Young Minds Lost in Gunshots

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Facing a bloody war for over nine months, South Sudan’s citizen are losing their lives by the minute. The war doesn’t appear to be cooling down anytime soon and as a result, the government has resorted to using their last – and illegal – source to try to end the fighting: children.

Conflict began between the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan, the Dinka and the Nuer. While under international force, they continued fighting, putting the lives of their citizens at risk.

The United Nations took action on the use of children in the force, banning underage soldiers. U.N. official Leila Zerrougui stated that the country “had cut down on the use of children in combat.”

This stood until violence and aggression broke out in South Sudan in December of last year.

Since the outbreaks began, the children are being killed in “summary executions.” Teenagers are being trained in armed weaponry and statistic maneuvers when fighting out in the front lines. The limitations in adult soldiers are causing these child soldiers to take up the positions normally done by those over 18 years, such as suicide bombing as it adds to the number of child deaths.

“…the Assembly noted with concern the tragic [troubles] of youth in conflict situations…particularly the growing phenomenon of child soldiers, and reiterated the need for post – conflict counselling, rehabilitation and education,” said the United Nations.

The UN Children’s Fund estimated that around May of this year, approximately 9,000 children had been recruited to fight in the ethnic divisional conflict of the country. According to UNICEF, about 200,000 South Sudanese children have already been forced to leave their homes since December.

“It’s bad enough that children’s lives are torn apart by wars they didn’t start. But when they’re forced into fighting in the conflict themselves, it causes psychological and physical damage that can often never be repaired.” said War Child, a non-governmental organization that focuses on assisting these children in areas in conflicted and terrorizing areas.

According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, an estimated 20,000 children were demobilized from the Southern Sudan People’s Army (SPLA) Child Protection Unit between 2001 and April 2006. The demobilized children, out with guns and bombs, can barely attain an education due to the scarcity of schools in South Sudan

The South Sudanese children have been taken out of their homes, with barely any education, and are being exposed to horrific violence commonly seen in war. According to Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, no one under the age of 18 should be allowed to participate in armed conflict and those using the use of children must be held accountable.

This later brings into effect the morality of child labor and child rights, gaining international attention not for the troubles facing the country, but for the children being forced to act as adults. When the world was witnessed to KONY 2012, it captured the hearts of millions and brought sympathy to the children in Africa being murdered, raped, and forced to become child soldiers. The people’s hearts fell for those who are in need of love and strength.

“Emotions weren’t allowed,” said Ishmel Beah, ex-child soldier. “We went from children who were afraid of gunshots to now children who were gunshots.”

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