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09.03.2009 General News

NGO condemns use of children in Bawku conflict

NGO condemns use of children in Bawku conflict

Children's Rights International, a non governmental organisation, has condemned the use of children in the Bawku conflict by the feuding factions.

It said information available to it confirmed the use of children to burn houses.

The Executive Director of the NGO, Mr Bright Appiah, who made this known, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said: "This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and stopped immediately.

"Those behind the recruitment of children in the conflict must be arrested and made to face the law. This is because the effect of the use of children cannot be measured," he said.

The Commanding Officer in charge of the Airborne Force in Tamale, Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Awuah-Mantey, noted last Friday that the war in Bawku had become more disturbing because of the increasing number of children being recruited as combatants.

Briefing the Vice President, Mr John Mahama, who led a government delegation on a fact-finding mission to Bawku on the peacekeeping operations, Lt. Col. Awuah-Mantey recalled that on March 2, 2009, 20 children of the Mamprusi tribe aged between eight and 15, ambushed a Kussasi woman near the Bawku Hospital and were about to kill her when she was rescued by the security agencies.

Again, he said, a certain elderly man of Moshie extraction was caught selling petrol in small sachets at GH¢l.00 each to children who had been mobilised to go and burn down some houses.

He described the involvement of children in the conflict as unacceptable and advised those behind it to stop it.

Mr Appiah said the information available to the organisation was that most of those who were used by the feuding groups were between the ages of 10 and 18, and that, "our information is that the children are being oriented and conscientised to hate their friends from the other tribe".

He described such acts as dangerous and that if nothing was done to stop the practice, the future of the country would be bleak since children were the future leaders and could carry hatred developed from childhood into the future.

He said the information available to the NGO further showed that while some of the children involved were students; others were not, thereby making it dangerous, "since it would be difficult to convince such children to stop or change their attitudes".

Mr Appiah said the use of children in the conflict further deepened the lack of understanding of children's issues and the laws on the protection of the rights of children.

He buttressed his point by saying it was sad that children were being used by adults for their own parochial interests, and cited the use of children to register during the last voters registration exercise last year.

As a country, he said, it was time the issue of child protection as brought to the fore of national issues.

Mr Appiah said the NGO, which had dispatched its personnel to the area, believed in protecting the rights of children, and called for an extension of the curfew for the sake of the children.

He stressed the need to send clinical psychologists to the area since the children had the right to maintenance and rehabilitation.

In a related development, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Challenging Heights, a child centred NGO, Mr James Kofi Annan, who also condemned the act, said children should not be used to perpetuate or cause harm.

He said exposing children to danger or any form of hazardous activities undermined their rights, and stressed the need for those involved in the practice in Bawku to stop to safeguard the future of the country.

Mr Annan reminded the feuding factions that the future of any country depended on its children, and that they should stop the practice immediately since they were infringing on their rights to develop.

"Those using the children know that they (children cannot be prosecuted if caught since they are protected under the law," he said, and that "this is why they are using them".

"Children have a right to grow in a peaceful environment," he emphasised.