Central African Republic: UN advocate calls for ending recruitment of children in armed groups

Saturday, August 25, 2012
A Google Map with Central African Republic
(CAR) in its centre 
N'dele, Central African Republic: At the end of his five-day mission to the Central African Republic, UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah said it was shocking to see that armed groups were still using children as combatants and in other roles.

After a visit to conflict-affected towns in the northeastern region bordering Chad, Beah witnessed the release of 10 children from the armed group Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace.

The release took place at the military camp in Akroussoulback, where Beah said: “These children have been through so much, but their release marks just the beginning. Many of the children have little to return to and limited opportunities. Long separated from their families or orphaned by conflict, they urgently require special care over the long-term. More funds are needed.”

Beah, himself a former child associated with armed forces from Sierra Leone, saw the 10 children received at a centre managed by UNICEF partner, the Danish Refugee Council. The centre runs programmes providing basic education, sports, cultural activities and vocational skills for 45 children, aged 10 to 18 years. Among the children were three girls.

The purpose of the centre is to help children overcome the effects of exposure to various forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, which may have happened over a prolonged period of time.

At the centre, Beah led discussions on war, loss, and recovery. “When you are conditioned to function in war, it takes time to know that something else is possible. I went through that myself,” he told the children.

Beyond the release, children associated with armed groups require continued support for at least two to three years to ensure successful reintegration into families and communities. 

Despite the validation of national policies on child protection, the presence of armed groups in towns and other populous areas make the country’s children particularly vulnerable to re-recruitment into the numerous armed groups active throughout the country.

“With commitments by armed groups in the Central African Republic in place, funds are urgently required to ensure we can act quickly to release children and ensure programmes are in place for their successful rehabilitation and reintegration.” said Beah, a best-selling author and human rights spokesperson.
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