CHILDREN IN WAR ZONES
By Yusta Seghete, published on 04 Jun 2020
Today is International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. This day affirms the UN's commitment to protect the rights of children. The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world, children who are victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.
I have opted to drive my attention to children in war zone areas because I have been keen to follow up on such stories.
Over the years, we have seen children living in war-ravaged countries and have either come under direct attack, used as human shields, killed, maimed or forcefully recruited to fight.
The victims go through rape, forced marriages and abductions. Those lucky to survive these inhumane ordeals, start fighting the trauma they went through.
But some become the light in their communities….
At only 7 years of age, Louis Lakor was recruited as one of the many child soldiers for The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA has been one of the cruellest and most enduring armed groups in East & Central Africa for the past 3 decades.
The LRA is notorious for kidnapping young girls and boys for use as sex slaves and fighters. Louis and other young boys and girls met their abductors at the pick of a night raid. They were forced to serve as child soldiers and sex slaves.
As a child soldier, one of the things Lakor was forced to do was kill his best friend. He did that in the presence of his young brother and his best friend. For a young boy, the thought of murder was not as easy as kicking a ball.
His friend was too weak to move. Under orders that the army did not work with weak people, young Lakor was asked to kill him. He could not bring himself to do so. A gun was pointed at him, with two options of either killing the best friend or he dies instead. A confused and tensed Lakor had to kill his friend. That was the first time, he killed someone.
A few years later at 11, Lakor’s fate changed. He was lucky to escape when his guards were distracted. Unfortunately, when he went back home his parents had died.
Lakor was destitute. He had a lot to deal with. He admits to have dealt with thoughts of revenge too. Perhaps, this would have helped with the grief and torture he was going through.
Instead, he tried to come to terms with his past and make amends with the family of his then best friend.
Today, Lakor is well groomed. He tries to impact former child soldiers in his country. He currently owns a workshop that assists about 60 young men and women each year who served as child soldiers. His works have resonated with the people in the community and of course they are thankful. This has consequently brought forgiveness and joy in the community.
In 2019, the LRA abducted 43 children, 37 are still missing and presumed to be in captivity. In 2018, the LRA abducted 69 children, 12 of whom are still missing.
These figures have significantly decreased with time and the LRA no longer make to international headlines. However, these ‘few’ cases is proof that the group’s continued abduction of children has not completely ended.
The LRA is just one example of such groups that subject children to a cruel life. From where I sit, I really hope that the world will live to the universal masterplan to secure a better future for the children as stipulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
What is making me more hopeful about this is the fact that, for the first time in history, the agenda has a more specific target to end all forms of violence and exploitation against children.
As I finish this, remember I mentioned that I have been keenly following these kinds of stories?
Some time back I did a story on Children in War Zones. This is a story I wish the world can watch and help in the fight against child oppression and today is a good day to watch it.