Combating Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Africa

Many African countries effectively protect children against military recruitment and use as soldiers. Sadly, others do not, failing to meet the standards they themselves have set.

By Constance Ndeleko

This particular article identifies recent attacks where children have been used as child soldiers to carry out terror attack despite having different legal instruments that protect children’s rights.

States Parties to the present Charter shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child shall take a direct part in hostilities and refrain in particular, from recruiting any child.

States Parties to this Charter shall undertake to respect and ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts which affect the child.


Irrefutably, children suffer conflict the hardest. Conflict affects them in multiples either physically, emotionally or mentally. Their growth and development is heavily dependent on the conditions they experiences as children.

Often times the damage done to children in conflict setting has long lasting implications for them and the society. Children experience unconscionable forms of violence. Least to say the detrimental impact on child soldiers is a violation of their rights and wellbeing (girls could be used for GBV, death, chronic injury and disability). Sometimes they are deprived of nutrition and healthy living conditions.

Why are Children used in conflict?

Repeatedly, children have been manipulated into acts of violence through manipulation, brain washing, bribery and exploitation as soldiers or even suicide bombers.  Some are kidnapped, threatened or coerced or by armed actors. Others are driven by poverty, compelled to generate income for their families. Regrettably, others associate themselves for survival or to protect their communities. Regardless of their involvement, the recruitment and use of children by armed forces is a grave violation of child’s rights and international humanitarian law.

Thousands of boys and girls are used as soldiers, cooks, spies and more in armed conflicts around the world.


Thousands of children are recruited and used in armed conflicts across the world.  Between 2005 and 2020, more than 93,000 children were verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict, although the actual number of cases is believed to be much higher.

A publication by Citizen Digital highlights the recent terror attack carried out in Burkina Faso.

“Terror attacks on gold mining operations in Burkina Faso are becoming a regular occurrence. VOA, reporter Henry Wilkins looks at the impact the attacks are having on the lives of survivors and what it could mean if extracting gold, the country’s primary source of income, becomes too dangerous.”

“Boukare was hiding on the roof of a building, from where he could see women and children moving around. At first, he thought they were being kidnapped by the attackers and then realized they were carrying out the attack themselves. “When they finished shooting, it was around 4:30 a.m. and then they started to burn [buildings and vehicles],” he said.

The groups are linked to Islamic State, al-Qaida and bandits who have stepped up attacks on miners. Extracting gold is seen as increasingly dangerous not only for the community but for children who are now being used to carry out the attacks.

Burkina Faso is the fastest growing producer of gold in Africa. Whilst informal mining is estimated to employ and indirectly support about 3 million people, large-scale commercial mining by foreign companies brought in $300 million of revenue for the government in 2018.

It has been reported that Since August, there have been two attacks on convoys belonging to iamgold, a company headquartered in Canada, and another one on a convoy owned by Endeavour Mining, headquartered in the Cayman Islands. The attacks left six dead.

In June 2021, an attack occurred which strategically targeted a small informal gold mine site killing at least 160 mine workers. These includes parents and caregivers of children who have been left behind.

Analysts say major disruption to the gold mining industry could have far-reaching impacts for the already fragile state. Ideally, this has a great impact on the future of children in the society and their wellbeing and the recovery process will not be an easy journey.

These experiences take a heavy toll on children’s relationships with their families and communities. Children who have been recruited or used by armed groups may be viewed with suspicion by the community and with outright rejection by their families and communities.

We critically need to recognize the risks involved with a post conflict and society relapsing into conflict whereby many wars do not formally end through victory or negotiation settlements and most likely children will be used as soldiers again.

We need to improve on post conflict reintegration programs and improve them to fit all the needs of these children. It’s of urgency that states respects and sign different declarations to help protect the rights of children in Africa.

Future recruitment can be prevented if only we understand the underlying causes for recruiting child soldiers e.g. why are children recruited at all? Why and how do children join the armed forces and groups?



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