By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
BANGUI, Central African Republic – On Monday, a top United Nations (UN) official denounced the re-recruitment of child soldiers by rebel groups and pro-government militias in the Central African Republic (CAR).
UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui expressed her dismay and concern after learning that armed groups such as ‘Séléka’, the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR), have been enlisting children among their ranks once again. According to reports, such enlistments are currently on the rise in spite of previous promises made by the said groups to end this practice.
Last November, both the UFDR and CPJP entered into agreements with the UN that they will exclude minors from membership and ultimately, keep children out of the conflict. The UFDR promised to release children in its ranks to the UN, whereas the CPJP signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children in line with Security Council resolution 1612.
The following month, however, the UN received reports that the CPJP refused to release two girls in an incident in Aigbando. Also, former child soldiers who were already in the care of UN’s children’s agency were getting numerous death threats from the same rebel groups.
“The reports of child recruitment are a flagrant violation of commitments made by the CPJP and UFDR and must stop now,” Ms. Zerrougui said. “The same actors have been violating child rights with impunity for too long. We will continue to monitor the situation and if no progress is made, we will engage the Security Council on this matter,” she added
Ms. Zerrougui also questioned the Government’s commitment to protect children from the ongoing conflict. She received additional reports claiming that the Government has “called on youth in Bangui to mobilize and arm themselves to counter the armed groups alongside militias.”
“These developments are unacceptable,” Ms. Zerrougui insisted. “Child recruitment is a grave violation. Children separated from armed forces and groups are victims, not perpetrators, and have to be treated as such. Going forward, I urge the Government to take its responsibility to protect children seriously, and to refrain from inciting violence.”
Based on a recent report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), almost 300,000 children have been involved with various armed groups in the country even before the major outbreak of rebellion last month. Most of them were street children and orphans which made them easy targets for kidnap and recruitment. Armed militias would abuse and force these children – both boys and girls – to fight and carry supplies.
For further information, please see:
United Press International – Children recruited for CAR fight – 22 January 2013
Spy Ghana – UN Astonished About Central African Republic child soldiers report – 22 January 2013
All Africa – Central African Republic: UN Official Disappointed By New Reports of Child Soldiers in Central African Republic – 21 January 2013
Al Jazeera – CAR child soldiers face death threats – 19 January 2013
All Africa – Central African Republic: Seleka Rebels and Army Using Child Soldiers – 11 January 2013