n Commonwealth Youth and Development - African children in armed conflict : bridging right and reality

Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1727-7140



Children's social, political and economic spaces are protected to some degree in every society and the ways in which the child-adult transition is managed are as diverse as culture itself. While the applicability of definitions of childhood under international legal frameworks such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been subject to question, there is little doubt that armed conflict undermines the familial and community stability that permits children safe space for growth, development and learning. In recent years civil wars in Africa have erased the boundaries between soldiers and civilians; a situation in which children have become the targets of atrocities that include forced recruitment, sexual violence, genocide, and other assaults clearly intended to jeopardise the continuity of communities. The phenomenon of child soldiers has simultaneously become prominent in the media. Underlying what have verged on graphic and even exploitive portrayals of children in the name of advocacy is a trend that began even before Africa's colonial liberation struggles - the systematic political and military mobilisation of children and youth for political change. Beyond the debate on whether children can be considered volunteers, given the social and economic pressures they face, and beyond the litany of violations of children's rights that drives child advocacy, young people hold political and military potential that has consistently been exploited by conflict stakeholders and ignored by conflict analysts. This article explores the nature of child and youth agency in conflict in an attempt to show that young people are not only victims of conflict, but actors and stakeholders who are overlooked to the detriment of our understanding of conflict.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error