UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The number of child soldiers conscripted into conflict may be a barometer for the potential for genocide, the former chief of U.N. peacekeeping in Rwanda said.
Members of the U.N. Security Council heard testimony Wednesday on how best to gauge the early warning signs of a possible genocide. Retired Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who led the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1990s genocide, said the use of child soldiers was a good indication a state was on the cusp of major internal warfare.
"The most easily identifiable warning tool out there" is the conscription of child soldiers "in the thousands upon thousands as the primary weapon of war," he testified at U.N. headquarters in New York.
In October, Martin Kobler, U.N. special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, said there was a major escalation in the use of child soldiers by warring parties. UNICEF in November said there may be as many as 6,000 child soldiers fighting in a conflict in Central African Republic.
Both conflicts are moving toward civil war following months of heavy fighting.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that, with the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide approaching, repeating the phrase "never again" isn't enough to prevent further atrocities.
"We must never forget the collective failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide," he said.
An estimated 800,000 Rwandans were slain during 100 days of fighting in 1994.