[1] Child soldier problem. While the existence




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Violent Conflicts are not
a new phenomenon in the human social context. From the medieval ages till date,
men have led themselves to violent wars for  numerous reasons spread along Social,
Political, Economic, Religious, Military and Diplomatic lines. From the stealth
infiltration of enemy ranks, to the brute force and violence deployed on the
battle field, man power has played a central role in the prosecution of these conflicts.
One of the hallmarks of violent conflicts is a depletion of human resources and
the need to replenish them. This is because “wars may be fought with weapons
but they are won by men”2. The incessant need of
human resources to prosecute wars has inevitably led to the creation of the
Child soldier problem.

While the existence of
Child Soldiers is not a new phenomenon, it has however recently dominated and
achieved a center stage of both academic and humanitarian discourse and the
reasons are not far-fetched. Statistics are currently  showing a steep increase in the conscription
and continued of child soldiers in contemporary armed conflicts. Recent
academic literature3
have estimated the numbers to be as high as 300,000 with Africa accounting for
at least 40% of this number with an estimate of about 120,000 or more children
involved in armed conflicts both as active combatants and support staff, the
youngest being at least 7 years of age4 and the most affected area
being in  Sub Saharan Africa.5

Though both state and
non-state armed groups are complicit in the recruitment and use of  child soldiers, research has shown that
recruitment by non-state armed groups is most responsible for this increase.
According to the  UN, in the year 2016,
Boko Haram6 was said to have recruited
no less than 2000 children in its war against the Government of Nigeria.7 The infamous Joseph
Kony  led Lord’s Resistance Army which
operates predominantly in Uganda, and its environs8 is responsible  for the recruitment of over 40,000 children
during the course of the war in the Central African Region. The army which is
said to predominantly consist of at least 90% of children with  some as young as 8 years old in its ranks,
have been said to be responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 people9. As at the year 2013 an
estimated 17,000 children were said to be recruited by the Cobra faction and
the SPLA, both armed opposition groups engaged in the ongoing conflict in South
Sudan10. In 2016, Al-Shabab a
terrorist group operating in Somalia recruited about 903 children, and as at September
2017 threatened communities in rural areas to provide hundreds of children as
young as 8 years of age for recruitment or face reprisal attacks.11

The results of these
alarmingly depressing trends are numerous posing adverse consequences not only
to the psychological and social development of the affected children but even to
the society at large. The mass exploitation of the innocence of childhood for
social, political and economic gains  by
leaders of these groups often lead to development of life course problems for
the affected children and social disintegration. Children who in their
formative years ought to be in educational institutions enjoying the protection
of their parents and or care givers are often forcefully conscripted into armed
groups,  sometimes dehumanized an
intoxicated,  and made to carry out tasks
ranging from domestic jobs and the manning of checkpoints to outright
deployment to face the enemy on the front lines. The females in this groups are
sometimes subjected to sexual and physical abuse while others are also forced
to act as suicide bombers.

The use of Child Soldiers
is widely condemned and has been listed by the United Nations Security Council
as one of the ‘six grave violations against children during armed conflicts’12. The act is also
prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child13, the Additional protocols
to the Geneva Convention14, the Rome Statute15, the African Charter on
the Rights and Welfare of the Child16, and Customary
International Law.17 However, in spite the
robust legal frame work and safe guards guiding the proscription of the
recruitment and use of child soldiers on the international front, there has
been an astronomical increase in the perpetuation of same in recent times
especially in African countries.

The predominant
question  which ends almost any
discussion of the child soldier problem remains “what can be done to effectively end and prevent the use of child
soldiers by armed groups?” Indeed the most effective way would be to end
the wars in which the children fight in in the first place. However, as social
beings having the propensity to vehemently and legitimately disagree to the
point of war along the lines listed above,18 this solution remains
illusory. The use of national and international legislation prohibiting the use
of child soldiers has yielded significant fruits on the prevention of their use
by state armed groups but earlier pointed out, the most responsible culprits
are the non-state armed groups which operate in harsh and desperate conditions
with limited means of diplomatic dialogue and limited accountability to
national and international authorities who could provide effective intervention
strategies which may be employed to bring the problem to a halt without the
necessary casualties the use of force brings. 

Against this backdrop, the
author will be employing an environmentalist perspective in order to determine the
specific environmental conditions that make children  targets of conscription by  by armed groups, the consequences that these
environment poses to  the children short
term and long term, and how the environment can be influenced in  a manner that will stem this problem. In light
of the foregoing, the aim of this research thesis is to examine the Causes,
Consequences and the possible Controls of the proliferation of Child Soldiers
in  Africa. In order to further delineate
and discuss the pressing issues, the author has formulated the research
questions as follows:


How useful is the social
ecology theory in determining the causes and consequences of the  proliferation of child soldiers in Africa,
and how can the theory be effectively operationalized to control the problem?


What is social ecology
theory and what is its relevance to the child soldier problem?

Which countries in Africa
are most affected by the Child soldier problem and what are the specific risk
factors on each level of analysis that put children at great risk of
recruitment as child soldiers (distinctive features and characteristics that
these affected countries share in common that create a conducive environment
for the use of child soldiers.)

In what ways can the
social ecological theory be operationalized to deal with child
soldiering?(multiple level analysis of  preventive or control measures that can be
proffered using the social ecology theory)


In addressing the research
 question the author will be relying on
primary and secondary sources of data and conceptual modelling. The primary
sources will include biographies, interviews of former child soldiers and
direct researches carried out by individuals and humanitarian organizations on
these issues, in the affected areas. This will be a veritable tool in assessing
the risk factors and the social climate in which these child soldiers find
themselves. Secondary data from books, articles and journals and other internet
sources that address and analyse the problem on multiple levels will also be
employed in this research.

A proper understanding of
the phenomenon using the social ecological theory is an important step towards
understanding the origins and reasons of this problem and  how same can be influenced. The social
ecological theory considers the complex interplay between different factors
such as individual, relationship, community and societal factors that put
people at risk of violence. It shows how these factors influence each other to
result in a crime. The model also suggests that in order to prevent violence,
it is necessary to act across multiple levels of this model at the same time.
This theory is gathered to be more likely to sustain preventive efforts than
any other theory. The usefulness of this theory will be explored in
highlighting the risk factors that expose children to exploitation by armed
groups across multiple levels and how intervention should be directed on these


The increase in the use
of child soldiers in major African conflicts have become has become such an
integral part of modern day warfare it can no longer be described as passive. Photographs
of  child victims which used to be the
most popular war mementos, are consequently being replaced with pictures of
prepubescent children wearing camouflages in straight files, carrying
sophisticated weapons with blank and fixed gazes. The flagrant violation and
disregard of the rights of these children poses long term social challenges
which ultimately include social disintegration.19   This
trend has  also posed significant
challenges for modern warfare and has and has shifted the position of children
from the predominant victim status to the dual position of Victim/Villain or as
one writer has described it; the building of a regiment of  soldiers that the world will not want to
fight back against.20 These challenges have
created the need for a framework that will lead to the proper understanding of
the peculiar situations of child soldiers in order to properly channel
humanitarian interventions in a more effective manner. In order to achieve
this, there have been calls to merge insights from both academic and
humanitarian perspectives . Thus this study will be employing such insights in
examining on a multiple level analysis how the social ecological theory can be
operationalized to effectively understand the child soldier problem in Africa
and how constructive interventions can be formulated within the theoretical



This is the introductory
chapter and will contain  background
information and general introduction to the phenomenon. It will then proceed to
highlight the central research question and sub questions which the research
intends to answer. The research methodology and the theoretical framework which
the research question will be anchored on will also be identified. This chapter
shall further include the relevance of the research and information on how the
rest of the thesis will be structured.


This chapter intends to examine
the theoretical framework upon which the thesis is anchored (Social ecological
theory) and the different levels of analysis contained therein. It will also examine
the “ripple effect” that each level has over others. The chapter will further
go to give examine the relevant geographical areas which this study intends to
focus upon and the common denominators on the different levels as highlighted
by the social ecological theory which shows the risk factors (causes) that make
the phenomenon more likely to occur in these areas.


This chapter seeks to
examine the long and short term consequences occasioned by the phenomenon. This
chapter will also be deploying insights from the academic and humanitarian
perspective to determine how best the social ecological theory can be best
suited to effect a positive change across all levels. Thus the importance of
support systems will also be discussed and the means of upholding same even
during times of conflict will be examined.


This is the final chapter
and will contain my conclusions and recommendations. This includes a  summary of the salient points made in the past
chapters and how they have been able to answer the research question. It will
also contain possible recommendations in this regard.

Child Soldiers in Africa;
Picture by  Africa 24 Media. a24media.com
accessed on the 10th of January, 2018


2 George S. Patton

3 Claude
Rakisits; Child Soldiers in the East of the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Refugee Survey Quarterly, Volume 27, Issue 4, 1
December 2008, Pages 108–122, 

4 The Use of Children as Soldiers in Africa; A country analysis of child recruitment and
participation in armed conflict; (2000): Coalition to stop the use of child
soldiers in armed conflict https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/C157333FCA91F573C1256C130033E448-chilsold.htm accessed on the 8th of
November, 2017

5 A.J Vautravers; Why Child Soldiers
are such a complex issue (2009) Refugee Survey Quarterly Vol 27 https://academic.oup.com/rsq/article/27/4/96/1541946; The exact numbers of Child
operating in armed
conflicts in today’s world are difficult to come by, due to the difficulty in
assessing the territories under control of the armed groups and an absence of
official records which makes it almost impossible to ascertain the ages of the

6 A terrorist group operating
predominantly in North Eastern Nigeria; https://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/10-countries-where-child-soldiers-are-still-recruited-armed

7 https://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/10-countries-where-child-soldiers-are-still-recruited-armed

8 Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan,

9  http://www.un.org/events/tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=100

10 https://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/10-countries-where-child-soldiers-are-still-recruited-armed

11 Human Rights Watch Report  Somalia Al-Shabab demanding children;
https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/14/ somalia-al-shabab-demanding-children

12 https://www.crin.org/en/docs/Six GraveViolationspaper.pdf

13 Article 38(3)

14 Article 77(2) AP I and Article
4(3) APII

15 Article 8(b) (xxvi) and (c) (vii);
The Rome Statute proscribes it as a war crime

16 Article 22

Customary Rules 136 and 137 of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (Henckaerts, Doswald-Beck eds.), Customary International Humanitarian Law
Vol. 1: Rules, Cambridge University Press (2005); applying to both
international and non-international armed conflicts and to state and non-state

18 Social, political, economic,
religious, military, diplomacy

Break down of traditional support systems

Y. Arhab; Children are being used as easy weapons of propaganda by terrorist
organisations (2017);  https://theconversation.com/children-are-being-used-as-easy-weapons-of-propaganda-by-terrorist-organisations-76634;