Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

Ethiopia: Conscription since the May 1998 war with Eritrea, including the minimum age by law and in practice, and the treatment by the authorities of youth leaders who refuse to persuade others to volunteer or advise them not to be conscripted

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 23 June 2000
Citation / Document Symbol ETH34702.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ethiopia: Conscription since the May 1998 war with Eritrea, including the minimum age by law and in practice, and the treatment by the authorities of youth leaders who refuse to persuade others to volunteer or advise them not to be conscripted , 23 June 2000, ETH34702.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad5b34.html [accessed 12 December 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.

For general information on conscription and forced recruitment, please consult ETH34351.E of 12 May 2000 and ETH34373.E of 17 May 2000, both of which mention the minimum age of conscription by law and in practice, and discuss the problem involving the conscription of underage children. Additional information on conscription and recruitment can be found in Country Reports 1999.

The 7 January 2000 publication entitled The Use of Children as Soldiers in Africa by the International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (ICSUCS) states in the section on National Recruitment Legislation that,

The minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces is 18 years. There is no compulsory military service and conscription is not mentioned in the 1995 Constitution, but Article 36(1)of the Constitution provides 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 4 of the Defence Force Proclamation No. 27/1996 deals with recruitment. No disposition deals with the minimum age of recruitment but it is provided that "the Ministry [of Defence] may, in accordance with criteria issued by it from time to time, recruit persons fit and willing for military purposes." These criteria have been made public in notices calling recruits from time to time. So far such notices included the minimum age of 18 years as one of the criteria.

The publication adds further, in the section on National Recruitment Practice, that

It had been reported that the Government was making serious efforts to respect the minimum age of 18 years for entry into the armed forces and that many underage children who wanted to join the army had been rejected as recruits. War Resisters International had already pointed out that there is no system of verifying age in Ethiopia and it is up to the recruitment officer to estimate the age of the youth. "therefore, this can lead to possible errors, although it cannot be ascertained that children have been recruited as a result (ICSUCS 7 Jan. 2000).

State television and an official government spokesperson have denied allegations that Ethiopia has instituted conscription (Daily News From Ethiopia 19 Apr. 1999), stating that there was no need for conscription due to the large numbers of volunteers (AFP 25 June 1998; VOA 29 June 1998; Daily News From Ethiopia 19 Apr. 1999). However, in March 2000 the opposition radio, Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity, reported that due to the lack of volunteers, "young peasants" from various rural areas were being conscripted and sent to training camps (12 Mar. 2000).

As well, Eritrean and Ethiopian-opposition media allege that Ethiopia forcibly recruits underage children to fight in the war against Eritrea (NUEYS 12 Feb. 1999; Xinhua 10 Mar. 1999; Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea 11 Mar. 2000; IPS 1 June 2000). On 11 March 2000, the Eritrean radio, Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, reported that the Ethiopian government was resorting to conscription and was "issuing threats to parents who have refused to send their children to the army," threatening them with the loss of their farms and government relief food, and denying them access to social services. Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea added that Ethiopian soldiers were press-ganging children from the streets and their homes (ibid.).

Additional and/or corroborating information on the forcible recruitment of underage children could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

No information on the treatment by the authorities of youth leaders who refuse to persuade others to volunteer or advise them not to be conscripted could be found among the sources consulted.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Agence France Presse (AFP). 25 June 1998. Guebray Berhane. "Young Ethiopian men Rushing to Volunteer in Border Conflict With Eritrea." (NEXIS)

Daily News From Ethiopia. 19 April 1999. "Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Office of the Government Spokesperson: Volunteers for Ethiopia, But No Conscription." [Accessed 21 June 2000]

International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (ICSUCS). 7 January 2000. The Use of Children as Soldiers in Africa: A Country Analysis of Child Recruitment and Participation in Armed Conflict. [Accessed 15 June 2000]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 1 June 2000. Katy Salmon. "Politics–Ethiopia: Victories Bring Hope of Peace." (NEXIS)

National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS). 12 February 1999. "Ethiopia Must Stop Child Conscription." [Accessed 21 June 2000]

Voice of America (VOA). 29 June 1998. Scott Stearns. "Ethiopia Recruits (L-Only)." (gopher://gopher.voa.gov> [Accessed 29 June 1998].

Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea [Asmara, in Tigrigna]. 11 March 2000. "Eritrea Says Ethiopia Preparing for War, Forcibly Conscripting Youth." (BBC Summary 13 Mar. 2000/NEXIS)

Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity [in Amharic]. 12 Mar. 2000. "Ethiopia: Opposition Radio Reports Conscription Under Way in Rural Areas." (BBC Worldwide 12 Mar. 2000/NEXIS)

Xinhua. 10 March 1999. "Ethiopia Has Forced Conscripts in Army: ERINA." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford]. Monthly. May 1998-April 2000.

Amnesty International Report. Yearly. 1999, 2000.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Home Office, UK. April 2000. Ethiopia Assessment.

IRB Databases.

Resource Centre. "Ethiopia" country file. May 1998-June 2000.

Internet search engines, including:

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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