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Child Soldiers in Colombia: The Recruitment of Children into Non-state Violent Armed Groups

  • Ingunn Bjørkhaug


    (Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies)

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    Based on in-depth interviews with former child soldiers in Colombia, this article presents the findings from fieldwork conducted among demobilized child soldiers in Colombia. The findings add to the state of knowledge by going in-depth into the circumstances surrounding the processes and mechanisms of recruitment of children and adolescents into armed groups. The former child soldiers had generally joined the armed groups voluntarily. However; one of the challenges with a strong division between ‘voluntary’ and ‘coerced’ recruitment, is that it indicates a sharp dichotomy between two very different situations. This article argues that most cases of recruitment takes place in the grey zone between voluntary and coerced recruitment. However, the demobilization policies work under the assumption that even when the children classify themselves as voluntarily recruited it is considered force due to children’s inability to make a free or conscious choice. This indicates that demobilization programs are based on an assumption that is incorrect. The former child soldiers, both girls and boys, were affected by their involvement in the conflict. They did not, however, constitute a homogeneous group of passive victims, but rather a group of vital agents each one with their choices shaped by their particular experiences and circumstances.

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    File Function: First version, 2010
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    Paper provided by MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict in its series Research Working Papers with number 27.

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    Length: 25 pages
    Date of creation: 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:mcn:rwpapr:27
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    1. Ana María Ibáñez & Andrés Moya, 2009. "Do conflicts create poverty traps? Asset losses and recovery for displaced households in Colombia," Research Working Papers 10, MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict.
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