Congo agrees to treaty that bans child solders; Ethiopia signs
In late July 2010, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mailed drawings of red hands and messages to the Mission of Congo and the Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations as part of its Red Hand Campaign to end the use of children as soldiers around the world. The red hands and letters were drawn and signed by youth and leaders at the 2010 Presbyterian Youth Triennium in the name of Jesus who welcomed children (see Matthew 19).
Since that time, Congo has added its name to the member states of the United Nations which have agreed to the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict. Ethiopia has signed the protocol; it still needs to ratify or accede to the treaty, but the signature marks a significant step.
The Optional Protocol requires that States prevent the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflicts. It is one of the most important documents in international law which helps end the use of children in armed conflict.
Other United Nations member states have endorsed the Optional Protocol. Gabon and Malawi ratified the Optional Protocol; Iran and the Central African Republic have signed the treaty.
The Optional Protocol alone will nor bring an end to the exploitation of children as soldiers, but it establishes a standard to which nations can be held.