Child Soldiers in Africa

By Sheldon, Kathleen | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, September 1, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Child Soldiers in Africa


Sheldon, Kathleen, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Child Soldiers in Africa. By Alcinda Honwana. Ethnography of Political Violence series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Pp. 202. $45.00/£29.50 cloth.

Alcinda Honwana addresses a difficult and necessary topic in her survey of child soldiers in Africa. Though the title indicates a continent-wide discussion, the book is focused primarily on Angola and Mozambique, where she carried out interviews and surveys in the 1990s. Chapter 1 begins with a quick look at the history of the wars in Angola and Mozambique, followed by a chapter that places child soldiers into a much broader context with a succinct overview of children in war through history and around the world. The rest of the book returns to the focus on Angola and Mozambique, with occasional comparative references to child soldiers in West Africa or Asia.

Honwana had privileged access to former child soldiers through her work with non-governmental organizations that were involved in rehabilitating and reintegrating child soldiers once peace was achieved in each country. In Mozambique she worked with "Esperança para Todos" (Hope for All) on Josina Machel Island, while in Angola she was affiliated with the Christian Children's Fund. Thus, in addition to various published sources, she collected the horrific histories and experiences of many child combatants and others who had been swept up by hostilities.

The book is arranged in a loosely chronological format, beginning with the most common ways in which young people were recruited and initiated into a life focused on violence. The next section investigates the special experiences of girls and young women who were rarely soldiers, but who were often an integral part of camp life, where they performed domestic chores and too frequently suffered rape and sexual abuse as the "wives" and girlfriends of the soldiers. Honwana next discusses the ways in which local communities and families used healing rituals to move returned child soldiers past the wartime experience and into a peaceful future. She ends the book with a discussion of how the world more generally can learn from these experiences to end the apparently spreading practice of recruiting very young boys and girls to fight and work in war.

The book is a valuable resource, though there are some problems. It sometimes becomes repetitive, as so many children and young people followed similar paths of recruitment, especially compulsory enlistment, and later of healing. It can be difficult to read yet another account of a child forced to commit an atrocity as a way to break their ties to their own families and communities, but such repetition may be necessary to impress on readers the full horror of the experiences of many children.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Child Soldiers in Africa
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?