Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Waives Sanctions for Four Countries That Use Child Soldiers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Waives Sanctions for Four Countries That Use Child Soldiers

Article excerpt

President Obama grants waivers to Chad, the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen, which use child soldiers but are strategically important to the US. The waivers mean military aid will continue.

As a senator, Barack Obama supported legislation requiring the United States to cut off military aid to countries recruiting and deploying child soldiers.

This week as president, Mr. Obama acted to ensure that four countries found to use child soldiers - but which are also considered key national security interests - do not lose their US military assistance. Obama heeded the recommendation of a State Department review and waived application of a year-old law on child soldiers in the case of Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen.

In a Oct. 25 presidential memorandum, Obama said he had "determined that it is in the national interest of the United States" to waive application of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act for the four countries.

The waiver, issued quietly this week, was another example of what some diplomatic analysts consider to be Obama's pragmatic approach to foreign policy. But a number of human-rights and international- development groups say the waiver sends a bad signal.

"We are very concerned and disappointed with this decision," says Jesse Eaves, policy adviser on children in crisis for World Vision, a nongovernmental aid organization with field programs in three of the four exempted countries. "It appears to send the message that you can get away with failing to stop using children in combat as long as your country is strategic enough to the US."

White House: It's a warning

White House officials say the waivers serve as a wakeup call for the countries to clean up recruitment practices before the State Department delivers its next Trafficking in Persons Report. The annual report serves as the basis for determining which countries employ child soldiers. …

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