The term ‘child’ resonate the docile, innocent and inexperienced aspect of a human being. In this respect children attract the natural tendency to be protected and nurtured until they are young adults that, through experience and instructions have a right to be responsible for themselves and the society. This notion has been shared historically, though the age and roles of children participating in societal matters are different, a thought agreed upon by the French social -historian, Ariès (1979), who asserts that children did not have important roles in society after infancy and only eventually acquired responsibility as they grew. Even so, their roles and activities were different from those of the adults, in different cultures and periods. In pre-modern and modern societies, the ‘child’ continues to have a fair share of experiences in terms of catastrophes and phenomenon such as poverty, wars and famine. However, they have had the privilege of global definition and protection, and acquired rights provided in different legal provisions and policies, both internationally and domestically. Nevertheless, these provisions have not been effected upon every child globally as different circumstances and challenges have crippled and hindered effective implementation of regulations and policies.

This first series will not explore the legal aspects but will highlight them in bid to bring to the understanding, the legal aspects of children in armed conflict. However, this series is introductory to forthcoming series that will eventually answer to the legal challenges in international and domestic instruments and institutions, such as the ‘revolving-door phenomenon’ (ISS, 2015), as well as the challenges of defining contemporary battlefields and parties to conflict. This will help to understand further, how international law and policies are effective or ineffective in its application in modern ‘new wars’ (‘new and old wars’ concept is embraced by scholars such as Kaldor (2009), who accentuate of the changing characteristics of modern wars-less wars and death yet fear and insecurity increased (terrorism), civilians are (deliberately) the main victims unlike conventional wars; and identity politics).

Thus said, the paper brings a general (introductory) perspective of different ideas that involve the legal and socio-political challenges  of modern wars characterization, the impact to and of children in war, why militias and armed groups use the ‘children’ (pros of recruiting them), children as victims and perpetrators in war,  the other and very important factor that is highlighted and  addressed further is the ‘memory of war’ in children as participants and victims that link to protraction of armed conflicts, particularly those of guerrilla warfare (LRA and Boko Haram) and terror networks (e.g. Al Qaeda, ISIL and Al Shabaab). The subsequent sections will highlight the above concerns, by first defining what a child is according to international and regional institutions (e.g. UN and AU), and a few domestic laws.

Definitions of the terms ‘Child’ and ‘War’

The definitions of the child is outlined in the UN Charter on Child Rights (CRC), 1989 (Article 1) defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier” (UN CRC, 1989). Article 38 of the CRC (UN) specifies that the recruitment of a child in armed forces and armed hostilities is restricted to a minimum of 15 years. However, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), 2002 sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities and for compulsory recruitment by state armed forces (OPAC, 2002). The African Charter on the Rights and welfare of the Child, 1999 terms a child as “any human being below the age of 18 years” (ACRWC, 1990). Thus for the purpose of this paper, the definition of a child shall mean any human being below the age of 18. Historically, the Additional Protocol to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 (1977) set 15 as the minimum age for recruitment or use of children in armed conflict (Additional Protocols, 1949), and the States party to the protocol and the opposition groups were encouraged to accept and respect to its provisions.

The definition of war cuts across many scholars such as Clausewitz (1832). He defines war as “an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will” (Clausewitz). This definition meant that the opponent and the ‘we’ were both states. Non state actors were not accommodated here. Oppenheim (1965) asserted that war is between states and armed groups in war were only designated members of a nation’s armed force. That is the nature of the ‘old wars’ as purported by Kaldor (2007). However, the definition of war for the 21st century dynamics has expanded to include the non-state actor such as non-governmental armed groups. The evolution of the meaning and nature of war to include the realities of contemporary peace and conflict situations has accommodated unconventional wars from mid 20th century to early 21st century. These have included war on poverty, war on illiteracy, war on drugs and war on terror- after the 9/11 terror attacks. The parties to war definitely complicate the definition to war.  Thus said the author uses the following definition of war in this paper and the subsequent series:

 “an act of force by a nation-state crime organization, terror group, drug cartel, revolutionary group, or coalition of states to compel an enemy to do one’s will, accept a specific ideology, or prevent or allow unfettered criminal activity.” (Military Review, July/Aug 2004)

Children Involvement in War

War has been present since time immemorial. The impacts of war have been felt by children from ancient to modern age wars. More so, children have been both perpetrators and victims of war. As perpetrators, children have been voluntarily and forcefully recruited in armed conflicts. Children have been recruited under the category of ‘conscription’ or what is compulsory recruitment as part of a government’s legal obligation of its citizens to participate in military service. Some states have recruited males and females under the age of 18 years. This has been observed in States such as Mozambique and Turkey (Brett & McClallin, 1996). Children have as well been forcefully recruited such as done by regular and irregular armed groups. The recruitment methods involve press ganging, abduction and intimidation (persuasion). Voluntary recruitment occurs when the children make a choice to join. The concept of ‘voluntary’ is highly debatable as there are indirect coercive mechanisms that are used on the children.

The ‘perpetrator’ aspect of children in war include children who take combatant roles, the cooks, porters, sex slaves, messengers and spies, manning check-points, guard duty, patrolling and in other cases as shields during warfare and other roles that support such military capacity. The young soldiers are more vulnerable than their adult counterparts. They also receive (in most cases) the same training and health care as the adult solders. Many have to severely brutalised, indoctrinated, supplied with alcohol and drugs to escalate their performance. Indeed, many children have been injured, killed and suffered psychological trauma and other health implications. More so, majority of these children miss out on education, family backgrounds, normal ‘childhood’ livelihood in their societies, which is important for acquiring socio-economically-useful skills (Ibid). Conflict as stipulated by Mwagiru (2009) can cause a great deal of ‘memory of conflict’ that can make the tendencies of conflict recurrence higher in future. Even without full blown conflicts the experience acquired by the child soldiers (if not effectively rehabilitated and more so reintegrated), can be used in other crimes. Thus the society, governments and international community need to step up their efforts for addressing such potential threat to peace and security.

Why is the Examination of the Aspects of Children Involvement in War Important?

It is evident that children have immensely suffered from armed conflicts. Concurrently they have also caused massive destruction, from child soldiers to child suicide bombers. More so, they have lost their livelihood, lost families and societies, died, displaced among others. Besides the numbers of children involvement in direct combatant diminishing, children as still actively involved in gathering information, suicide bombing, looting, as sex slaves and wives, as well as porters. Yet despite of awareness of abductions such as the Aboke Girls in Uganda, and the Chibok Kidnappings in Nigeria including the global campaign termed ‘#BringOurGirlsBack’, efforts by societies, governments and the international community have been totally futile. Indeed there have been efforts, but not productive. For instance none of the Chibok girls were rescued, the escpees escaped on their own (which is quite dangerous and often counterproductive). Out of the 276 girls that were abducted 57 escaped and the rest (219) are out there or still held captive by Boko Haram. (Bring Back Our Girls, 2015).

Most of the works on child soldiering have been outdated and even the existing literature focus mainly on the impact of the wars on the children. This focus is important, however there is dire need to link the use of children with other aspects of war such as the future outcome of using children in war and the protract-ability of conflict based on using children, as well as why the armed cells prefer using children. Additionally, there is an increasing effort to review policies and instruments that protect children in war situations such as recruitment and punishment for involvement (revolving-door phenomenon). Thus paper seeks to answer the following questions: Why is such a rescue difficult for the governments, regional and international bodies? Is it politics, geographical hindrances or other socio-economic aspects? Are there aspects of children that benefit armed groups in sustaining and protracting conflicts and wars? Are domestic and international provisions effective in these types of ‘new wars’? More so, are domestic and international counter-policies tailored to effectively deal with new security threats and complexities? This paper and the consecutive series examine these challenges.

The paper brings out the importance of devoting effort into critically examining the aspect of children in contemporary warfare such as violent extremism in networks (such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and Islamic State, and LRA among others), the reasons why they particularly use children and the outcome of this on the children, the armed groups and African societies. One of the aspects that it seeks to look as in subsequent series is the involvement and experience of war particularly in contemporary warfare, and the possibility of recurrence because of the ‘memory of conflict’. The second aspect is the concept of militarism. Goldstein and Pevehouse (2008) note that, “militarism is the glorification of war, military force and violence”. This kind of glorification has been through media (TV, radio and films), political speeches, as well as games, toys and sports. Militarism has been glorified since time immemorial, where for instance boys have been part of honouring warriors and war veterans. In militarised societies, they articulate that “the children’s psychological trauma contributes to intergroup conflicts decades later”. Furthermore child rearing has certain contributing factors that make children engage in war.

The third aspect is the characteristics of the children that make them easy to recruit as well as, train and indoctrinate or radicalize, their commitment, loyalty and obedience and the urge to prove themselves to their commanders. Children are also an inexpensive human resource, thus easy to employ and sustain. These aspects and others make the armed groups opt to abduct and recruit children, making children an easier and more vulnerable target.


The new characteristics of war such as the use new technologies, borderless warfare and networks, targeting of civilians among others have exposed children to being victims and participants of war. Though they are protected under international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws, they still suffer direct attacks from government and non-government armed groups such as aerial attacks and drone operations, as well as abductions, children suffer the brunt of war heavily.

Increasingly, there is concern of the use of children to carry explosives or plant explosive devices in acts of terrorism. In the past few years, there have been more of child suicide bombers and child victim bombers as young as eight, who unfortunately, are often unaware of what they carry. More so is the use of children by terror groups such as Boko Haram, ISIL and Al Shabaab. The problem of military use of children (child soldiers) is not diminishing even after unconventional wars. The means and tactics have changed. There is need therefore to research and study further on issues such as indoctrination of children before becoming radicalized youths among the issues highlighted in this paper. These issues will be addressed in the subsequent papers.


Ariès, P. (1979). Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. London: Penguin. p.128

Brett R. and McCallin, M. Children the Invisible Soldiers. Stockholm: Radda Barnen, 1996

Bring Back Our Girls, “The Abduction”. Available at  Accessed, 11/24/2015

Goldstein, J.S., and Pevehouse,  J. C.  International Relations.  New York: Pearson Longman. 2008

Institute for Security Studies, “African Security Review”, ISS Volume 24 Number 1, 31 March 2015

Kaldor, Mary. New and Old Wars. 3rd edition, Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 2007

Major Michael Forsyth, “Finesse: A Short Theory of War”, Military Review, July-August 2004

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Child. 1990 Article 2: Definition of a Child

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), 2002, Article 2

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 Article 1


Assembly of the African Union which met in Durban, South  Africa  From  9  to  10  July  2002  adopted  the Protocol  relating  to  the  Establishment  of  the  Peace  and  Security  Council  that  included  provisions  on  the  establishment of the African Standby Force (ASF) and  a  Military  Staff  Committee  as  well  as  other  7 instruments.  Article  13  of  the  PSC  Protocol  provides  that  ‘…on  an  African Standby Force shall be   established. Such force shall be composed  of  standby  multidisciplinary  components  with  civilian  and  military  components  in  their  countries  of  origin  and  ready  for  rapid  deployment  at  an  appropriate  notice.’

Suggestions  on  contribution and role of existing non-governmental  and  private  data systems should also be used and their modalities properly defined i.e., South Africa training aspiring drone pilots to undergo an aviation course designed for accountability from the users, Private Military Corporations e.g., Executive Outcomes . The AU should provide guidance to Regional Economic Communities i.e., the private sector, etc., to ensure that brigades adhere to the same standards and achieve the same level of readiness as a national military . One of the requirements for successful peace support operations is the degree of political support and commitment that it receives or commands from the mandating authority.

A data collecting system, such as a blockchain, for maintaining a database on available civilian and police capability from which the AU could recruit individual civilians and police officers for various Africa Standby Forces’  missions have  been  instituted and started  functioning.  For  Example,  Kenya  Police  Reserve,  a  paramilitary  consisting  of  trained  civilians  and  armed  groups  to  defend  the  against  attackers  in  the  Ilemi  region failed due to lack of tailored high level Tactical Counter Terrorism Training programs, as resolution 1373 of Chapter VII of the U.N Security Council on Counter Terrorism Committees (C.T.C) advises.

The ability to also specialize in the manufacture and development of defense capabilities e.g., Gunnery Weapon Systems, Navigation systems, Tactical Shelters, etc., would reduce costs of defense and special forces upgrades to the governments’ convenience and improve the economy as well through the military industrial complexes.

Mainly because of the costs involved in setting up such arrangements, a conducive environment, depending on the rational choice employed, could be vital to a states and a subsystem’s foreign policy.

Re blogged on

Source: Reading the Report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS)

”Many an African analyst/academician has up to now been using conceptual systems supposing a non-African epistemological locus.”

Reflections of a pan-Afrikanist

Without de-westernizing ‘truths’, the African Renaissance would be nothing but farcical, to say the least. This rebirth should be alive to the fact that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But how do we remember this past if we cannot even authoritatively describe/define it? In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries judged and ranked human intelligence and civilization by whether the people practiced alphabetic writing. Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the measuring stick for human intelligence and civilization was history and no longer alphabetic writing. That ‘people without history’ were located in a time ‘before’ the ‘present’. Thus people with history could write the history of those without.[1]This has fostered the notion of equating history, with writing about history as if before writing there was no history. [2] Wa Thiong’o notes that…

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By Nawiri Nerima

A host of challenges abound for the East African Community’s regional integration process.There’s lack of understanding and knowledge about the integration process by politicians and constituents (citizenry) ,writes @SIDEastAfrica‘s  Ahmed Salim in his review of  Ambassador Mwapachu’s book (Challenging the Frontiers of African Integration:Dynamics of Policies,Politics and Transformation in the East African Community).The previous stages of integration(Customs Union,Common Market) too haven’t as fully been implemented yet.Overlapping membership,poor infrastructure(East Africa is said to have the worst transport network in Africa) and poorly developed financial markets are the other conspicuous bottle-necks. This was two years ago. Today,inequality in the EAC cannot be wished away either.  Inequality in Kenya for instance  has been rising since 1995,according to a  new report by @SIDEastAfrica – The State of East Africa Report 2013 .The report offers new revealing information on the ‘Future of  Inequality in East Africa’, provides fresh insights, sparking the collective imagination and encouraging deeper citizen engagement with the processes that are shaping East Africa. Tomorrow from 9a.m (Conference Room), IDIS Forum for International Affairs under the auspices of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi will host a half-day seminar on what the future of inequality contends for young people in the Community:


The session will feature a presentation –An EAC Overview and One People, One Destiny? – The Future of Inequality in East
Africa, byAidan Eyakuze , the principal author of the The State of East Africa Report 2013 and Associate Regional Director, Society for International Development.

Pertinent questions/issues arise on what the EAC integration process holds for its young populace’s future:






Reflections of a pan-Afrikanist

The ‘human race’ has for thousands of years consumed water as if it were an inexhaustible natural resource. Indeed, the vast oceans and rivers as well as recently discovered aquifers have led us to believe that water is inexhaustible. However,the fact is, 97% of all the water on the earth is salt water- unsuitable for drinking or growing crops and technologies to desalinize are expensive and beyond the reach of most of the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Of the freshwater resources, 70% is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover. Furthermore,available estimates,put freshwater lakes and rivers as constituting only 0.3% of the total freshwater useable for the entire human and animal population of the world (Vajpeyi, 2012:1).

Currently,Kenya and Hungary heads a group of 30 member states tasked with drafting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals- a set of mid-term global objectives to succeed the UN’s Millennium Development…

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Dear Andrew Mwenda

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

Friday's Thoughts

Dear Andrew M Mwenda,


You have become the news itself in recent times in a very interesting way. You constantly talk of intellectual engagement and debate in a way that restores hope for those who stop at listening to you, and ignore what your detractors say. I am one of those who love reading a well-reasoned argument and I have enjoyed reading those from you. I have of course also enjoyed reading and listening to your chest-thumping jokes, like the 2005 one, where you called Museveni a villager and called yourself a better President, and a security expert. Most recently, I loved your assertion of self-definition. You are Andrew Mwenda’s version of Andrew Mwenda, not what your fans and detractors perceive you as. Admirable.


Andrew Mujuni Mwenda is Founder of The Independent magazine – Photo byJeniffer Cheung, taken at Yale University 

So, what is my problem? Why am I…

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By Nawiri Nerima

Fourth August 1983 saw the Marxist revolutionary army captain Thomas Isidore  Noël Sankara take over the reigns of power in Burkina through the last but one military coup to date.Until recently,aptly  argues Houngnikpo, military incursion into politics on the continent was the norm rather than the exception, a phenomenon with deep roots in Africa’s colonial history. The characteristic role of the armed forces was to repress the majority peoples while supporting the status quo as it were. According to the 2012 AfDB Chief Economist Complex, the continent has seen more than 200 military coups staged since the post-independence epoch of 1960s, 45% of which have been ‘successful’. The pertinent question is whether military coups are good or bad, generally they seem to be bad (From Cairo to Bangui). Sankara’s regime however proves otherwise,at least as far as socio-economic conditions were concerned:

”The more radical the person is,the more fully he or she enters into reality so that,knowing it better,he or she can transform it.This individual is not afraid to confront,to listen,to see the world unveiled.This person is not afraid to meet  the people or to enter into a dialogue with them.This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or  of all the people,or the liberator of the oppressed but he or she does commit himself or herself,with history,to fight at their side.”-Paulo Freire [Pedagogy of the Oppressed]

The following links would prove very useful.

Why Africans Should Celebrate Thomas Sankara:

Burkina Faso: Revisiting Thomas Sankara, 26 Years Later:

Thomas Sankara: An Endogenous Approach to Development :

The Upright Man. Ten Lessons From Thomas Sankara:

7 Thomas Sankara Quotes About Women:

25 Years On: The Mixed Legacy of Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, Socialist Soldier