World Vision welcomes spotlight on child soldiers

The International Criminal Court and national governments must take the lead if the recruitment of child soldiers is to be brought to an end, World Vision has said.

The Christian development agency welcomed the renewed focus on the plight of child soldiers following the launch of the Kony2012 campaign.

Kony2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children to raise awareness of the crimes being committed by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). It is hoped that the campaign will lead to his arrest.

The rebel group operates in South Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least 10,000 girls and boys have been kidnapped and forced to fight in the LRA since it began fighting in 1987.

World Vision has been working in Uganda for more than 25 years. Part of its work includes the rehabilitation of former child soldiers.

Justin Byworth, chief executive of World Vision UK, said that the elimination of child soldiers required a “complex response” led by authorities such as the International Criminal Court and national governments, and supported by the international community.

He said there was a need to address the long-term needs of children affected by war.

“The use of child soldiers by rebel groups like the LRA is a horrific practice which must be ended,” he said.

“We’ve seen the devastating impact on children’s lives in places like Uganda, where World Vision has been working for decades. Much of our work centres on rehabilitating child soldiers in places like World Vision's Children of War Centre in Gulu, northern Uganda.”

One former child soldier receiving support at the Gulu centre is Justine Odong, a 26-year-old who was abducted as a child and seriously wounded during his 13 years as an LRA soldier.

He said: “If I cling to those years, then it will not change. I do not want to carry these things in my heart.”

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