Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Child soldiers: Central African Republic - continued recruitment of children by armed groups

UN - A new United Nations report voices serious concern about the continued recruitment of children by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) and calls for measures to address the ongoing “protection crisis” in the country.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the issue of children and armed conflict in CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes a number of factors contributing to the protection crisis, which affects women and children in particular.

These include sporadic fighting between Government forces and armed groups – despite the signing of a peace agreement in June 2008 – and widespread banditry, as well as extreme poverty and the lack of capacity of the defence and security forces and the judiciary.

“In spite of the Government’s commitment to end the use and recruitment of children, their mobilization into the ranks of rebel groups and self-defence militias throughout the country continued during the reporting period,” Mr. Ban says in the report, which covers the period from December 2008 to December 2010.

The report notes continued grave violations, such as the killing of children, sexual violence, attacks on health centres and the denial of humanitarian access. In addition, in the south-east of the country, the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to abduct and forcibly recruit children and use them as combatants, spies, sex slaves and porters.

The lack of systematic birth registration exacerbated challenges related to addressing grave violations, according to the report, since it is often not possible to prove the age of an individual. Official statistics show that only 49 per cent of births were registered nationally in 2010.

Mr. Ban notes that during the visit of his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, to the CAR in May 2008, the leadership of the two groups that signed the peace agreement with the Government – the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie (APRD) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) – committed to preparing action plans to stop child recruitment.

A draft action plan to halt child recruitment by the APRD and ensure the release of all children associated with the group has been ready since June 2008, Mr. Ban points out. However, the Government has delayed its signature, arguing that a comprehensive action plan should be signed with all parties to the 2008 peace agreement instead.

Meanwhile, disagreements between the UFDR and the Government on the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for adults have impeded the completion of an action plan to halt the recruitment of children.

Mr. Ban voices concern about the delays regarding the action plans and urges the Government to facilitate their preparation, as appropriate.

He also urges the Government to ensure that grave violations against children, especially child recruitment, sexual violence and abductions, are addressed through the rigorous investigation and prosecution of those responsible for such crimes.

In addition, the Secretary-General calls on the Government to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all children associated with local self-defence militias. As an immediate priority, he urges the Government to issue clear orders, including at the local level, prohibiting the recruitment and use of children by these groups.

“In order to ensure the durable separation of children from armed groups in the Central African Republic, I call on United Nations agencies, funds and programmes to support the Government in the development and implementation of long-term reintegration programmes for children formerly associated with armed forces and groups,” he adds.