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Children Involved in South Africa's Wars: After Soweto 1976

NCJ Number
Daniel Nina
Date Published
This monograph explores the black child's involvement in South Africa's own version of civil war from 1976 to 1994; using international definitions of children and their participation in armed conflicts, the author analyzes what is specific to the South African experience that makes it different from other case studies of children and armed conflict.
South Africa, unlike Mozambique or Angola, for example, did not have an open and declared civil war, in which people under 18 years old participated as part of the belligerent forces. Compared to these two countries, South Africa's experience was one of participation by need, choice, and also by what seems to have been an ideological conviction about what was needed to overturn the regime. The evidence in South Africa suggests that children did not necessarily participate directly in the traditional armed conflicts of the national liberation forces against the state. Instead, they participated in an unusual "war" fought in the streets of many communities throughout the country, particularly in the 1980's and early 1990's, with less military hardware and software than a traditional army or national liberation force, but with the same amount of risk, brutality, and physical harm. These children were solders as well as students. They were also killers, but primarily they were victims of a repressive society. Despite all the atrocities committed, they were courageous children determined to see and live in a different type of society. It is currently the responsibility of both the state and civil society to provide the necessary resources for the transformation of the lives of these children. South Africa's government, although taking steps to assist in this process, must increase the speed at which services are provided. This paper offers 12 recommendations for responding to the needs of black children in contemporary South Africa. 60 notes and 40 references