The Second Congo War began in 1998 and officially ended in 2003. Although it ended in 2003, tensions and violence continued, leading to the Second Congo War being the deadliest war in modern African history. By 2008 it was estimated that over 3.8 million deaths were caused by the war. The second Congo War is also called the “African World War” because it involved so many different African countries. Among the many war crimes that occurred throughout the duration of this war one of the most notable and disturbing is the use of child soldiers. Above is an image taken of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by a photographer working for a media company called Vice in 2012. Vice is a The Second Congo War is the deadliest conflict since World War II, it is a war that has killed millions, scarred a nation and caused irreversible mental and physical damage to those involved. There were many war crimes committed during the war and the use of child soldiers and the effects it had on the children is the biggest offense of them all. The recruitment of child soldiers during the Second Congo War, damaged the surviving children mentally, physically, and emotionally, and is one the best examples of the horrors war can bring about.
The Second Congo War and its use of child soldiers is especially terrifying when one thinks of the conditions in which the children lived and how those conditions shifted their young minds from innocent thoughts to visions of war. The children were often hungry, tired, had insufficient shelter and went days without bathing. In the image you can see a group of unarmed child soldiers standing behind what appears to be their superior. Their clothes are dirty and it is clear that the kids in the picture are not happy. Child soldiers in the Second Congo war experienced extremely violent situations. From rape and murder of a family to the slaughtering of entire villages. One can only imagine the mental stress that put on the children as they tried to survive such a treacherous environment. These horrific experiences often led to them developing mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). PTSD is a mental illness that causes people who have been through traumatic events to have life like flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme anxiety.
In a study done on the effects war had on child soldiers, conducted in 2005 and published in 2007, it was shown that they had been seriously disturbed by their experiences in war. The study took 169 former child soldiers and gagged where they fell on the PTSD scale. The results of the study made it clear that child soldiers were extremely traumatized from being forced to commit violent acts during war. More than one-third of the children who participated in the study scored a PTSD symptom score of 35 or higher, meaning they did have PTSD. The study leaves no doubt that there is a correlation between the experiences of violence in child soldiers and the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in those children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of child soldiers, a sample size of less that 200 returned a significant amount of children with PTSD. This finding only confirms that many of the child soldiers, forced to fight in the Second Congo War, were deeply effected mentally by the violence they endured.
The Second Congo War, also known as the “African World War”, was a tragedy within itself but more importantly the use of child soldiers and the effects it had on them is even more tragic. Child soldiers lived in fear daily, were subjected to traumatic acts of violence, there were crimes committed against them and they were forced to commit crimes against others, they were kept in poor conditions and made to adjust to life in a constant battle between themselves, those forcing them to fight, and those they were forced to commit crimes against. This inhumane treatment led to significant amounts of child soldiers developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In a study done on a sample amount of former child soldiers, it was discovered that more than a third of those who participated in fact had PTSD, and their experiences in war are directly responsible for their development of PTSD. The use of child soldiers in the Second Congo War affected the surviving children by changing the way they viewed the world and how they interacted with those around them. The subject of child soldiers and the events that occur in their lives is not a new topic and has been explored in many different ways. From blog posts like this one, to studies and articles like the ones I used to get statistics and facts about child soldiers to riveting documentaries. I encourage all my readers to educate themselves more on the topic of child soldiers, not just in Africa but in other countries all over the world and even look into the documentaries that are out there. If you really want a raw and true representation of what life was like for child soldiers in the Second Congo war, I would suggest you watch a documentary called “Beasts of No Nation” on Netflix. Although it is not specifically on the Second Congo War it is a great representation of what child soldiers likely endured.
- Vice. “Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 22 May 2012. Web. 15 January 2016.
- “Association of Trauma and PTSD Symptoms With Openness to Reconciliation and Feelings of Revenge Among Former Ugandan and Congolese Child Soldiers.” JAMA Network. 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Jan. 2016
- “The Second Congo War and Its Consequences .” Weiss. 1 Aug. 2000. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.
- Zapata, Mollie. “Congo: The First and Second Wars, 1996-2003 | Enough Project.” Congo: The First and Second Wars, 1996-2003. 19 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.
- “Coercion and Intimidation of Child Soldiers to Participate in Violence.”Human Rights Watch. 16 Apr. 2008. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.
- “Beasts of No Nation – Main Trailer – A Netflix Original Film [HD].” YouTube. YouTube, 4 Sept. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xb9Ty-1frw>.