The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called on the Central African Republic (CAR) to immediately stop child recruitment by rebel groups and pro-government militias amidst reports of increasing use of this practice.
“A number of rebel groups and various pro-government militias have become more active in recent weeks in the capital city of Bangui and across the country,” said the UNICEF Representative for CAR, Souleymane Diabate. “Reliable sources have informed us that children are newly being recruited among their ranks. These reports are of serious concern.”
“Our team on the ground is working with partners to monitor, verify, and respond to grave violations of child rights, including recruitment into armed groups – those at greater risk are children who have lost their homes, are separated from their families or were formerly associated with armed groups,” Mr. Diabate added.
According to UNICEF, even before the latest round of violence in CAR erupted in December last year, about 2,500 children – both girls and boys – were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defence groups, in CAR. The UN agency estimates that this number will rise because of the recent conflict.
Over the past weeks, widespread looting and violence occurred in the country as an alliance of rebel groups known as ‘Séléka’ attacked several towns in the northeast and threatened to march on Bangui. This week, the group reportedly halted their advance on the capital and agreed to start peace talks in Gabon.