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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 110 / 125





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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

children during war. These include the Fourth Geneva Convention (articles 14, 17, 23, 24, 38) and Protocol II (article 4(3)).

Despite the protection sought to be granted by international law, it is notable that these rules are not always observed. Granted, in some cases children themselves volunteer to engage in active hostilities. But in a number of cases they are conscripted into armies by State and non-State agencies. The narrative/ example given in this section supports this argument. This research found several instances where international law rules regarding child soldiers were breached. The experience shared by the child soldier in this section also demonstrates the risks that children are exposed to in times of war. Rather than seeking to protect children in the war theater, some use them as human shields. This experience also shows how vulnerable children are. Further, it demonstrates how some of them are easily manipulated. Aside from international human rights and humanitarian law considerations, this state of affairs is quite troubling. The long-term effect on these young people is something to think seriously about.

4. Maintenance

The family is the basic unit of any society (article 16 UDHR; article 18 Banjul Charter). It is through this institution that new members of any political community are introduced and nurtured. Generally speaking, this institution is primarily responsible for teaching children cultural and religious values as well as skills necessary to become self-supporting adults (Sarah Norton-Stall: 1994, 30). While formally recognising the important role that a family plays in any political community, international human rights laws have prescribed measures that are designed to keep this unit intact. Commencing with the 1948 UDHR, key international human rights treaties such as the 1976 ICESCR, the 1976 ICCPR and, more recently, the 1990 CRC have formally underpinned the role of family in society. As the UDHR, these treaties recognise the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. These instruments bestow an obligation upon states as well as society in general to undertake measures that will safeguard rather than put this institution at risk. In order to safeguard this institution, international human rights law places a joint obligation on both parents for a child’s upbringing. Article 18 of the CRC requires States to ‘use their best endeavours’ to ensure the recognition of this principle. This article further provides that ‘parents or … legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. Despite these guarantees the situation on the ground in times of armed conflict is troubling. This research found a number of instances where one parent failed to meet their obligations towards their child. This was particularly in instances where children were born out of rape. Indeed, this demonstrates failure of the State to ensure that both parents perform their duty. The following examples underscore


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