In my French class this semester, Francophone Africa, we read a 400-page novel entitled, Johnny Chien Méchant, translated to mean Johnny Mad Dog. The plot follows a 16-year-old boy, recruited into the army at a young age, who desperately searches for his individual identity beneath the overwhelming presence of a militant organization. The psychological journey of this teen both fascinated and saddened me. I decided to delve deeper into the conflict of child soldiers to learn about the current regulation, prospects for improvement and the overall environment of the problem.
From my research I learned that armies recruit children to join their forces all across the globe. Kidnapped, brainwashed, and abused, these children are ripped from their families and their lives and subsequently forced to bear weapons, to perform sexual acts, and to carry out dangerous tasks (as I read about for myself in Johnny Chien Méchant). Their minds easily manipulated, warlords search for these children to increase their numbers in battle. Modern technology, such as lightweight weaponry, further facilitates these practices. But this problem is not new.
Military use of children has been an established practice for decades, followed by both militant groups and recognized governments. Although international regulation aims to protect children from these experiences, lack of adherence has thwarted progress. Therefore, this white paper addresses international governments to present viable options for moderate change that will vastly improve the situation.
My recommendations fall into three key areas: education – families and communities must be aware of the possibilities and dangers of forced recruitment, documentation – by documenting the existence of each child, we can track who is safe and who must be found, and reintegration – for children who have escaped the army, they must relearn how to interact in their community