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Leaders move to stop child soldiers
Ten out of 12 countries the UN says has child soldiers sign agreement at Paris conference.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2007 17:08 GMT

The United Nations estimates that there are
250,000 child soldiers in the world

Fifty-eight countries have agreed to take steps to prevent children from being recruited as soldiers in conflicts, French officials said.
 
A foreign ministry official said: "For the first time, countries are solemnly committing to apply and respect these principles to combat the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts."
The agreement on Tuesday came at the end of a two-day conference in Paris.
 
Among signatories to the Paris Principles are 10 of the 12 countries where the United Nations says there are child soldiers, including Sudan, Chad, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The other two - Myanmar and the Philippines - did not take part in the conference, which also brought together donor countries, aid agencies and the UN children's organisation Unicef. The US was not present.
 
The UN estimates there to be about 250,000 child soldiers in the world, mainly in Africa and Asia.
 
Under the principles, which have no juridical status, countries promise to "fight against impunity, and investigate and prosecute in an effective manner persons who illegally recruit children of under 18 years in armed groups or forces".
 
The text reads: "Peace agreements or other arrangements aimed at ending hostilities should not include amnesties for those who commit crimes against international law, notably those carried out against children."
 
Emmanuel Jal: Sudan's war child

Emmanuel Jal is a multi-lingual Kenyan rapper, a refugee, and spokesman for the Control Arms campaign and the Make Poverty History campaign.

 

But 10 years ago, he tells Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Nairobi, he was a child soldier in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

 

"I'm war child", Emmanuel sings in his single.

 

As a child, he was forced to raid villages for food and kidnap girls for the older rebels.

 

About his forthcoming album, Emmanuel says: "War Child basically is my experience of my country, how war started ... how I've left home ... and losing the people that I love the most."

 

When he finally escaped the SPLA, he lived as a refugee in Kenya.

 

Mutasa reports: "Growing up in a slum was difficult for Emmanuel. He lived with his foster family in a metal shack. There was no running water and electricity – but it was better than life in Sudan."

 

He knew he was lucky to be in Kenya – but he still wanted to do something to help his people back home.

 

So he decided to show young people, through music, that violence is never a solution to any problem.

 

Emmanuel's lyrics say: "I've seen my people die like flies, but I've never seen a dead enemy, at least one that I've killed. But still as I wonder, I will go under. Guns barking like lightning and thunder..."

 

Now, his powerful songs have led to a recording contract and an opportunity to spread his message around the world.

 

That message is that guns kill. And through music, he believes people are hearing it.

 

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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