The Recruitment Of Child Soldiers By The Tigray People’s Liberation Front In Ethiopia

It is a known fact that children under the age of 18 have been regularly recruited by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia. Local Tigrayans have reported the occurrence of children participating in wartime activities. This is happening alongside reports from government soldiers fighting against the TPLF that children within the TPLF are being used as fodder. This is an impending crisis within the Tigray conflict. Many children in the area are now in a vulnerable position in terms of their own safety as the conflict continues in the region. It is crucial that this issue is addressed for the well-being of all the children in the Tigray whose lives are being heavily affected by this continuing conflict.

It has been reported by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) that the TPLF have indeed been actively using children within their army. In particular, the TPLF are using child soldiers as a first line of defense against opposing forces, with the children being the first sent to fight against the ENDF while the rest of the TPLF forces follow behind. The ENDF soldiers have also described their response to the use of child soldiers by stating that they are not firing back against the children. They claim that in at least one case children involved in the TPLF forces dropped their weapons and ran to a nearby village to find safety.

The TPLF is using child soldiers to maintain the ongoing conflict between Ethiopia and the Tigray rebel forces. In fact, these child soldiers are being used for the purpose of creating human waves with the intent to overwhelm the ENDF. For instance, there is now evidence pointing to how the TPLF involved child soldiers in their moves to invade the Afar and Amhara regions. The children rescued by the ENDF have explained that they were recruited by the TPLF. The TPLF have recognized that ENDF will not directly shoot at children which has led to Tigray rebel forces using these children as human shields against attacks.

As the conflict continues, TPLF has denied any sort of involvement of child soldiers, stating that the children are not actively fighting as combatants within the conflict. Instead, it is claimed that the children are helping with daily tasks like collecting weapons abandoned by the ENDF. However, there is plenty of photo and video evidence documenting the TPLF’s use of child soldiers. According to Ann Fitz-Gerald, director of Balsillie School of International Affairs and professor in the Political Science Department at Wilfrid Laurier University, “The use of children to support any element of armed conflict constitutes a war crime – that the international community is observing this evidence and remaining silent questions the whole value of the conventions and protocols the world has adopted to address such crimes.” The inability of the international community to fully address and acknowledge this impending crisis speaks volumes about their dedication to protecting the interests and rights of children. There must be efforts made by the international community to protect children in the Tigray, especially as the conflict continues to escalate.

The recruitment and use of child soldiers is considered a violation of the UN Convention and a war crime. International law is clear that children under the age of 18 are to not be involved in any capacity in war. In this instance, it has been clearly identified that the TPLF have been actively using child soldiers within their militant activities. Many children are in very vulnerable positions that make them more susceptible to being recruited by these violent rebel groups. If this issue is not addressed on an international level, more children of the Tigray region will be endangered as the conflict escalates between the two fighting forces.