Category Archives: violence

Understanding Child Soldier Recruitment Needed to Help Curb Crisis

By Will Higginbotham
Inter Press News

Former child solider Mulume (front left) feels hopeless about his future. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS


UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 2018 (IPS) – It is not known exactly how many child soldiers there are in the world, but current estimates tell us that in 2018, the number is likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Children have been used in hostilities – including as human bombs –by state and non-state groups in at least 18 conflicts since 2016 alone.

Today, a staggering 46 nations continue to attract and enlist people under 18 into their militaries.

These are some of the statistics from the Child Soldiers World Index – a newly released database that examines UN member states for their use of child soldiers in the armed forces and non-state groups.

The statistics are indeed concerning, with even the UN declaring that the number of at risk children is increasing at an “alarming rate.”

So what exactly is driving children to become involved with armed groups? And, what can be done to get a grip on the crisis?

These are the questions that the United Nations University (UNU), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Luxemburg and Switzerland have been working to answer by conducting field research on child recruitment practices in Mali, Iraq and Nigeria.


According to the report, entitled ‘Cradled by Conflict: Children in Contemporary Conflict’, a mistake that policy makers are making is focusing too much on the idea that child soldiers join armed groups because they have been ‘radicalised.’

“Currently there is a tendency to attribute child involvement in conflicts to them becoming radicalised and swept up in this violent ideology… but this is rarely the primary factor motivating child association in armed groups,” the project’s leader researcher Siobhan O’Neil told IPS.

For example, the report found that ideology was hardly a factor in Mali where child solider recruitment is often paired with a narrative of radicalisation.

“In Mali, the intercommunal conflicts over resources and cattle, issues made worse by climate change and state corruption– were far more likely to drive children to armed groups,” O’Neil said.

Even in cases where ideology does play a role in a child’s trajectory towards an armed group, it is usually only one of a number of motivating or facilitating factors.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has conflated its religious ideology with a rejection of the Nigerian state, the latter of which, the report found “may be the greater driver of association with Boko Haram for Nigerians who have experienced state oppression and violence.”


UNU’s research also challenges a re-occurring perception that children can simply avoid joining armed groups.

The report stressed that for many children, especially those living within an occupied territory, neutrality is not an option.

“That’s a fallacy. It’s virtually impossible for children to remain unaffiliated in a war zone,” Kato Van Broeckhoven, a co-author of the research, told IPS.

“When an armed group is the only employer – like they are in parts of Syria and Nigeria – and they have physical control of a region, joining may be the only realistic way to survive,” she continued.


The report also found that for some children, armed groups are attractive because they offer a sense of ‘community’, a sense of ‘significance’, and a feeling of ‘order amid chaos’.

For example in both Mali and Nigeria, where strict hierarchical societies are the norm, armed groups can provide a way for young people to express themselves and attain a level of status beyond what society would usually allow someone of their age.

Addressing what this research means for policy makers and programs on the ground, O’Neil told IPS that “ultimately, what we see is that there is no mono-causal reason for children getting involved in armed groups.”

“It’s important any intervention programs geared towards preventing them becoming involved, assisting them with release and reintegration recognise that and take a holistic approach to addressing children’s needs and risks,” she continued.

The report argues that many current interventions aimed at assisting child soldiers have leaned towards an ‘ideological approach’ – one that aims to ‘prevent’ and ‘counter’ violent extremism.

In the absence of evidence that links radical ideology to children becoming involved in armed groups, O’Neil and her fellow researchers say that any ‘ideological approach’ to intervention should only be used when there is clear evidence that it would be preventative.

Otherwise, as the report noted, “it’s a one size, fits none’ approach.

In the report, researchers urged for more effective international efforts to prevent and respond to child recruitment and use by armed groups including:

(1) avoid programmes focused primarily on ideological factors; (2) only incorporate ideological components where individually necessary and where they can be embedded into larger, holistic efforts to address the needs and risks of children; (3) ensure all interventions are empirically based; (4) rigorously assess interventions over the long term; and (5) engage children not just as beneficiaries, but as partners.

The ‘Cradled to Conflict’ report and the Child Soldiers World Index data was launched on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, and the anniversary of the OPAC treaty – the world’s first international treaty wholly focused on ending the military exploitation of children.

Nigerian Wins Prestigious Award for Aiding Victims of Boko Haram

Last Updated: August 21, 2017 12:20 PM
Lisa Schlein
Voice of America

Rebecca-Dali-and-her-husband-Samuel-Dali-at-the-award-ceremony on August 19, 2017. (VOA)

GENEVA  (August 21, 2017)  Nigerian activist, Rebecca Dali has won the prestigious Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation Award for her work in re-integrating women and orphans abducted by Boko Haram militants into their home communities.

The award was presented at a ceremony Monday commemorating World Humanitarian Day (August 19) at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva.

It is given every two years in memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack on August 19, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq, along with 21 others. The prize aims to draw world attention to the courageous, often unnoticed, humanitarian work of an individual, group or organization in areas of conflict.

“Rebecca Dali is a very courageous woman in a corner in Africa, in northeastern Nigeria, who is doing work under very difficult circumstances,” said Anne Willem Bijleveld, the chairman of the board of the de Mello Foundation.

He told VOA that some of the women and girls who are liberated want to return to their communities, but their communities and families often do not want them back because they have been raped, have had children, and been subjected to sexual violence by Boko Haram.

“Rebecca Dali did a tremendous job in re-establishing dialogue and reconciliation to get these girls back into their communities, to get them back where they came from and that they can continue with their life again,” Bijleveld said.

Aiding widows, orphans for years
Dali was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria got its independence. She overcame extreme poverty in childhood and a rape at age six to earn a Ph.D in later years in ethics and philosophy.

She got married in 1979 to a man who, she said, “allowed me to do what I like to do.” She has six children. Her fourth, a son, was lost on August 21, 2011 in the aftermath of the Jos crisis, when clashes erupted between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups.

Dali formed her non-profit organization Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative in northern Nigeria in 1989 to aid widows and orphans caught in situations of violence, who often struggle to survive.

She has established three Livelihood Centers that teach women marketable skills, such as sewing, computers, and cosmetology. “When they graduate, we give them seed money so they can start their own business,” she said.

When the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, she turned her attention to the victims of this Islamist radical group. She told VOA tens of thousands of destitute widows and orphans were left behind when their men were killed.

“In our society, women are not dignified. Even if their husbands are killed, then the family usually will take away all the things that they own,” she said. “So, in the Boko Haram, they are double victimized. So, I train these widows in my Livelihood Centers.”

Dali’s husband, Reverend Samuel Dali, was president of the Church of the Brethren, which was attended by most of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014.

A still image taken from video shows a group of girls, released by Boko Haram jihadists after kidnapping them in 2014 in the north Nigerian town of Chibok, sitting in a hall as they are welcomed by officials in Abuja, Nigeria, May 7, 2017. (Reuters)

The government has taken charge of the Chibok girls who have been released, so Dali said her group is focusing on helping the many other women and children who were abducted by Boko Haram. She said those who managed to escape have been treated as pariahs by their communities.

“They are stigmatized. People rejected them. Their husbands rejected them. The society rejected them. Their parents sometimes reject them,” she said.

Dali said her organization has provided the victims with food and shelter and paid for children’s schooling. She added that the women and girls received trauma care and were encouraged to tell their distressing stories.

“Then, we go and lobby in the society among the local people, so that they will allow them to stay in the society,” she said.

The award carries a cash prize of about $5,000, which Bijleveld terms “a symbolic amount.” She may also win more support from the publicity.

Dali said she is heartened by the recognition she and her organization have received from the de Mello Foundation. “The award came to me as a miracle from God,” she said. “So, it will urge me to do more. It is really going to help me,” she said.




Pope Francis offers prayers after deadly Nigeria attack


Pope Francis I at the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at St. Peter’s Bascilica, Rome April 3, 2015. (L’Osservatore Romano/ETWN)

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 07:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a bloody attack at a Catholic Church in southern Nigeria left 11 dead and several more wounded, Pope Francis conveyed his sympathy to the victims and their families, assuring the community of his prayer.

In an Aug. 7 telegram addressed to Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu.”

The Pope extended his “heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy,” and offered blessings of “consolation and strength” upon the entire diocese.

The telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, came after gunmen stormed St Philip’s Catholic Church in the city of Ozubulu early Sunday morning, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18 more.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. According to BBC News, local terror group Boko Haram, which has burned hundreds of churches and killed thousands during it’s more than decade-long insurgency in the country’s north-eastern region, was not involved.

Rather, the attack is believed to have been the result of either a private feud or that it was linked to drug-trafficking.

Reports conflict as to whether there were one or two gunmen involved, however, police have begun a manhunt in the area in the hopes of finding those responsible.