Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

7
Putting Down the Gun

Children’s exit from armed groups and integration into civilian life advances a trilogy of priorities: peace, development, and protection. Peacebuilding connects intimately with child soldiering because child recruitment is an engine of contemporary conflict (Singer 2005). In Liberia, child soldiers were the majority of the fighters in bitter conflict during the period 2000 to 2003. In northern Uganda, child recruitment has been the primary means through which the LRA has continued its bloody war. To break cycles of violence and build peace, high priorities are prevention of child recruitment and support for the former child soldiers’ reintegration into civilian life.

The urgent link between reintegration and development is clear: war shatters economies, robs children of the education and skills they need to become effective civilians, and creates instability that undermines economic well-being. Reintegration also connects intimately with protection. Children who transition successfully into civilian life are less likely to continue the life of the gun, with its inherent dangers. However, instability in the postconflict environment can put children at grave risk of re-recruitment and thwart their reintegration.

Following armed conflict, many war-torn societies have implemented national programs of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). (In countries such as Liberia, DDR planners have added a second “R” for “rehabilitation, making the process DDRR. DDR is the more widely used acronym and will be used here.) Disarmament is the process of soldiers turning in their weapons, which may be collected and stored

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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