It’s International Children’s Day today. Unfortunately, Colombian children do not have a State that speaks up for their rights. If the State did care about children’s rights, the Santos administration would require that the FARC release all children currently in their ranks.
I urge the Santos administration to demand the children’s release, alongside the release of General Alzate, whose kidnapping three days ago suspended the two-year-old peace talks between the Santos government and the FARC.
The children now in the FARC’s ranks are also kidnapped; adults have kidnapped their childhoods and stolen their lives. (See: What “volunteering” for FARC really means.)
What sort of government leadership demands the release of a high-ranking general but not of minors?
The FARC talk peace in Havana — but meanwhile, back in Colombia, the FARC are increasing their recruitment of children to boost their weakened fighting units, according to child welfare workers, officials and community leaders.
Luis Andrés Fajardo, of Colombia’s Sergio Arboleda University, said child recruitment is part of FARC policies, as per FARC documents he studied. He added the guerrilla does not recognize the Convention on the Rights of the Child as it was signed by the Colombian government and not by the FARC.
Forty-seven percent of the estimated 8,000 remaining members of the FARC joined the group as minors, said the recent study led by Fajardo.
Fajardo’s most shocking finding — children join the illegal armed groups with the intention to later demobilize and so be eligible to participate in the government’s rehabilitation program for former combatants, which includes therapy, schooling, and funding for a “life project.” This shows the work of state-building and post-conflict that is ahead for Colombia.
Schools in Colombia’s countryside are used for military operations and as recruiting grounds for drug cartels/ illegal armed groups.
Landmines are also often found in schoolyards.
Colombia’s Institute of Forensic Medicine has embarked on a massive project to identify the remains of children from mass graves, hoping to find answers for some of the families of the more than 17,000 children who have gone missing in Colombia.
Most of the victims were child soldiers, taken by armed groups. Their families didn’t see them again until they appeared years later in mass graves or unmarked graves in cemeteries.
The video below was filmed by the FARC themselves, in December 2013, as negotiations were taking place in Havana.
The video below shows the FARC’s indoctrination of children and adolescents in the “José Maria Cordoba” training camp. Kids are taught to use Ak-47s and Galils to kill.
The training camp, known as an initiation, lasts one month. It tests the children’s mental alertness, physical strain, and their response to authority. From there, the best kids are selected to receive further training.