Paris, France, Feb 6, 2007 / 10:48 am
According to a report offered yesterday by the Save the Children humanitarian organization, at least 1,500 child soldiers are still in the ranks of the notorious Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army LRA and another 10,000 remain missing.
The report, which was presented as part of a “Free Children From War” conference in Paris, says the LRA has continued to retain child soldiers for the bloody war it has waged in northern Uganda since the 1980s. Another 10,000 children are considered missing, since nothing has been heard of them for years.
According to the Fides news agency, the forum is being jointly hosted by the UN children's agency, UNICEF, and the French government.
The Paris conference, which began on Monday and includes representatives from the EU, Canada, Japan and affected countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America seeks to create a set framework of action for affected countries to take, with the aim of getting the affected governments to work harder to obtain the release of children from conflict and to reintegrate them into society.
The countries, along with several humanitarian organizations, are to discuss a new set of commitments and principles to end recruitment of children and to demobilize and reintegrate those who have been involved with armed groups and forces. Ten years since the approval of the Cape Town Principles, the “Paris Principles” insist more on protection for minors in armed groups where many are raped and become mothers and are rejected by their communities.
“An estimated 250,000 children are involved in conflicts around the world,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. “They are used as combatants, messengers, spies, porters, cooks, and girls in particular are forced to perform sexual services, depriving them of their rights and their childhood.”
According to studies, the most affected countries include Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Philippines, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, as well as Sierra Leone and Liberia, where conflict ended only in recent years and where children were recruited to fight ferocious wars.