Recruitment of children into the ranks of armed militants

The very widespread practice among armed groups in Africa and the Maghreb: the recruitment of children into the ranks of militants has organizations talking about the protection of children’s rights.

In a report on children and armed conflicts in Mali for June 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres confirmed the recruitment of 648 children by terrorists in 2021 and the systematic work carried out by activists in this direction.

At the end of 2022, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs withdrew its authorization to adopt foreign children from the “L’association Rayon de soleil de l’enfant étranger” (RDSEE), which has been active in Mali and Africa for decades.

For several years, the transparency of this association has been called into question. These are multiple accusations of kidnappings, separation of families, including children from Mali who were taken to France, have been presented. The number of episodes of illegal adoption exceeds 7,000 cases. The investigation into this case is still ongoing.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the journalists’ investigation into the organization’s activities: there were “definitely illegal actions”. The French online newspaper, Le Monde, indicates that not only in Mali but also in the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Haiti, Peru and Romania, multiple sources ranging from the diplomatic archives of the State to French adoptees, biological parents as adoptive passing through former leaders of the association, put in doubt the probity of Rayon de soleil.

It should be noted that despite the fact that the procedure is open on French territory, the tentacles of French NGOs, also scattered in Mali, continue to carry out their activities in the interests of the French. This information presented highlights one aspect of the problem: the story of children taken for adoption. But the flip side is that these may have been children who never left the continent and who were recruited and trained to join terrorist groups.

Terrifying information comes from local residents of Ansongo circle, Gao region: ISGS (EGIS) imams teach radical Islam and teach children how to handle weapons: a Kalashnikov assault rifle and explosives. Then these little recruits enter the units of the EIGS. According to the source, these imams receive generous funding from French-speaking whites.

It should be noted that due to the food crisis caused by insecurity, many armed groups are taking advantage of the situation and recruiting more people into their ranks, including children. The international community is fighting against this practice, but children living in areas inaccessible to humanitarian organizations are victims of the conflict. The possible involvement of foreign nationals in the recruitment of children into armed groups should be investigated internationally.