Central African Republic: Freed Child Soldiers to Join Their Families

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By Emmanuel Kendemeh, AllAfrica

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is working to reintegrate 163 child soldiers with their families where possible, or provide job and skill training along with psychological services, Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF's representative in the Central African Republic said, Associated Press reported.

The 163 child soldiers were released during a ceremony on Friday, August 28, 2015 in the town of Batangafo in the northern part of the country. UNICEF and the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) facilitated the Batangafo ceremony. The released child soldiers represent just a minor fraction of child soldiers as reports reveal that the rival anti-Balaka and Seleka rebel groups recruited as many as 10,000 youths to fight for them since 2013. Friday's handover raised to 645 the number of children released as part of a deal among 10 armed groups in May 2015 to release all children from their ranks.

"This release is a sign that the process of implementing the commitment made by the leaders of these groups ... is on track. We fully expect to see hundreds more children released before the end of this year," Mohamed Malick Fall is quoted as having said. "The move to end child combatants [in CAR] is not moving fast enough, yes, but it is an ongoing process while the leaders of the armed groups have committed to stop recruiting children, it does take time to implement on the ground," Donaig le Du, spokesperson for UNICEF in Bangui is quoted as having told Al Jazeera on Saturday. The UNICEF spokesperson revealed that negotiating the release of this particular group of children took around two months, and it was a process that could not be rushed.

Reports say most of the children freed so far have been from the anti-Balaka Christian-dominated armed group, because those among the ranks of the Muslim-dominated Seleka rival armed group have been more isolated. A local resident of Batangafo, Donatien Dewo-Bafounga has raised fears that, "If these children are not rapidly taken care of they will be conscripted again." This he explains is because, "The armed groups are retaking territory every day."

Source: AllAfrica

Photo: Explicit Films - From the movie Johnny Mad Dog 

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