The U.S. government will continue giving military support to countries that use child soldiers, completely rendering a law banning such aid useless. The granting of military aid to countries that still use child soldiers to fight their wars will go to reduce the efficiency of international laws banning the recruitment of child soldiers into war.
The White House announced that it would go on supplying military aid to governments notoriously known for using child soldiers. A presidential memo that was published on Tuesday stated that it was in the national interest of the United States “to continue supplying military assistance” to countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan.
With Nigeria as the sole exception, international human rights observers have expressed concern over the rampant deployment of child soldiers in the other three countries. According to Unicef, at least 12,000 child soldiers are fighting government or rebel forces in South Sudan. In the DRC, The United Nations has recorded cases of up to 4,000 boys and girls recruited by both government and non-governmental forces last year. Up to a third of these cases are children below the age of 15.
According to Policy and Advocacy Director at Child Soldiers International Charu Hogg, by further aiding these governments, the U.S. was sending “the message that child recruitment abuse can be completely sidelined by political considerations.”
Hogg said that Obama’s decision rendered nugatory a 2008 law prohibiting the military aid of governments known for using child soldiers. The 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act banned the U.S. from offering military assistance to governments engaging in use of child soldiers. However, a clause in the Act allowed for military aid only if it was in the national interest.
Somalia, the DRC and Nigeria have all received full waivers. South Sudan on the other hand only received a “waiver in part.” The waiver in part will see the South Sudanese government receive military training but not military supplies.
Hogg said that by granting the waivers to “persistent perpetrators” of anti-child soldier laws, the U.S. was undermining “the credibility of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.”
The internal memo further delegated the role of making the decision to supply military aid to Yemen squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. This in effect allows the ban on military aid to be raised in a country where up to a third of the fighters are underage.
The U.S. administration is flaunting child soldier prevention laws for its own selfish interests. It is imperative that a stop is put to the military aid so as to deter further recruitment of young boys and girls from causeless wars.