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Obama lifts sanctions against child-soldier trafficking

CC NCIn the same week that President Obama issued, with great fanfare, an executive order to fight human trafficking, he also quietly nullified the Child Soldiers Protection Act (CSPA) of 2008. This is not the first time he has misused an executive order to override this piece of legislation, which was unanimously passed in Congress. In 2010, he granted a “one-time” waiver to certain nations, then renewed the waiver in 2011. His memo explaining the order said he had determined it is not in the national interest of the U.S. to proceed with the CSPA and was waiving its application for Libya, South Sudan, Yemen and, partially, Congo. The stated reason: So US arms manufacturers could continue selling their wares to countries that have not foresworn the child soldier oppression and so the US could continue sending military training funds to those countries.

How can the United States’ national interest be served by looking the other way while children are forced into military service? How can the President’s greatly welcomed stance against child trafficking be seen as anything other than a facade?

Mission Network News reports:

Four days ago, U.S. President Barack Obama quietly nullified the Child Soldiers Protection Act (CSPA) of 2008.

Lorella Rouster with Every Child Ministries (ECM) explains, “On Sunday afternoon, the president issued a memo saying that he has determined that it’s not in the national interest of the U.S. to proceed with this [Act], and therefore he has waived the application of this law with respect to certain nations like Libya, South Sudan, Yemen, and partially, in the case of Congo.” …

The CSPA was a Bush-era law aimed as a deterrent at U.S. arms sales to countries determined by the State Department to be the worst abusers of child soldiers in their military. Rouster says it went through Congress unanimously–a rare effort. The teeth: “That law made it a federal crime to recruit or to use soldiers under the age of 15. It gave the U.S. the authority to prosecute, deport, and deny entry to anybody who recruited child soldiers, and it also forbade us to export arms and military items to countries that allowed use of child soldiers.” …

A United Nations committee urged the U.S. president to take a tougher stance. They’re not alone. “This action…I’m utterly dismayed by it,” exclaims Rouster, noting that it sends a lot of mixed messages. “We just see it as prolonging the war in Congo. We see it as sending the wrong kind of message to people around the world so that the practice of recruiting children to serve as soldiers is only going to increase as a result of this.”

The irony is that a week earlier, touting his administration’s stance on the issue, President Obama issued an executive order to fight human trafficking. Confused yet? Rouster says, “We just feel that these presidential memos will have the effect of subjecting more children to those wars, and also it’ll send the message to the world that ‘trafficking children into the military is okay with us’, or at least, ‘we’re looking the other way’.”

However, the issue of Child Soldiery has devastating consequences on a society. ECM has learned this firsthand over the years as they’ve built ministry to rehabilitate some of the child soldiers they’ve encountered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Northern Uganda (Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony). Rouster says, “It’ll take generations to recover from the horrors, which is the case with the children that we work with in northern Uganda.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.
— Help former child soldiers recover from their trauma through Baptist Global Response or Every Child Ministries.
— Oppose the oppression of children in the military through International Justice Mission and Child Soldiers International.
— Related story: Ex-child-soldier: ‘Shooting became just like drinking a glass of water’

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