By Lere Amusan
This paper argues that the issue of children should be addressed through domestic legislation and international treaties the country is a signatory to.
The Future of Children Associated with the War
One of the problems associated with the war on children is the question of landmines and unexploded ordinance. Despite several anti-mine protocols entered into by Libya, they continued to be used during the war.
Landmines planted by Al-Qaddafi during the war remain a nightmare around Misrata and Tripoli. Children are the most likely victims of landmines as they are attracted to strange objects out of curiosity that turn out to be unexploded ordinance and stepping on mines may lead to killing or loss of limbs.
NATO air strikes on Al-Qaddafi ammunition storage facilities resulted in the spread of unexploded bombs into farms and residential areas.
These make some of the agricultural lands unsafe for tilling and pastoring. Aid agencies are discouraged to work in unpredictable environments. Thus the already frustrated children would face more challenges in terms of food security and healthcare facilities.
The cost of clearing the landmines supplied by China, Brazil and Belgium is almost ten times the purchase price. Unfortunately, the suppliers are not ready to support in the clearing of these deadly devices.
The NGOs that are involved in demining sometimes loose some of their staff in the process. The psychosocial effects of war on children are another source of concern, mostly when looking at the implication of post-war development in Libya.
Devastation of basic infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, roads, farmland and relegation of many children to the status of parental care has effects on their psychosocial development.
The disabled children of about 13,000 were equally affected as the effect of war on them, because their peculiar needs could not be met in time of war.
Many that lost their parents to war in the country will find themselves on the street as gang members with antisocial activities. Girls may resort to prostitution to fend for the family.
The ex-combatants recruited as child soldiers and trained in how to kill will embark on violent acts against others to remain relevant in the society.
In a situation when the law of the land is too harsh to embark on criminal activities, the next opening will be recruitment by jihadists/terrorists’ movements which will cause instability within and in the neighboring states.
This explains why the Mali crisis is linked to the Touareg mercenaries that were able to cart away some small arms and light weapons (SALW)- which are durable, reusable, portable, inexpensive, and effective- from Libya after the fall of the Al-Qaddafi government in 2011.
The implication of this is the proliferation of Al-Qaeda franchise in the Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula. From another point of view, some parents who lost their children during the civil war may want to seek revenge by joining anti-government forces.
The palliative nature of democratic system put in place in Libya gives room for another civil war. This position is well captured by Fareed Zakaria (2013) when he described elections immediately after (civil) war without a constitution that guarantee rule of law, as a palliative measure of democracy.
He tagged this position as an attempt of postponing the evil day. As pointed out by Sheri Berman “stable liberal democracy requires more than just a shift in political reforms; it also involves eliminating the antidemocratic social, cultural, and economic legacies of the old regime.
Such a process takes lots of time and effort, over multiple tries.” This may eventually confirm Al-Qaddafi’s position on the precarious nature of military solution in Libya that the state will never experience peace because of the NATO known quick-fix election system.
Though NATO attacked Libya, the Libyan children believe that it is the Americans that caused their misery in the form of the loss of their parents, relatives and general instability in the region through the ‘Afghan model’ of special operations and drones attack.
America, through NATO, was also accused of supervision and assistance to “the looting, ransacking and wanton acts of murder committed by their based mercenaries trained and armed by them” that is against Resolution 1973.
America, either directly or through third party, also supplied SALW to the NTC which may eventually promote terrorism as the concepts of DDRR are poorly managed.
But Joshi’s (2011) assertion that NATO and Qatar could not project power without America indicated that the state, rather than to resolve the crisis, aggravated it.
The same could also explain why Libya is ruled by various militias of which children form the bulk of katibas who prefer to be addressed as thuwar (revolutionaries).
NATO left the country without peace building which explains why various katibas, an estimated 60, control the state for the lack of functional police, army and bureaucracy.
These militias are primarily ethnically based of which some are Islamic fundamentalists. Eventually, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates (Ansar Al-Sharia) may fill the vacuum created by the political instability in the unstable country.
The Salafists, one of the ultra-radical Islamic movements in the Middle-East, were said to have been responsible for the killing of the American Ambassador, Christopher Steven and three other diplomats in Benghazi, on 11 September 2012.
If this is true in the stronghold of anti-Qaddafi, it implies that the Thucydides’ position that “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” can be said to be true in the Libyan situation.
The activities of these fundamentalists will last for years mostly with the active involvement of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Mouvement pour l’unicité de jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO).
Abandoned child soldiers will be recruited and trained in the territories controlled by the Islamic fundamentalists. Pro-Qaddafi in Bani, Walid and Sirte against Misrata for instance are believed to have had substantial amount of fund to cause instability in the country.
The implication of this is that schools may be forced to close ad infinitum for the fear of the teachers being killed, raped or maimed because of their perceived ideological position against militia/s that is effective in the region.
Also the learners may be afraid of being kidnapped as child soldiers and girls forced into marriage to the militias.
During the war, production of crude oil was in a standstill with its negative effects on the annual budget on healthcare and education. What this translates to is the possibility of not meeting the much talked about MDGs by 2015 with special focus on issues that affect children.
Conclusion and Recommendations
It could be inferred that the issue of violence against children came about due to their roles in war as combatants, as cooks, as spies and “bush wives”.
The impact of war in creating refugees, IDPs, assaults on the minorities and most especially against black Libyans and guest workers have been equally discussed.
It is therefore worth mentioning that the disregard of international protocols on the rights of children during and after the war continues unabated in the state.
NATO’s special operations and drones on the side of the NTC caused panic, killing and displacement of children during the war. Those who were able to escape to relatively safe areas were taken for spies and killed because every stranger becomes an enemy during civil war.
As discussed above, the problems of the UNSC Resolutions 1970 and 1973 that claimed to have formed the legal basis of NATO to support the rebels continue to be an academic discussion.
Article 30 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union is against NATO’s imposition of the NTC on Libyans unconstitutionally, which ought not to receive recognition among the AU states.
This is derived from the Togo Declaration (2000) on the unconstitutional changes of government by the defunct OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government NATO failed to look into the plight of the minorities which if not addressed, may mortgage the future of thousands of Libyans who are denied basic education and health care as stipulated by various international agreements which are domesticated to the Libyan constitution.
Human rights abuses such as ethnic politics, extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, and torture that was considered to be the major problems associated with the Al-Qaddafi government continues in the post-Qaddafi Libya.
Free education, as discussed above is a luxury for the children of the Touaregs. The Al-Qaddafi’s Third/Permanent Revolution introduced in 1970s is still intact as the Amazigh children are denied their culture through non-recognition of Tamazight language.
The need for these children to change their names to Arabic ones is not in consonant with the basic human rights and the African Charter of the Rights of the Child as discussed above.
Ironically, Libya was a major actor in promoting AU agenda on the continent, at the same time being one of the major culprits of these rights.
This paper concludes that the new government with the international coalition forces that unseated Al-Qaddafi should see to the implementation of basic child rights in the form of free and compulsory education and healthcare for all.
This can be achieved through the introduction of the rule of law, ensure security and adoption of the four refined conflict resolution theory as put forward by Sandole. This is what NATO refused to look into and failed to put the plight of children to the front burner of DDRR.
The proliferation of SALW in the hands of the minorities that supported Al-Qaddafi also needs to receive special attention through DDRR.
Ethnically and geographically based plethora of militias loyal to the warlords and local chiefs as against the state should be addressed through conflict analysis and resolution (CAR).
Buy-back of arms by government so far is not effective as it increases black market trade that may attract high prices more than what the government is ready to offer.
Availability of weapons in the hand of the children after conflict may allow conflicts to re-ignite and it sometimes leads to source of power for the child soldiers to coerce their communities and general instability of the whole region.
The weakness of the bureaucracy, police and army masterminded intentionally by Al-Qaddafi that reduced the country almost entirely stateless should receive re-orientation. This would be in the form of capacity building training to adjust to professionalism as against serving the parochial interest of the government in power.
Demobilization of the militias is also a challenge that should be carried out. Re-integration of the child soldiers, reconstruction of basic infrastructures such as hospitals, schools and other child-related institutions for the development of the children in the state is much needed.
On the issue of psychosocial problems, Libya in cooperation with various international organizations should see to the demining of the land and sea that were mined by the Al-Qaddafi government.
Reintegration and reinsertion should focus on healing processes and re-establishment of a sense of normalcy as against concentration of the children emotional wounds. “Programmes to support psychosocial well-being should include local culture, perceptions of child development, and an understanding of political and social realities and children’s rights”.
A sovereign national conference is worth calling for where forms of government that will serve the interest of the three major geographical regions should be discussed. In doing this, every stakeholder such as the representatives of various NGOs that deals with Child protection such as Save the Children, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch should be in attendance.
Also to be represented are the UN (through UNICEF, UNDP), regional organizations (AU, through the AU Commission on Human Rights) and sub-regional organizations (the Arab league and the Organization of Islamic Conference) in the drafting of the state constitution.
This should be done in attendance of children representatives across every ethnic group in the state. In most cases, girls are usually neglected in Africa in decision making; this is more rampant in the Islamic world where the issue of feminism is frequently treated with disdain.
Their demands should also receive consideration. Also of note is the need to consider the non-combatants that engage indirectly in the war for DDRR from both sides. This is the only way stability could be ensured as maintained by Mazurana and Cole.
Girls and boys in war should not be coerced by their commanders to hand over their weapons for the purpose of DDRR. In many instances, prove of having weapon as a former rebel or militant is a passport for reintegration.
Sometimes the militias’ commanders may trick the children to hand over their weapons and use their slot for relatives and cronies. The issue of secularism should be debated to accommodate the minorities who are always at the receiving end in the state polity.
To curb the impact of discussed malnutrition as the effects of climate change is evident in Libya, FAO, Action Against Hunger and different food agencies need to supply the state with food relief.
Displacement of people during the war affected food production and those who rely on cows and camel meat and milk for their balanced diet could not get it.
This, again, affected the Berbers the most. On the question of minority, Libya should recognize the principle of equal rights on the one hand and ‘special rights’ rights on the other.
Special rights will focus on the need to give some special attention to their economic, political and socio-cultural participation in governance through quota system in a true federal system. Also their identity in term of language, education, access to media and cultural belief should be accorded to them to avoid future secession.
Lere Amusan is professor of International Relations at the North West University in South Africa. He was educated at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria and received a doctorate at the University of South Africa in South Africa.