Weak states and child soldiering in Africa : contextual factors

Van Niekerk, Magdaleen (2003-12)

Thesis (MMil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Over the last forty years Africa has been one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world, resulting in untold human suffering. It has been estimated that between 1955 and 1999 some nine to ten million people have died as a result of violent conflict in Africa. However, those suffering the most in these wars are not merely the defenceless victims of conflict, but also its active perpetrators. More than 120 000 children under the age of 18 years have been forced or recruited to participate in armed conflicts across Africa. Although the use of children in armed conflict is not a new phenomenon, it has never been as widespread and as brutal as during the past decade. Governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, security institutes and the media have conducted extensive research on the phenomenon of child soldiers, specifically focusing on the demobilisation and reintegration of child combatants. Surprisingly, not much research has been conducted on why particular states are more prone to utilise these little soldiers than others. This thesis attempts to fill that gap by analysing the circumstances under which children are utilised as soldiers in Africa. This aim is divided into three subdivisions, namely to describe the type of states in which children are utilised as soldiers, to analyse the conflicts in which child soldiers are utilised, and to describe the socio-economic conditions that urge children to take up arms. An analysis of the child soldier-phenomenon suggests that it transpires in weak states. These states exhibit very distinct characteristics, including serious problems of legitimacy, the absence of one cohesive national identity, the presence of opposing local strongmen, high levels of institutional weakness, economic underdevelopment, and a vulnerability to external international forces. The weakness of these states is created by the fragmentation of social control amongst various social organisations, which is in turn caused by the expansion of the world economy from Europe and also by colonialism. This fragmentation poses immense challenges to state leaders and forces them to adopt very distinct political policies, which put certain limitations on the process of state-making. In response to this, leaders have adopted a number of social, political and economic strategies. These, together with the socio-economic conditions - specifically poverty - within weak states often create civil violence. These strategies include political centralisation, authoritarianism, ethnic politics, the manipulation of democratic processes and mechanisms, patronage politics and the manipulation of state economic structures and policies. However, in order to successfully execute these strategies, rulers need wealth-creating resources, which usually result in the exploitation of scarce natural resources. Warlords and local strongmen also exploit resources to purchase arms to combat both government forces and opposing strongmen. In addition, large international private companies cash in on the financial advantages accrued from conflict. This leads to the formation of entrenched war economies. In the end then, these wars becomean excuse to plunder natural resources for private enrichment. A very distinct characteristic of these conflicts is the widespread use of child soldiers. All the armed groups in Africa's wars, including government armed forces, paramilitary groups and armed opposition groups, are to a greater or lesser extent guilty of recruiting, forcefully conscripting, press-ganging and deploying child soldiers. However, states that utilise child soldiers all exhibit similar socio-economic characteristics. Poverty is endemic. Famine is widespread and magnifies the problems caused by war and poverty even further. The provision of medical and health care is insufficient because of the vast number of war wounded and the destruction of hospitals and clinics. This is also aggravated by the high numbers of HIV/AIDS sufferers. Schools are destroyed, educational systems are often poorly developed and illiteracy is widespread. In addition, due to years of war and civil unrest, millions of people are displaced and forced to become refugees. These socio-economic characteristics create the ideal breeding ground for the recruitment of child soldiers.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Oor die afgelope veertig jaar was Afrika een van die mees konflikgedrewe streke in die wêreld wat op onbeskryflike menslike lyding uitgeloop het. Dit is bereken dat tussen 1955 en 1999 ongeveer nege tot tien miljoen persone gesterf het as gevolg van die gewelddadige konflikte in Afrika. Maar diegene wat die meeste in sulke oorloë gely het, was nie maar net die weerlose slagoffers van die konflik nie, maar hulle was inderdaad ook aktiewe deelnemers daaraan. Meer as 120 000 kinders onder die ouderdom van 18 jaar is gedwing of gewerf om aan gewapende konflik regoor Afrika deel te neem. Alhoewel die deelname van kinders aan gewapende konflik nie 'n nuwe verskynsel is nie, was dit nog nooit so wydverspreid en so brutaal soos tydens die afgelope dekade nie. Regeringsorganisasies, nie-regeringsorganisasies, akademiese instellings, sekerheidsinstellings en die media het uitgebreide navorsing onderneem oor die verskynsel van kindersoldate, en spesifiek gefokus op die demobilisering en herintegrasie van kinderkrygers. Verbasend genoeg is nie veel navorsing gedoen oor waarom spesifieke state meer gereed staan om hierdie klein soldaatjies aan te wend as andere nie. Hierdie tesis poog om hierdie kennisgaping te vul deur die omstandighede waaronder kinders as soldate in Afrika aangewend word, te analiseer. Die doel hiermee word in drie onderafdelings verdeel, naamlik om die tipes state te beskryf waarin kinders as soldate aangewend word, om die konflikte te analiseer waarin kindersoldate gebruik word en ook om die sosio-ekonomiese omstandighede te beskryf wat kinders aanspoor om die wapen op te neem. 'n Analise van die kindersoldaatverskynsel dui aan dat dit in swak state voorkom. Hierdie state openbaar besonderse kenmerke, insluitende ernstige probleme rakende legitimiteit, die afwesigheid van 'n enkele samebindende nasionale identiteit, die aanwesigheid van plaaslike sterk leiers, hoë vlakke van institusionele swakhede, ekonomiese onderontwikkeling en In blootstelling aan eksterne internasionale kragte. Die swakhede van hierdie state het ontstaan deur die fragmentering van sosiale beheer onder verskeie sosiale organisasies, wat op hul beurt veroorsaak is deur die uitbreiding van die wêreldekonomie vanuit Europa en ook deur kolonialisme. Hierdie fragmentering gee aanleiding tot ontsaglike uitdagings vir staatsleiers en dwing hulle om onderskeidende politieke beleidsrigtings toe te pas wat weer sekere beperkings op die proses van staatsvorming plaas. In antwoord hierop het leiers 'n aantal sosiale, politieke en ekonomiese strategieë aanvaar. Tesame met die sosio-ekonomiese omstandighede - en spesifiek armoede - skep hierdie strategieë dikwels burgerlike geweld binne swak state. Sulke strategieë sluit in politieke sentralisasie, outoritêre oorheersing, etniese beleidsrigtings, die manipulering van demokratiese prosesse en meganismes, die politiek van beskerming en begunstiging, asook die manipulering van die staat se ekonomiese strukture en beleidsrigtings. Maar om hierdie strategieë suksesvol uit te voer, benodig die heersers welvaartskeppende hulpbronne wat gewoonlik uitloop op die uitbuiting van skaars natuurlike hulpbronne. Gewapende aanvoerders en plaaslike onderdrukkers plunder ook hulpbronne om wapens aan te skaf om sowel regeringsmagte asook opponerende onderdrukkers te beveg. Daarby trek internasionale private maatskappye ook voordeel uit die finansiële opbrengste wat uit konflik verkry word. Dit alles lei tot die totstandkoming van verskanste oorlogsekonomieë. In die finale analise word hierdie oorloë bloot 'n verskoning om natuurlike hulpbronne vir eie verryking te plunder. 'n Baie onderskeidende kenmerk van hierdie konflikte is die wydverspreide aanwending van kindersoldate. AI die gewapende groepe in Afrika se oorloë, insluitende regerings se gewapende magte, paramilitêre groepe en gewapende opposisiegroepe, is almal tot mindere of meerdere mate skuldig aan die werwing, gewelddadige rekrutering en aanwending en ook die ontplooiing van kindersoldate. State wat kindersoldate gebruik, toon almal soortgelyke sosio-ekonomiese kenmerke. Armoede is endemies. Hongersnood is wydverspreid en vererger die probleme wat deur oorloë en armoede veroorsaak is. Die voorsiening van mediese- en gesondheidsorg is onvoldoende as gevolg van die hoë aantal HIVNigslyers. Skole is vernietig, onderwysstelsels is dikwels onderontwikkeld en ongeletterdheid is wydverspreid. As gevolg van jare se oorloë en burgerlike onrus word miljoene mense verder ook uit hul huise gedryf en gedwing om vlugtelinge te word. Hierdie sosio-ekonomiese kenmerke skep die ideale teelaarde vir die werwing van kindersoldate.

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