Obama Administration Waives Ban on Aid to Countries Using Child Soldiers

For the second year, President Barack Obama has waived a ban on military aid for countries that use child soldiers.  The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which took effect in 2010, bans providing foreign military financing, military training, and other military aid to countries that recruit and enlist soldiers under the age of eighteen.

U.S. waives aid ban for countries using child soldiers.  (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

Photo Courtesy of ABC News

The President holds the power to waive the ban, but only if he or she determines that doing so would serve the best interests of the country.  According to a memorandum released by the White House on Tuesday, the countries that will continue to receive military assistance despite the fact that they continue to use of child soldiers in their armed forces, include Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and South Sudan.

Last year, there were five countries identified for their use of child soldiers: Burma, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, and Somalia. This year, Somalia and Burma were not given waivers, presumably because the U.S. military does not have strong military ties with these countries. President Obama’s waiver will allow tens of millions of dollars of U.S. tax dollars to go to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and South Sudan, which continue to recruit, enlist, and use children soldiers.

The administration justified the waivers in terms of the relevant countries progress’ in reducing child soldiers or the countries’ importance to anti-terrorism efforts.

South Sudan is expected to receive one hundred million dollars this year for military aid.  The administration took the position that the law banning military aid to countries with child soldiers should not apply to South Sudan because it did not exist as an independent country until after the publication of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

The administration noted the progress in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo in addressing child soldiers. In Chad, the government issued a plan to prevent child recruitment and discharge current child soldiers.   The administration said that the Democratic Republic of Congo has also taken some very important steps to reduce child soldiers in the military.

Yemen has received the most criticism from human rights advocates because it continues to receive U.S. military aid despite the fact that it has done very little to cut the amount of children in its armed forces.  In Yemen, children who are fifteen years old and younger have been recruited to fight in the government’s conflicts.

The administration justified this aid by stating that coöperation with the Yemen is a vital piece of the U.S.’s counter-terrorism efforts. For the 2012 fiscal year, the State Department has requested thirty-five million dollars in foreign military financing for the Yemeni government.

Via Impunity Watch.

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