By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Forty percent of all child soldiers globally are active in Africa, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Thursday.
The minister's remarks came at a ministerial meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
"Something must be done about this," current chairman of the AUSPC, Mushikiwabo said describing the military use of children in the continent as a "big problem".
According to a paper presented at the meeting by Ambassador Smail Chergue, AU commissioner for peace and security, it is estimated that "more than 50% of the population in many African conflict or post-conflict situations consists of children younger than 18 years old".
The Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups of 2007 states that "…children associated with armed conflict refers to any person below 18 years of age, who has been recruited or is being used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity".
The paper said that children are viewed as "expendable", "replaceable" and "cheap to maintain".
"Children's and adolescents' identities are still being formed, meaning that they can be more easily influenced and controlled, since they are dependent on protection and guidance and therefore accept more dangerous tasks without scrutinizing them," it said.
The paper noted that the recruitment and use of children was a "prevalent concern with armed groups controlling large swathes of territory, leaving many civilians without Government protection and resulting in children being abducted and forcibly recruited".
"Children are increasingly severely affected by violent extremism and are often the direct targets of acts intended to cause maximum civilian casualties and to terrorize communities," it said.