percent of those who fought in Sierra Leone were between the ages 7 and 14, the age range for about half of the RUF’s manpower base.
Anthropologist David M. Rosen thinks the numbers,though shocking, are not indicative of an unprecedented crisis. In
Armies of the Young
, Rosenasserts that warfare is an extension of the pre-war status quo in Sierra Leone where children were“already integrated into an exploitive and violent system.”
In other words, he suggests that the presence of children in Sierra Leone’s battlefields is an inevitable result of the country’s cultureand history, and that children are themselves to blame. One will see, however, that Rosen’s proposition is sorely lack ing.Rosen’s thesis is rooted in what he calls the “global politics of age,”
which begins witha dispute over the very definition of the term
According to the Cape Town Principles, a child soldier is “any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.”
This definition follows the Straight 18Proposition, a commonly held view that sets the legal age of maturity at 18 in terms of warfare.
But Rosen rightly points out that there is no single, fixed age at which “young people enter into...the rituals of war.”
Various groups hold different ideas of childhood, and those notionsshould not be confused with childhood in cultures more familiar to us.
The Straight 18Proposition, then, extends the concept of childhood beyond the empirical age limits of growing
Singer, Ibid., 15-16. David M. Rosen,
Armies of the Young: Children in War and Terrorism
(New Jersey: RutgersUniversity Press, 2005), 60.
Rosen, Ibid., 90.
Cape Town Principles and Best Practice s on the Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and on Demobilization and Social Reintegration of Child S o ldiers in Africa
Rosen, Ibid., 3.