More than 800 child soldiers with about 40% of them aged 15 or younger were recently set free by the Nigerian Militia fighting against Boko Haram group.
According to Child Soldier Explainer “Children are particularly vulnerable in times of conflict.” They are reported to be “recruited all over the world by state armed forces and armed groups outside government control.”
“Non-state armed groups are more likely than states to use children in armed conflict. This makes the problem more difficult to tackle as these groups like Boko Haram are less visible and harder to negotiate with.
There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today in at least 20 countries. About 40% of child soldiers are girls, who are often used as sex slaves and taken as “wives” by male fighters.”
“The UN Secretary-General’s annual “name and shame” list for 2017 highlighted the armed forces of Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for recruiting and using under-18s for armed conflict. But non-state armed groups also recruit children in these and other countries.”
The report said there were at least 4000 verified violations by government forces and over 11,500 by non-state armed groups in the 20 country situations it examined.
The Civil Joint Task Force, a group based in Maiduguri the capital city of Borno has formally release children since its promise to do so last year to end the practice of Child Soldier.
About the release of the children, UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative, Pernille Ironside said “This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children – but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles”.
Children were among the 1,175 boys and 294 girls identified as being associated with the Civil Joint Task Force (CJTF) operating in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri according to the United Nation’s Child Agency.
Child soldiers are recruited not only by terror groups like the Boko Haram but also by recognised government forces and armed militias across the country. In spite of the freedom gained, children who were recruited as soldiers suffer abuse both physically and psychologically. Most of them have missed out on school and would need additional education and rehabilitation in order to catch up and find a way to fulfill their potentials in life.
Insurgency in Nigeria has taken the lives of teachers, more than 1,400 schools are reported burnt or damaged in various degrees and hundreds of children have been kidnapped with many of them recruited into the Boko Haram group. Insurgency in Nigeria by the Boko Haram group is dominant in the North-eastern Nigeria.
Every child deserves a normal life and education. Reintegration of child soldiers back into schools and their communication is however needed and it is crucial too. Last month, the UN General Assembly discussed this issue during a special meeting.
Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict noted that “Survivors are left with both trauma and stigma. Without the possibility of reintegration, children are left with little hope to rebuild they lives.”
According to UNICEF more than 8,700 children released from armed groups since 2017 had been supported with social and economic integration.