Child soldiers of Africa
IN the early 1980s, in the lowlands of Mozambique, a new technology of warfare emerged that would sweep across Africa and soon the rest of the world: the child soldier.
Rebel commanders had constructed a four-foot tall killing machine that cut its way through village after village and nearly overran the government. Its trail was smoking huts and sawed off ears.
The Mozambicans learned that children were the perfect weapon: easily manipulated, intensely loyal, fearless and, most important, in endless supply.
Today, human rights groups say, there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. And experts say the problem is deepening as the nature of conflict itself changes — especially in Africa.
Here, in one country after another, conflicts have morphed from idea- or cause-driven struggles to warlord-led drives whose essential goal is plunder. Because those new rebel movements are motivated and financed by crime, popular support becomes irrelevant. Those in control don’t care about hearts and minds. They see the local population as prey.
The result is that few adults want to have anything to do with them, and manipulating and abducting children becomes the best way to sustain the organized banditry.
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