The UN hears testimony from former child soldiers about the brutal realities of war

Speaking anonymously and through an interpreter, the 16-year-old called on ambassadors to increase protection and security in conflict zones to ensure children like him never have to actively participate. into the horrors of war.

“When I was born, 16 years ago, there was armed conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the child began to recount how the situation was getting worse and how children were the biggest victims.

I was forced to join an armed group while walking to school.

The child’s testimony highlights the brutal reality faced by many children in conflict zones.

The ugly truth

“Two months ago, during armed attacks on two of our neighboring villages, children were targeted for kidnapping and forced to join armed groups, while other children were kidnapped to family for ransom. This resulted in the murder of many children whose families did not have the means to pay the ransom demanded.,” the child said, describing how schools and hospitals were attacked and used as military bases.

The child shares his personal experience of being kidnapped and forced into an armed group.

We cried and trembled, begging them to let us go home to our family, but they didn’t listen. That’s when they started beating us and locking us in the bushes. We are heavily guarded and they have given orders to kill anyone who tries to escape.”

Testimony included vivid descriptions of hardships endured, such as forced food robberies and carjackings, in which girls were taken by soldiers as “wives.”

“Life is not rosy, because dried cassava is the main food and I am also afraid of wild animals in the bush.”

Overview of the United Nations Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict.

An overview of the United Nations Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict.

Personal appeal to ambassadors

After three years of camp, the child managed to escape and was eventually assisted by the Congolese Government’s child demobilization program. Now back at school, the child is working with the children’s council to raise awareness of children’s rights.

“I want to call on the United Nations Security Council Let’s work together to support children affected by conflict,” she emphasized.

“This support will help protect children, give them access to education and health care, and protect them from violence in environments where their rights are violated.”

Unprecedented violation

The testimony was part of the Security Council’s open debate on children and armed conflict, where the 15-member body considered the Secretary-General’s views. annual report alongside in-depth briefings by senior UN officials, civil society and experts.

During the period January to December 2023, report reveals “extreme levels” of violence against children in armed conflict, with unprecedented numbers of deaths and injuries.

Last year, the United Nations verified 32,990 serious violations against 22,557 children in 26 conflict areas, the highest annual number in nearly a decade, said Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, told members of the Security Council.

The highest number of serious violations in 2023 were in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.

Violations against children mentioned in the report include kidnapping, killing, maiming, recruitment or use in armed forces and groups, attacks on schools or hospitals, rape or other serious sexual violence and denial of humanitarian access.

Young classmates gather at a heavily damaged school in a village in northern Ukraine.

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson

Young classmates gather at a heavily damaged school in a village in northern Ukraine.

Trampling children’s rights ‘must stop’

Ms. Gamba emphasized that the only way forward is through cooperation, solidarity and political will to reduce, prevent and ultimately stop violations against children.

Protecting children from conflict is essential to breaking the cycle of violence, she said, calling for a culture of shared responsibility to protect children. Peaceful solutions are needed to protect children when peace efforts fail to achieve their goals.

She emphasized that respect for international law “is a minimum prerequisite for protecting children.”

Despite solid international consensus on these issues, conflicting parties still blatantly trample on children’s rights., with little or no consequences,” she said. “This has to stop.”

UN officials repeated the call for protection

The Security Council also heard from former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as Vice-President of the Council of Elders and from Ted Chaiban, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Mr. Ban stressed that there should be no impunity for those who commit crimes against children anywhere in the world.

Mr. Chaiban called on the Security Council to protect children from harm, promote peace and engage in sustained diplomacy to end and prevent conflicts, adding that humanitarian organizations , peace and development are ready to support.


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