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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ethiopia

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ethiopia, 2004, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 69.0 million (36.1 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 162,500
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182; ACRWC

There was no evidence of under-18s being used by government forces. The possibility of under-18s being recruited could not be ruled out, given the lack of a functioning birth registration system.


The UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), established in 2000 following the two-year border war with Eritrea that ended in December 2000, continued to monitor a buffer zone in Eritrea. In September 2003 Ethiopia rejected an international ruling on border delimitation.

Ethiopia continued to face internal armed opposition backed by Eritrea, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF); it also continued to support Eritrean opposition groups.1 Longstanding unrest in Gambella, near the Sudan border, erupted in violent intercommunal conflict in 2003. The conflict reportedly resulted in about four hundred deaths, large-scale internal and cross-border displacement and the targeting of economic interests, including gold mines and oil resources.2


National recruitment legislation

Military service is not compulsory in Ethiopia.3 However, Defence Force Proclamation No. 27/1996 states that the defence ministry "may, in accordance with criteria issued by it from time to time, recruit persons fit and willing for military purposes" (Article 4). In call up notices, these criteria have defined a minimum recruitment age of 18 years.4 Failure to respond to call up is punishable by "simple" imprisonment, and in times of emergency, general mobilization or war, by up to 10 years' "rigorous" imprisonment.5

The constitution states that children will "not be subject to exploitative practices, neither to be required nor permitted to perform work which may be hazardous or harmful to [their] health or well-being" (Article 36).6

Military training and military schools

There were at least six known military training camps in Ethiopia, all operational, and officers' and specialized training schools. A defence force engineering college was established in 1996, but information on the minimum age of enrolment was not available.

Child recruitment and deployment

National recruitment guidelines in use since 1991 specify that recruits must be between the ages of 18 and 25, and have completed six years of secondary education (two years for recruits from marginalized regions).7 However, in 2001 the lack of a birth registration system was noted with concern by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.8 Recruitment officers were believed to have operated with considerable discretion, putting minors at risk of recruitment, particularly in rural and impoverished communities.9

Armed political groups

Lack of access to the regions concerned prevented the investigation and monitoring of child soldier recruitment or use by armed political groups. In 2001, young former combatants reported that the OLF recruited boys and girls.10

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)

In 2000 the World Bank approved a loan to Ethiopia to support an emergency demobilization and reintegration project for 150,000 adult veterans.11 The USA and other states pledged funding but there was no information on whether the program included specialized support for demobilized children. A number of troops were demobilized, but others were deployed in regions experiencing increased unrest.12 The UN Security Council called for Ethiopia and Eritrea to facilitate the sustainable reintegration of demobilized soldiers.13

Other developments

Ethiopia ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in December 2002.14 In October 2001 a handbook on child protection was distributed to UNMEE forces, and some UN peacekeepers received child protection training.15 Following visits to Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2002, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict reported that "no systematic recruitment and use of child soldiers had been taking place during the conflict in either Ethiopia or Eritrea", and called for child protection to be included in UNMEE's mandate.16 He recommended ratification of the Optional Protocol, but the government had not signed or ratified it by early 2004.

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 Amnesty International Report 2003, http://web.

2 Martin Plaut, "Ethiopia 'faces new rebellion'", BBC, 12 February 2004,; Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia: Human rights overview, January 2004,

3 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of initial report of Ethiopia, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.350, 16 January 1997,

4 Information from Rädda Barnen (Save the Children – Sweden), March 2004.

5 Amnesty International Netherlands Section 1998, Ethiop: dienstwigering en desertie, citing War Resisters' International, Ethiopia: CONCODOC 1998 report, 17 August 1998,

6 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, 1994,

7 Letter from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Child Soldiers Coalition, 28 April 1999.

8 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on second periodic report of Ethiopia, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.144, 21 February 2001.

9 Information from UN source, 6 February 2004.

10 Rädda Barnen, Children of War Newsletter No. 1/01, March 2001.

11 World Bank, Ethiopia – Demobilization and Reintegration Project: Environmental Assessment, 31 May 2004.

12 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2002, March 2003,

13 UN Security Council Resolution 1398, UN Doc. S/Res/1398, 15 March 2002,

14 African Union,

15 Information from UN source, 6 February 2004.

16 Annual report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/77, 3 March 2003,

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