Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama gives U.S. aid to 4 countries using child soldiers

United States President Obama

President Obama granted a waiver on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, signed into law by former President George W. Bush, which extends U.S. aid to four countries using children as soldiers.

A memo was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton extending military aid to Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad. All four countries are recognized as using child soldiers in their military. (read the memo)

The Obama administration said cutting the aid to these countries would do more harm than good. The aid being sent will provide more stability and allow the U.S. to help these governments eliminate the use of child soldiers. In addition, the Obama administration says that military aid to these countries is essential in the war on terror and in combattng Al-Queda in these regions.

A number of human rights group beg to differ.

"What the president has done is basically given everybody a pass for using child soldiers," said Jo Becker, children's rights director at Human Rights Watch.

Other non-profit organizations are concerned by the waivers. They say the Child Soldier Prevention Act does not mandate cutting off all forms of aid to countries in violation of the act. The U.S. can still provide aid and support to the countries in question and help them work towards ending the use of child soldiers.
"That kind of assistance is still allowed under the law without invoking the waiver. That's why this is a disturbing step," said Jesse Eaves of the World Vision humanitarian organization.

Author's Note:
There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world today. This is one of the most disturbing forms of modern slavery aside from sex trafficking. Many children are orphans, or children of opposing sides, who become child soldiers through human trafficking and kidnapping. Due to their vulnerability and impressionability, young children are preferred because they can easily be controlled and forced to obey commands.

I do not know if it was the right or wrong decision by President Obama to sign the waivers. Time will tell. I do know that the U.S. government does need to work to help these countries eliminate the use of Child Soldiers and I hope that th aid being distributed to these countries will make it a top priority.

Below is a video from Project AK47, an organization working to end the use of child soldiers in Asia. You can also see more videos about child soldiers throughout Africa and Asia If you're looking for a book to read about child soldiers, I suggest the book War Child, by Emmanuel Jal. Be warned that the book is graphic and is not for the faint of heart. It will tear you down and hopefully build you up again, as it did me.

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