Friday, August 18, 2006

Child soldiers in Zim

Caution: link is PDF FILE

From January 2003 school leavers were
sent to camps for compulsory youth service
training. Several thousand children and
young persons had received training by
March 2004, some of them as young as 11.
Training focused on paramilitary skills and
political education, and allegedly included
torture and killing techniques. Girls were
said to have been repeatedly raped by
other trainees and staff. Operating as
militia, trainees were allegedly used to
intimidate opposition supporters and were
accused of murder and torture....

National youth service training

In July 2002 the government announced that
a national youth training service program,
also known as youth militia training, would
be compulsory for all school leavers from
January 2003.5 The minimum age for national
youth service training was believed to be
16, with parental consent, but this could
not be confirmed. Access to the civil service
– in particular entrance to teacher training and
nursing colleges – is now dependent on having
graduated from the youth training service
program.6 According to initial government policy
documents, training camps responded to a need
to provide the nation’s youth, referred to as those
aged between 10 and 30 years of age, with “a
sense of national pride and history, as well as
skills suitable for employment”.7 In July 2003
the Minister of Defence was reported as saying
that weaponry training would be included in the
program, that the youth militia would “create
a reserve security force” and be a “lucrative
recruitment ground for the Zimbabwe National
Army”, and that 1,000 youth militia members had
already been recruited by the army.8

The first national youth training camp, Border
Gezi training camp in Mount Darwin, was set up
in 2001, with four more subsequently created.
Each centre provided militia training in a 120-day
program for 1,000 youths at a time.9 Government
budget statements in 2002 and 2003 indicated
plans to train 20,000 young people every year.
By the end of 2002, it appeared that as many as
9,000 children and young people had received
formal militia training, and at least as many again
had been trained in less formal programs at
district level.10 Circumstantial evidence collected
by a researcher suggested that a sizeable
proportion of the trainees were under 18: in one
camp, the register of participants indicated that
approximately one third were under 18, many
in the 15 to 16-year-old age range, with the
youngest a girl of 11.11

Serious human rights violations against
women and girls were reported by former
trainees.12 Girls were allegedly raped at the
training centres, including by officials.13 Girls
as young as 11 or 12 were said to have been
repeatedly raped.14 By early 2002 an estimated
one thousand women were held in militia camps
for sexual purposes.15

Allegations of murder, torture, rape and
the destruction of property by youth militias
emerged from January 2002 onwards.16 Youth
militias were reportedly used to occupy farms,
set up illegal roadblocks, force people from
their homes, steal identity cards, control food
distribution, and restrict access to health centres
and polling stations.17 One national youth service
camp commander reported that youths in his
camp had been sent to kill two government
opponents on the orders of his superiors.

former trainee reported being plied with alcohol
and drugs, and taught how to electrocute people
to extract information from them.18 Routine use
of alcohol and marijuana was reported during the
training and deployment of youth militia.19 The
government was alleged to have used the youth
militias to intimidate political opposition groups
in the run-up to the presidential elections in
200220 and to by-elections in 2004, in particular
in Zengeza in March 2004.21

In March 2004, the Minister for Youth
Development, Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri,
denied that military training was compulsory
or was included in the national youth service
program. He said that the government “believes
firmly in the protection of children, especially the
girl child”.

No comments:

Free hit counters
Free hit counters