Reports coming from the Horn of Africa indicate that al-Shabaab, one of the more influentially destructive forces to humanity in the region, has long been taking children and using them as soldiers. The name “al-Shabaab” is Arabic for “The Youth”. Amnesty International, other human rights groups, and I are finally being heard in this disgusting act of war on the most innocent of the world, its children.
Let’s put the point of Youth into perspective for the Western World readers. Somalia has an average life expectancy of 48 years for males. This is nothing new. The environment is harsh and unforgiving. Life there is also hard and unforgiving. If you are not harder than the environment, you die. Again, the average life span in Somalia is 48 years. What is middle age in this culture? Mathematically it comes out to be 24. In Western cultures this is just out of college and still in the phase of heavy drinking every weekend. By age 24, in most parts of Africa, children have been tending the herd, minding the store, and hunting to help support their brothers and sisters and mother and father. They do not have anything that we could really call a childhood.
Al-Shabaab started off as the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia during the ICU reign in 2006 and into 2007. ICU left and al-Shabaab remained. They said from the start that they would fight to the death. Children were used as disposable items if they did not meet the standards set for them. This use of children is despicable, illegal, and utterly disgusting.
It is not just in Somalia. Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, has its share of child soldiers, also. Chad has only just put together a plan to demobilize its child soldiers. The Philippines just passed a bill against it after muslims rebels talked with the UN about weaning their child soldiers from war. Yemen uses child soldiers regularly.