‘Mali had never experienced the phenomenon of child soldiers. The first cases of child soldiers were two children who were shown on television by the Malian army – something that we immediately decried because children should not be displayed like war trophies. It’s a violation of their rights.’
– So stated Bakary Traoré, head of Mali’s child welfare department, in an article entitled Mali takes baby steps toward protecting former child soldiers, just published by IRIN News, a service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (h/t) Citing a recent Watchlist report, the article reported that “an unknown number of children” found themselves in militias during the armed conflict waged in Mali last year. Enlistment of child soldiers was cited in Mali’s July 2012 referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.
The IRIN article reported that 23 children, aged 12 to 17, are now in the care of authorities Bamako. Four of them have been charged with crimes under national law – charges Traoré’s office is seeking to have dismissed. Meanwhile, UNICEF officials told the reporter that much needs to be done to locate and address the needs of children caught up in the conflict.