US taxpayers may be paying for child soldiers as young as nine
Concerned that child labor may be involved in stitching your t-shirt?
Try child labor involved in shooting people — child labor you may have paid for through your US taxes.
According to a report Monday, American taxpayers may be paying for child soldiers in Somalia, with some children as young as nine. Somalia, which the US AID agency considers a “failed state,” employs juvenile soldiers in its Transitional Federal Government, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.
Pens the New York Times Jeffrey Gettleman:
According to Somali human rights groups and United Nations officials, the Somali government, which relies on assistance from the West to survive, is fielding hundreds of children or more on the front lines, some as young as 9.
Child soldiers are deployed across the globe, but according to the United Nations, the Somali government is among the Ã¢â‚¬Å“most persistent violatorsÃ¢â‚¬Â of sending children into war, finding itself on a list with notorious rebel groups like the LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Resistance Army.
Somali government officials concede that they have not done the proper vetting. Officials also revealed that the United States government was helping pay their soldiers, an arrangement American officials confirmed, raising the possibility that the wages for some of these child combatants may have come from American taxpayers.
Gettleman includes a scene with a Somali 12-year-old in his piece who “is shouldering a fully automatic, fully loaded Kalashnikov assault rifle [while] is working for a military that is substantially armed and financed by the United States,” whose “cherubic face” turns angry at the approach of a driver at a checkpoint. “Few want to take their chances with a moody 12-year-old,” he writes.
The US is the largest donor to the Somali government.
But it’s unclear how much the US is actually paying the Somali leadership. In 2006, the US delivered $156 million. In 2009, however, reports say the total aid was halved, due to concerns that some of the money may have been diverted to groups aligned with al Qaeda.
“The U.S. reduced its funding to Somalia last year after its Office of Foreign Assets Control expressed fear that the extended supply line and insurgent-heavy areas where aid agencies were operating meant aid could be diverted to a group with links to al-Qaeda,” USA Today wrote in February.
“Last year, the American government provided less than half of what it did in 2008 for Somalia aid operations partly because United Nations agencies and private aid groups refused to sign an agreement to police the distribution of aid more closely, contending that it would make deliveries nearly impossible,” added the New York Times the next day.
The Times noted that the US is still providing a substantial share of Somali aid, saying the US “has resumed some donations to Somalia, including $15 million of food this month.”
US AID, funded by American taxpayers, considers Somalia a failed state.
“Since 1991, Somalia has essentially been a collapsed state. The social costs of war have been enormous, leaving Somalia with some of the lowest human development indicators in the world,” the agency writes. “The situation in Somalia is highly fluid, and Somalia’s social, economic, and political development faces formidable challenges. Given the long-term absence of central institutions in Somalia, ongoing efforts to support peace and stability and to rebuild law enforcement, governance, and social service institutions remains a priority for the United States.”