Hundreds of children accompanied by their parents and pastors converged at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), here in Nairobi on 16 June to mark the international Day of the African Child. The occasion recalls the day when more than 700 children in Soweto, South Africa were massacred as they demanded their educational rights from the then apartheid South African government, about thirty years ago (I976). In his homily at this ecumenical church service, Reverend Geoffrey Kayigamba, personal assistant in the office of the general secretary (AACC) and under which Youth affairs falls in, observed that Africa's ability to manage the protection and finance the development of her children has been compromised by debt crisis, diseases, armed conflicts and bad governance, high levels of corruption, and other social ills. As a result the situation of the African child is alarming, he further stressed. According to him hundreds of thousands of children have been recruited into Africa's armed conflicts because, he pointed out, "they are cheap and easier to condition into obedience and expendable. He described the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda as the most extreme and outrageous example of deliberate targeting of children in war. The use of children as soldiers denies them the opportunity to enjoy childhood in the normal way, he observed, adding that it also denies them education, and places them in extreme dangers. Some 12 million African children are HIV/AIDS orphans, 2.4 million children under the age of 15 years are HIV positive, while some 30 per cent of the African children of school going age are not in school, disclosed the AACC official. On child labour issue, Reverend Kayigamba told his audience that an estimated more than 80 million children work across Africa to meet their own survival needs, as well as to support their families, as their parents are unable to provide even their most basic needs. Child trafficking is worse among commercial sex workers. Child trafficking has become a worldwide concern in the past few years, stressed Reverend Kayigamba. And he warned: "if the situation of the African child is not addressed effectively and urgently, the adult's of tomorrow will not be grounded on sound moral values." The option left for the African societies will be a continued process of destruction of communities towards a bleak tomorrow, he further stressed. He added that currently Africa was hosting an estimated 10 million street children, chiefly among her major cities, while out of the estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world over, an estimated 120,000 were African children. In many countries these children are seen as "pests" and evil elements in their societies; they are hunted, raised and treated without any respect to their rights. Their civil rights are violated by the civil law enforcement, he further pointed out. And he made know that the AACC, currently grouping together an estimated 169 churches in 40 African countries with an estimated 120 million Christians, was quite grounded on the African child issue. "This is through membership/partners/networking with other with the pan African child focused organizations such as UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), explained Reverend Kayigamba. Currently, he added, the personal assistant in the office of the General secretary (AACC) seats in the Advisory Board of Viva which is a movement of Christian organizations passionately concerned for "children at risk" who have intentionally chosen to relate and work together to address the massive need that exists. He added that in the last five years, the AACC has placed the issue of children at the centre of its life and work. And to liven this, this ecumenical church body has declared this year-2006 as the year of the African child, with a broad based theme: The Church Awakens: New hope for the African Child, added Reverend Kayigamba. And he ended his homily by quoting the late Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, thus, "We are all accountable to God and to our children. We join hands with many friends in Africa and around the world, who share our dream and vision of equitable and sustainable development for the mother land".
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