Roméo Dallaire – Canadian Senator and ex-Commander of the United Nations Forces in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 – is dedicating his life to trying to eradicate the use of children as weapons of war.
Senator Dallaire has a foundation dedicated to this cause. The Child Soldiers Initiative is, by it’s own description – A partnership to build the will, knowledge, collaboration and tools necessary to eradicate the use of child soldiers. This is what Roméo Dallaire himself has to say about the project –
At any given time there are a quarter of a million child soldiers globally experiencing a suffering that most of you cannot even imagine.
These children are routinely abducted violently from their families at a tender age, and are subjected to forcible confinement, torture, threats, rape, brainwashing, slavery, starvation, intoxication through drugs and sleep deprivation. They are forced to carry heavy loads, including human bodies, not just weaponry. They are often paired up and killed if their partner escapes.
People are often surprised to hear that 40 percent of child soldiers are girls. Girls are often forced to become sex slaves as well as soldiers, cooks and nurses and must deal with pregnancy under these conditions too often.
The use of child soldiers is horrifically true and is taking place now. The status quo is completely unacceptable and international proposed solutions are in danger of failing.
While many groups have been working on demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of Child Soldiers, which is absolutely essential, I have discovered in my research at the Carr Center For Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, that little if any analysis of this problem is being done through the security lens, to better understand the tactical how and why child soldiers are being used.
Why is this child soldier weapon system the most sophisticated, low-technology weapon system on the battlefield today? What makes that weapon platform so effective?
We must work to stop recruitment during conflict.
I want to identify ways to do this, to render it ineffective to use Child Soldiers. I want to eradicate the use of child soldiers. This is why I have founded the Child Soldiers Initiative.
CSI is working to build the political will now needed to properly enforce laws that protect children and bring perpetrators to justice.
The CSI team is also working to build the will and technical capacity of military, human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as host nation actors, to stop the use of child soldiers.
The aim is to bring all these actors together so they work cohesively for better results. The CSI team itself is a unique mix of stakeholders from the humanitarian, academic and security sectors.
Some people think that the child soldier issue can never be eradicated as long as there are wars. To this I respond that humanity has created other evil things which we have had the morality and good sense to abolish such as slavery, apartheid and chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
CSI is a call to action to put stopping the use of child soldiers on everyone’s agenda.
Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire (Retired)
LGen The Hon R.A. Dallaire, O.C.,C.M.M.,G.O.Q.,M.S.C.,C.D., (Ret’d)
In the video below Senator Dallaire describes his understanding of the lives of child soldiers – 40% 0f whom are girls – and his proposals for eliminating this evil practice. If you have time listen to the entire discussion, it’s well worthwhile. But if you are short of time just listen from c. 52 minutes onwards – he asks some interesting – and challenging – questions.
And if you can spare more time perhaps watch this as well.