By Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Fighting with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) recently occurred in the southwestern Cauca region. On June 4, 2011 army reports from a skirmish with the guerilla fighters revealed that FARC is still actively recruiting child soldiers.
Three members from FARC forces were arrested after the skirmish, two of them were minors. The three arrested all confirmed that FARC has been active in recruiting children from the indigenous populations in the Huila, Cauca and Valle de Cauca regions. The two child soldiers stated that in the past two months, roughly 15 children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old have been forcefully recruited.
Child soldiers are sometimes used in armed combat but more commonly, they act as FARC’s transporters for explosives, rations and anti-personnel mines. Recent decisive moves by the Colombian army resulted in the death and capture of many FARC fighters. The army believes this has led to a need for replacements and thus prompted the surge in forced child soldier recruitment.
The two child soldiers were placed in the care of the state and officials urged indigenous communities to report these recruitments to authorities. In an effort to relieve fear of reprisal, authorities stated that indigenous communities should not fear condemnation by the state.
Indigenous groups have asked for a more concerted and swift response from the government to eradicate this widespread practice. Aída Quilcué, the leader of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council, stated; “[w]e have cases of minors from 8 years of age to 15 who have been forcefully recruited by the FARC. We are asking for the government’s help so this situation stops. We are tired of seeing women raped, tortured, children dead and children obligated to join the FARC’s ranks.”
For more information, please see;
Child Rights Information Network – Colombia: ‘FARC Are Recruiting Indigenous Children’ – 9 June 2011
Latin America Press – FARC Recruiting Indigenous Minors – 9 June 2011
Colombia Reports – FARC Are Recruiting Indigenous Children – 4 June 2011
Ejército Nacional – Las FARC Estarían Reclutando Menores en Cabildos Indígenas – 4 June 2011