A comparative analysis of the recruitment, deployment and treatment of child soldiers by non-state armed groups in Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and El Salvador

Al Darmaki, Stacey Tamara (2012) A comparative analysis of the recruitment, deployment and treatment of child soldiers by non-state armed groups in Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and El Salvador. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Over the past decades concern, legislation and research related to the phenomenon of child soldiers has increased in both scope and depth. Much is known about the experiences that children undergo, their recruitment both voluntary and forced by non-state armed groups, their training and deployment and the abuse that they are both forced to endure and forced to commit against others. This thesis builds upon this knowledge by exploring in a systematic and comparative way, not previously undertaken, how the type of conflict impacts on child soldiering. Three conflicts, each with a non-state entity which used child soldiers were comparatively assessed. One a criminal enterprise rooted in the extraction of resources, one ethno-nationalist in origin and revolving around claims and counter-claims to sovereignty over a particular territory and one a left-wing insurgency which aimed to reconfigure the social, economic and political structures of the state. Each had unique aspects but there were also some similarities. To allow for a fuller understanding of these differences and similarities it was useful to think of the conflicts as ranging along a spectrum. The spectrum that was used was that of new war/old war which allowed the conflicts to be situated according to their characteristics but which also enabled, through use of the moving continuum, the conflicts to be seen over the course of the time period in which they were conducted, as they moved along the spectrum in response to changes in the conflict. To explore how each conflict affected child soldier's experiences the research included interviews with relevant experts, the collection of quantative and qualitative data and an extensive overview of the literature. A comparative assesment of how support for the group, access to resources, the groups' use of violence, the manipulation of culture by the groups for their own ends and whether children had space to act on their initiative underpinned by the triangulation of the information collected enabled robust conclusions to be drawn. The findings showed that the hypothesis that the type of conflict impacts on children's recruitment, deployment and abuse within non-state armed groups holds true. A study of the aforementioned factors highlight that the type of conflict the groups were involved with acted to restrain, or not, the actions of the group towards children in each of the three areas, recruitment, deployment and abuse. Yet the findings showed great complexity, in some important ways the groups' behaviour showed similarities. These were related in part to the trajectory ofthe conflicts and in part to similarities between the groups in terms of motivation and support, factors that at times mitigated group behaviour and at others times allowed groups to act in extreme ways.

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