Thursday, May 28, 2009

Child soldiers: At least 85 child soldiers imprisoned by Chad

A former child soldier following literacy lessons at a transit and orientation centre in N'djamena

At least 85 minors are among 212 suspected rebels imprisoned by the Chadian government after recent clashes between rebels and the army in eastern Chad, according to UN Children’s Fund officials, who have visited the children.

After discussions with the government over access to the detainees, UNICEF officials on 26 May visited the prison to look into how many are under 18 and therefore protected by an international convention on child rights, which Chad has ratified.

“We discussed and agreed upon a preliminary list of 85 eligible children, including 12 who are wounded and receiving medical care,” UNICEF-Chad representative Marzio Babille told IRIN on 26 May. “In the next 24 to 48 hours we will pave the way for the [young detainees’] quick handover and a future free from fear.”

On 27 May a UNICEF team returned to the prison to continue the verification process, according to Babille. UNICEF will place juvenile detainees in transit centres operated by non-profit CARE international in the capital N’djamena.

Babille praised the government for its prompt response to UNICEF’s appeal and for allowing access to the detainees.

UNICEF is determined “to help the children reintegrate into their families and society, and to follow up on their reintegration to avoid the risk of rejoining [armed groups], Babille said in a 26 May communiqué.

The Chad government and rebel groups have agreed on paper that children should not be part of any armed forces, but aid workers in Chad say the recruitment of children into armed groups continues and is thought to have increased with recent instability in the country.

The government in 2007 signed an agreement with UNICEF to end the use of children in armed forces or groups.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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