the war has persisted, they are faced with younger and younger opposition fighters. As one Russian colonel commented, "In the [separatist] bands there are more and more youths, ages 14–16. They place the mines; they fire at the checkpoints. An adolescent does not even understand what he is being killed for...."14 It is in Turkey, though, where most child soldiers in Europe are found. In 1994, the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) began the systematic recruitment of children, even creating dedicated children's regiments.


Africa is often considered to be at the epicenter of the child soldier phenomenon. Armed groups using child soldiers cover the continent and are present in nearly every one of its myriad of wars. The result appears to be an almost endemic link between children and warfare in Africa. For example, a survey in Angola revealed that 36 percent of all Angolan children had either served as soldiers or accompanied troops into combat.15 Similar patterns hold for children in Liberia, which has seen two waves of wars over the last decade. First, Charles Taylor seized power as the head of a mainly youth rebel army in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade, Taylor faced new foes in the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), rebel groups that also used child soldiers to eventually topple him in 2003. The United Nations estimates that some 20,000 children served as combatants in Liberia's war, up to 70 percent of the various factions' fighting forces.16 Of particular note in Africa is the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, renowned, or rather infamous, for being made up almost exclusively of child soldiers. It has abducted more than 14,000 children to turn into soldiers. The LRA also holds the ignoble record for having the world's youngest reported armed combatant, age 5.17

The areas where child soldiers have been present read like a master list of the continent's worst zones of violence. In Somalia, boys 14 to 18 regularly fight in warlord militias. In Rwanda, thousands of children are thought to have participated in the 1994 genocide in which Hutus killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. For example, one rehabilitation camp alone housed some 486 suspected child genocidaires. The boys were all younger than 14 when they allegedly took part in the mass killings of thousands.18 Across the border, in the ongoing fighting between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi, up to 14,000 children have fought in the war, many as young as 12.19 Indeed, at the start of the war, Hutu rebel groups sent between 3,000 and 5,000 children to training camps in the Central African Republic, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Since then, refugee and street children in these countries and Kenya have also been recruited for the fighting in Burundi. Similar practices prevail in fighting to the east in Congo-Brazzaville and Côte d'Ivoire (where there are some 3,000 child soldiers), while to the north, large numbers of Ethiopian youths fought in their country's war with Eritrea.

Child soldiers have also become a common feature of the continent's largest conflict, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The fighting in what used to be Zaire began in 1996 with the revolt led by Laurent Kabila. His army had some 10,000 child soldiers between the ages of 7 and 16.20 As the war spread, it involved armies from eight different countries and a multitude of rebel groups. It continues today. Estimates are that there are presently between 30,000 and 50,000 child soldiers in the DRC—as many as 30 percent of all combatants.21 In Bunia district, a particularly nasty war zone where European peacekeepers were deployed in summer 2003, children make up between 60 and 75 percent of the warring militias (8,000 to 10,000 in the restive town of Ituri alone).22

Congolese child soldiers were known as kadogos, "little ones" in Swahili. They have been so prevalent that they even served in Kabila's Presidential Guard. Indeed, when Kabila was later assassinated in January 2001, many held his unruly kadogos responsible. The ultimate blame fell on a boy serving as his bodyguard, who was shot during the ensuing firefight.23

The Middle East and Central Asia

The Middle East is another area where child soldiers have become an integral part of the fighting. Children today are engaged in fighting in Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran (as part of rebel groups now fighting against the regime), Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Yemen. These include children younger than 15 serving in a number of radical Islamic groups. Young teens are also at the center of fighting in Palestine, making up as much as 70 percent of the participants in the intifada.

The first modern use of child soldiers in the region was actually during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Iranian law, based on the Koranic sharia, had forbid the recruitment of children under 16 into the armed forces. However, a few years into the fighting, the regime began to falter in its war with its neighbor, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. So it chose to ignore its own laws, and in 1984, Iranian President Ali-Akbar Rafsanjani declared that "all Iranians from 12 to 72 should volunteer for the Holy War."24 Thousands of children were pulled from schools, indoctrinated in the glory of martyrdom, and sent to the front lines only lightly armed with one or two grenades or a gun with one magazine of ammunition. Wearing keys around their necks (to signify their pending entrance into heaven), they were sent forward in the first waves of attacks to help clear paths through minefields with their bodies and overwhelm Iraqi defenses. Iran's spiritual leader at the time, Ayatollah Khomeini, delighted in the children's sacrifice and extolled that they were helping Iran to achieve "a situation which we cannot describe in any way except to say that it is a divine country."25

Iraq, in turn, enrolled child soldiers in that conflict, and more recently, under Saddam Hussein, built up an entire apparatus designed to pull children into conflict. This included the noted Ashbal Saddam (Saddam's Lion Cubs), a paramilitary force of boys between the ages of 10 and 15 that was formed after the first Gulf War and received training in small arms and light infantry tactics. More than 8,000 young Iraqis were members of this group in Baghdad alone.26 During the recent war that ended Saddam Hussein's regime, American forces engaged with Iraqi child soldiers in the fighting in at least three cities (Nasariya, Karbala, and Kirkuk).27 This was in addition to the many instances of children being used as human shields by Saddam loyalists during the fighting.28 As the insurgency picked up in spring 2003, rebel leaders sought to mobilize this cohort of trained and indoctrinated young fighters. Over the next weeks and months, incidents between U.S. forces and armed Iraqi children began to grow, ranging from child snipers to a 15-year-old who tossed a grenade into an American truck, blowing off the leg of a U.S. army trooper.29 As the fighting picked up intensity starting in spring 2004, child soldiers served not only in Saddam loyalist forces, but also in both radical Shia and Sunni insurgent groups. U.S. Marines fighting in the battle to retake Falluja in November 2004 reported numerous instances of being fired upon by "12 year old children with assault rifles" and wrestled with the dilemmas it presented. The overall numbers of Iraqi children involved in the fighting are not yet known. But the indicators are that they do play a significant and growing role in the insurgency. For example, British forces have detained more than 60 juveniles during their operations in Iraq, while U.S. forces have captured 107 Iraqi juveniles determined to be "high risk" security threats. Most were held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.30

Sudan has seen the largest use of child soldiers in the region, with estimates reaching as high as 100,000 children who have served on both sides of the two decades-old civil war. Since 1995, the Islamic government in the north has conscripted boys as young as 12 into the army and the paramilitary Popular Defense Forces. Homeless and street children have been a particular target. Poor and refugee children who work or live on the streets have been rounded up into special closed camps. Ostensibly orphanages, these camps have often acted as reservoirs for army conscripts.31 The government has also targeted children in the towns it holds in the south to use against their kinsmen in the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). One report found that 22 percent of the total primary school population in Wahda province had been recruited into the Sudanese army or pro-government militias, the youngest being 9 years old.32

The SPLA rebel group, in turn, has relied greatly on child fighters in its battle with the government. While it recently made a public relations gambit in demobilizing 3,000 child soldiers, another 7,000 of its fighters (roughly 30 percent of its forces) are thought to be underage.33 Actually, the SPLA began a practice of "warehousing" young recruits in the mid-1980s. It would encourage and organize young boys to flee to refugee camps located beside its bases on the Ethiopian border. At the boys-only camps, those past the age of 12 would be given full-time military courses, while those younger were trained during school breaks. These boys became the basis of what was known as the Red Army, and were even subcontracted out to the Ethiopian army while it was still allied with the SPLA.34 Many of these boys later became the core of the famous Lost Boys of Sudan.


Children are engaged in insurgencies underway in Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the Solomon Islands. In India, some 17 different rebel groups are suspected of using child soldiers, including along the volatile Kashmiri border with Pakistan.35

Children have particularly been at the center of the explosion of rebel groups and internecine fighting on the many islands of Indonesia, such as in Ambon.36 There, thousands of Muslim and Christian boys have formed local paramilitary units that protect and raid against the other community. As one local aid worker notes, "They [the boys] are so proud of their contribution. It's a common thing for them to say they've killed. Since the government can't seem to do anything, they all say they have an obligation to protect their families and their religion."37

It is estimated that Myanmar has more than 75,000 child soldiers, one of the highest numbers of any country in the world, serving both within the state army and the ethnic armed groups pitted against the regime. The army pulls in young children through its Ye Nyunt (Brave Sprouts) camps. As many as 45 percent of its total recruits are under age 18. Twenty percent are under 15, with some as young as 11. The various rebel groups are estimated to have another 6,000 to 8,000 child soldiers.38

*  *  *

The generally accepted estimate is that well over 300,000 children are currently fighting in wars or have recently been demobilized.39 However, this figure is from a series of country case studies (26 in all) and thus may be at the low end of the likely total, given the number of conflicts that were not included in the studies. When looking at the armed forces actually involved in conflict in the world at this time (as opposed to those at peace), these 300,000 child soldiers make up nearly 10 percent of all combatants.40 What is more significant is that this number was near zero just a few decades ago.

Any debate over the numbers, though, belies the real issue at hand, the vast changes in war and breakdown in norms that these figures signify. Graça Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique and wife of Nelson Mandela, has served as a special expert for the United Nations on the topic. She perhaps said it best:

These statistics are shocking enough, but more chilling is the conclusion to be drawn from them: More and more of the world is being sucked into a desolate moral vacuum. This is a space devoid of the most basic human values; a space in which children are slaughtered, raped, and maimed; a space in which children are exploited as soldiers; a space in which children are starved and exposed to extreme brutality. Such unregulated terror and violence speak of deliberate victimization. There are few further depths to which humanity can sink.41

From Children to Soldiers

Transforming a child into a fairly effective combatant is disturbingly simple. It begins with recruitment, either through abduction or "voluntary" means. Recruitment is rapidly followed by cruel but straightforward methods of training and conversion. Brutality and abuses of the worst kind underscore each stage, but these lie in part behind the overall program's usual effectiveness. The ultimate aim of the process is to foster a child's dependency on an armed organization and inhibit escape.

Case studies indicate that in the majority of conflicts, a widely used method of recruitment of children is some form of abduction. Typically, recruiting parties are given conscription targets that change according to the group's needs and objectives. For example, the Union of Congolese Patriots for Reconciliation and Peace (UPC/RP), a militia led by Thomas Lubanga in eastern Congo, has a policy that each family within its area of control must provide a cow, money, or child to the group.42 Often, the groups are more efficient. For example, the LRA in Uganda sets numeric goals for child recruits and sends raiding parties into villages to meet them.43

The decision of where groups carry out their operations to find their recruits is also based on planned efforts to maximize the efficiency of their efforts. The most frequent targets are secondary schools or orphanages, where children of suitable size are collected in one place, but out of contact with their parents, who would try to spirit them away. Indeed, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) even took to setting up a unit formed exclusively of orphans, the elite Sirasu Puli (Leopard Brigade).44 The Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma) and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) are two other groups that also target schools almost exclusively, using kidnapping or coercion to pull in kids. Another common target area is the marketplace. For instance, during the Ethiopian fighting in the 1990s, a common practice was that armed militias would simply surround the public bazaar. They would order every male to sit down and then force into a truck anyone deemed "eligible." This often included minors.

Homeless or street children are at particular risk, as they are most vulnerable to sweeps aimed at them, which prompt less public outcry. In Sudan, for instance, the government set up camps for street children, and then rounded up children to fill them in a purported attempt to "clean up" Khartoum. These camps, however, served as reservoirs for army conscription.45

Other groups that are in frequent danger are refugee and IDP (internally displaced persons) populations. In many instances, families on the run become disconnected. Armed groups then target unaccompanied, and thus more vulnerable, minors.

Not all children are forced into soldiering, though. Many may "choose" to join an armed group and thus the groups that use them often claim they broke no moral codes. The rough trend line seems to be that nearly two out of every three child soldiers have some sort of initiative in their own recruitment. For example, estimates are that 40 percent of the FARC's child soldiers are forced into service, and 60 percent joined of their own volition.46 Another survey in East Asia found that 57 percent of the children had volunteered.47 Finally, a survey of child soldiers in four African countries found that 64 percent joined under no threat of violence.48

To describe this choice as voluntary, however, is greatly misleading.49 The most basic reason that children join armed groups is that they are driven to do so by forces beyond their control. A particularly strong factor is economic. Hunger and poverty are endemic in conflict zones. Children, particularly those orphaned or disconnected from civil society, may volunteer to join any group if they believe that this is the only way to guarantee regular meals, clothing, or medical attention. As one young boy in the DRC explained, "I joined [President Laurent] Kabila's army when I was 13 because my home had been looted and my parents were gone. As I was then on my own, I decided to become a soldier."50 Indeed, surveys of demobilized child soldiers in the DRC found that almost 60 percent originally joined armed groups because of simple poverty.51 The same ratio was found in a separate survey of child soldiers half the globe away in East Asia, indicating a broader international trend.52

Children may also join armed organizations for protection. Surrounded by violence and chaos, children may decide they are safer in a conflict group, with guns in their own hands, than going about by themselves unarmed. Similarly, a good portion of girl soldiers who join as "volunteers" cite domestic abuse or exploitation as the underlying reason for joining.53

Innocent children have been tricked into joining with extraordinary or impossible promises to which only gullible children would give credence. In Sierra Leone, for example, the RUF promised poor rural children that fighting would help them escape the poverty and misery many of them had known all their lives. As one child fighter describes, "They told us we'd all have our own vehicle. They told us they'd build houses for us. They told us many things."54 In Liberia, Charles Taylor promised that every child fighting for his group would get a computer if he won the war.55

Many children may have personally experienced or been witness to the furthest extremes of violence, including massacres, summary executions, ethnic cleansing, death squad killings, bombings, torture, sexual abuse, and destruction of home or property. Thus, vengeance can also be a particularly powerful impetus to join the conflict.56

Lastly, some groups may take deliberate advantage of the fact that adolescents are at a stage in life where they are still defining their identity. Conflict groups offer what are perceived as glamorous or honorable roles (soldier, hero, leader, protector), as well as membership and acceptance in a group. These messages are particularly seductive in areas where children feel the most powerless or victimized. One survey of child soldiers in Africa found that 15 percent volunteered because they were simply fascinated by the prestige and thrill of serving in a unit and having a gun.57

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As we look to the future, perhaps most worrisome is that the underlying forces that led to the rise of this practice appear likely to stay in place if no action is taken to amend them. World order remains in a state of constant flux, with little end in sight to the panoply of wars and smoldering conflicts, diseases, famine, and mass poverty. The result is a generation of estranged and isolated children growing up without educational and economic opportunities, and without any hope of prospering. In turn, the predominant weapons of war have become cheap, widespread, and easily used by children (see the sidebar, "Why Now"). Their accessibility allows the conversion of mass numbers of vulnerable, disconnected children into low-cost and expendable soldiers.

Children's recruitment and use in battle not only violates acceptable practices of war, but also makes conflicts both more likely and more bloody. It can also lead to a proliferation of conflict groups and warring parties. Almost any group is able to fight better and longer, for a wider variety of causes, many of them personalized, unpopular, or downright incoherent. Finally, the use of children as soldiers steals their very childhood, laying the groundwork for further strife.

While the task of changing this path is daunting, it is not without hope. If there is any hope of halting the trend, the exploitation of children as weapons of war must be faced down in each of its stages: before, during, and after. Such global challenges as the spread of disease, mass poverty, the lack of educational and economic opportunity, and the global trade in cheap weaponry are important not only on their own merits, but because they carry a greater cost for us all. They lead to wider risks of war, enable terrorism, and sustain child soldier groups.

More direct preventive measures must also be undertaken. We must set up realistic systems of punishment and deterrence. Such measures include the use of sanctions against child soldier leaders, supporters, and enablers, and the wider application of war crimes tribunals and labor laws. These steps may not fully deter the use of child soldiers, and they certainly will not end the practice. They will, however, at least take away some of its advantages and, most importantly, connect the practice of recruiting and using child soldiers with some form of realistic penalty. Thus, the decision calculus of those weighing whether or not to use children as soldiers will be altered.

Lastly, post-conflict efforts can provide far better attention and support to the growing pool of children who have served as soldiers. If we do so successfully, they will be less likely to serve as soldiers again, and thus end a terrible cycle. Peace treaties and post-conflict planning must recognize who is now actually at war and the unique challenges that the widening use of child soldiers presents. Greater support must be given to the difficult but important tasks of child soldier demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration. Former child soldiers must be treated as the victims they are. They require sustained and systematic support to allow them to regain the childhood and opportunities that were stolen from them. It was once a long-held conviction that children have no place in war. To make it a reality once more, we need only to match the will of those who do evil with our own will to do good.

P. W. Singer is senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies and director of the Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of numerous publications on child soldiers and other military issues. This article is excerpted with permission from Children at War, Pantheon, 2005.


1. "Child Soldiers," Radio Netherlands, January 21, 2000,

2. John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York: Knopf, 1993).

3. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1992).

4. Jane Green Schaller, "Children, Child Health, and War," paper presented at the IPA/WHO/UNICEF Pre-Congress Workshop on Assessment of the Mid-Decade Goals: Evaluation and Recommendations, Cairo, September 9–10, 1995.

5. Data from Rädda Barnen, Childwar Database. These figures also blunt the spurious arguments that the standards against use of child soldiers are Western derived. No culture considers its members mature at these young ages, nor do their prior histories of warfare indicate such use of pre-teen warriors.

6. UNICEF, Adult Wars, Child Soldiers (Geneva, 2003), p. 19.

7. International Labor Office, Wounded Childhood, p. 36.

8. Ilse Derluyn et al., "Post Traumatic Stress in Former Child Soldiers," The Lancet, March 13, 2004.

9. "Child Soldiers," Radio Netherlands, January 21, 2000,

10. Human Rights Watch, "You'll Learn Not to Cry," Child Combatants in Colombia (New York, September 2003), pp. 4–5; and Karl Penhaul, "Colombia's Force of Child Soldiers," Boston Globe, March 4, 2001.

11. Jan Mckirk, "Brutality of Child Army Shocks Colombia," The Independent (London), May 2, 2001.

12. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (CSC), "The Use of Child Soldiers in the Americas: An Overview," 2001,; and Human Rights Watch, "Child Soldiers Used by All Sides in Colombia's Armed Conflict," press release, New York, October 8, 1998,

13. CSC, "Action Appeal: Colombia," September 2002; and UNHCR News, May 21, 2002.

14. Colonel Boris Okhtinsky, quoted in "Sausage, Shahid's Dream," Moskovskie Novosti, July 2, 2002.

15. Richard Reid, "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children's Rights," International Pediatric Association Journal 6, no. 4 (October 1995).

16. "Liberia: Child Soldiers Are Back on the Frontline," Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), June 9, 2003; and Somini Sengupta, "Soldiers of Misfortune," The Hindu (Madras), December 2, 2003.

17. The RUF in Sierra Leone is next with a six-year-old, closely followed by a number of armed groups with seven- and eight-year-olds. Rädda Barnen, Childwar Database, principal investigator: Henric Häggström, at (accessed November 2000).

18. Even after the overthrow of the regime behind the genocide, the fighting by children still continues. The Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) rebel group recruits and sometimes abducts children for military service, some as young as 10 years old. Rädda Barnen, Children of War Newsletter, no. 1/01 (March 2001), at

19. Up to 14,000 Children Used in War," IRIN, June 12, 2001.

20. International Labor Office, Wounded Children: The Use of Children in Armed Conflict in Central Africa (Geneva, 2003), p. 5.

21. Evelyn Leopold, "Congolese Kids Face Horrific Conditions," Reuters, June 17, 2003; "UN Finds Congo Child Soldiers," BBC News, February 21, 2001; "Amman Conference to Seek Ban on Use of Child Soldiers in Region, World," AFP, April 7, 2001; and "DRC Child Soldiers," Child Soldiers Newsletter 3 (March 2002).

22. Emily Wax, "Boy Soldiers Toting AK-47s Put at Front of Congo's War," Washington Post, June 13, 2003; Anne Edgerton, "Rapid Deployment of Emergency Multinational Force Critical," Refugees International press release, June 2, 2003; and AFP report, June 6, 2003.

23. Interviews with DRC experts, spring 2003.

24. Ian Brown, Khomeini's Forgotten Sons: The Story of Iran's Boy Soldiers (London: Grey Seal, 1990), p. 2.

25. Quoted in Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (New York: Knopf, 2000), pp. 327–328.

26. P. W. Singer, "Facing Saddam's Child Soldiers," Brookings Iraq Memo, January 8, 2003.

27. Matthew Cox, "War Even Uglier When a Child Is the Enemy," USA Today, April 8, 2003; "Report: Marines Wounded in Fighting Late Wednesday in Iraq," AP, March 27, 2003; and Alex Perry, "When Kids Are in the Cross Hairs," Times, April 21, 2003.

28. Martin Bentham, "Fedeyeen Use Children as Shields," The Telegraph (London), April 4, 2003.

29. "Enemy Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) and Recommendations," 3rd Corp Support Command briefing document, LSA Anaconda, Iraq, September 2003; Joseph Galloway, "Hurt Still Arriving at Army Hospital," Charlotte Observer, November 3, 2003; and Interviews with U.S. Army Officers, November-December 2003.

30. Neil Mackay, "Iraq's Child Prisoners," Sunday Herald, August 1, 2004; and Richard Sisk, "Teen Held, U.S. Admits Juveniles in Abu Ghraib," New York Daily News, July 15, 2004.

31. Human Rights Watch, Children in Sudan: Slaves, Street Children and Child Soldiers (New York, September 1995).

32. CSC, Child Soldier Use, 2003: A Briefing for the 4th UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, January 2004.

33. Rachel Stahl, "Child Soldiers Released in Sudan, Still No U.S. Action," Weekly Defense Monitor 5, No. 9 (March 1, 2001).

34. Carol Ann Berger, "From Cattle Camp to Slaughterhouse: The Politics of Identity Among Cuban-Educated Dinka Refugees in Canada" (master's thesis, University of Alberta, 2001); and Human Rights Watch/Africa, Civilian Devastation: Abuses by All Parties in the War in Southern Sudan (New York, 1994).

35. CSC, 1379 Country Report, 2002.

36. Recent reports indicate that children between the ages of 7 and 12 are fighting on both sides in Ambon. CSC, "Child Soldiers: A Human Security Challenge for ASEAN (Association of South East Asia Nations)," July 24, 2000, at

37. Quoted in John McBeth, "Children of War," Far Eastern Economic Review, May 2, 2002.

38. Human Rights Watch, My Gun Was as Tall as Me (New York, 2002), p. 46; and Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldier Use 2003.

39. Save the Children, "Children of the Gun"; and United Nations, Report of the Expert of the Secretary General, Graça Machel, "Impact of Armed Conflict on Children," Document A/51/306 & Add. 1, August 26, 1996.

40. Data on overall combatant figures from Taylor Seyboldt, Ed., SIPRI Yearbook 2000: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000), Appendix 1A, Uppsala Conflict Data Project.

41. United Nations, Report of the Expert of the Secretary General, 1996.

42. "MONUC Denounces Recruitment of Child Soldiers by Lubanga's UPC/RP," International Regional Information Networks (IRIN), February 7, 2003.

43. Amnesty International, "Breaking God's Commands"; and "The Destruction of Childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army Report," AFR 59/01/97, September 18, 1997.

44. Gunaratna, "LTTE Child Combatants."

45. Human Rights Watch, Children in Sudan: Slaves, Street Children and Child Soldiers (New York, September 1995).

46. John Otis, "Rebel Held: Child Soldiers," Houston Chronicle, August 3, 2001.

47. UNICEF, Adult Wars, Child Soldiers (Geneva, 2003), p. 19.

48. International Labor Office, Wounded Childhood: The Use of Children in Armed Conflict in Central Africa (Geneva, 2003).

49. Center for Defense Information (CDI), "The Invisible Soldiers: Child Combatants," Defense Monitor 26, no. 4 (1997),

50. Save the Children, "Children of the Gun," Children in Crisis project report, September 2000.

51. Refugees International, "Children in the Eastern Congo: Adrift in a Sea of War and Poverty," February 6, 2002; and "DRC: Minimal Net Reductions in Child Soldiers," Child Soldiers Newsletter 3 (March 2002).

52. UNICEF, Adult Wars, Child Soldiers (Geneva: 2003), p. 19.

53. "Girl Soldiers: Challenging the Assumptions," Geneva Reporter 21, no. 3 (July 2002); and Yvonne Kearins, "The Voices of Girl Child Soldiers," Quaker UN Office newsletter (New York, October 2002).

54. "Child Soldiers," Radio Netherlands, January 21, 2000, at

55. Tom Kamara, "Children Remain ‘Useful,'" The Perspective, January 24, 2001. Note: Taylor won the war and obviously did not keep his promise.

56. CDI, "Invisible Soldiers."

57. International Labor Office, Wounded Childhood, p. 31.

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American Educator, Winter 2005-2006