Obama Overrides Ban on Providing Military Aid to 3 Governments Using Child Soldiers

Friday, October 04, 2013
Child soldier in Yemen (photo: Muhammed al-Jabri, IRIN)

Three nations employing children as soldiers will continue to receive military assistance from the United States, thanks to President Barack Obama.


Chad, South Sudan and Yemen were identified by the State Department as countries utilizing child soldiers, making them ineligible for American military aid under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (pdf).


But the law, which is intended to discourage nations from forcing children under the age of 18 to fight in wars, contains a national security interest waiver that authorizes the president to override the statute when deemed necessary.


That’s what Obama did on Monday, issuing blanket waivers (pdf) to the three countries. The announcement did not offer an explanation for Obama’s decision.


In addition, the White House granted partial waivers to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which means they will receive military aid only in support of the peacekeeping missions taking place in their countries.


That makes five countries granted waivers out of the 10 listed by the State Department this year that were singled out for violating both international and U.S. law regarding child soldiers.


The other five nations, which were not granted waivers of any kind, were Burma (Myanmar), the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Sudan and Syria.


While not pleased with the waivers, human rights advocates said the news wasn’t all bad.


“Under today’s announcement, neither Rwanda nor the Central African Republic will receive sanctionable assistance from the US, and the DRC and Somalia received partial waivers, meaning that some assistance will be withheld,” Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, told ThinkProgress. “This is a welcome use of the US’ leverage under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act. In previous years, we have seen waivers for most countries, and last year, a partial waiver for only one country—the DRC.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Approves Military Aid For Countries With Child Soldiers (by Hayes Brown, ThinkProgress)

Determination with Respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (White House Office of the Press Secretary) (pdf)

In a First, U.S. Judge Orders Deportation of Warlord for Using Child Soldiers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)          

Obama Administration Urged to Stop Funding Child Soldiers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Grants Waiver to Give Aid to 4 Governments Using Child Soldiers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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