Population: 11.7 million (6.2 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 15,100
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18 (16 with parental consent)
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

Under-18s could be serving in the armed forces, given the low rate of birth registration and the possibility for 16-year-olds to enlist with parental permission.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Defence Act prohibited a child "under the apparent age of 18" from being recruited into the armed forces without the consent of a parent, guardian or local district secretary (Chapter 106). The use of children in hostilities was also prohibited by law. There was no conscription. Recruits had to be Zambian nationals and have a national registration card, obtainable at the age of 16.1 The Juvenile Act defined a "child" as a person below 16 and a "young person" as between 16 and 19 years of age.2

There were no reports of under-age recruitment, but the situation was not known to have changed significantly since 2003, when the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment was an "apparent age" and noted that "less than 10 percent of children were registered at birth in 1999, and even less in rural areas".3


Zambia hosted an estimated 120,000 refugees who had fled conflicts in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Somalia.4 Over 74,000 Angolan refugees had been repatriated under a four-year voluntary repatriation program (2003-6).5 Voluntary repatriation of DRC refugees began in May 2007; some 60,000 reportedly remained in Zambia, of whom 40,000 were living in camps.6

1 Initial report of Zambia to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.25, 19 November 2002.

2 UNHCR, "Zambia: analysis of the gap in protection of refugees", September 2007, http://www.unhcr.org.

3 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Zambia, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.206, 2 July 2003.

4 UNHCR, above note 2.

5 Ibid.

6 "Kinshasa: DRC – Zambia: Congolese refugees return home", IRIN, 8 May 2007.


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