By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 4 April 2005 – Liberia’s former child soldiers are once again being forced into combat, even though the country’s civil war has officially ended.
UNICEF has received reports from its partners that at least 25 children have been re-recruited to fight in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire. Of those targeted for recruitment, demobilized children are particularly at risk.
“The reports indicate that it’s a commander from former fighting forces in Liberia, but we’ve also had reports of commanders crossing over from Côte d’Ivoire,” said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Fatuma Ibrahim.
UNICEF and its partners have tried to prevent recruitment as much as possible, but the border between the two countries is hard to police.
“The recruitment is very, very well organized because as soon as they started to hear that the official border crossing are being monitored, they started taking both adults and children that have been recruited through the smaller border points which are not as well monitored,” said Ms. Ibrahim.
Côte d’Ivoire has been fighting a civil war since 2002 and the country is split between rebels, who control the north, and the army-controlled south.
One way to try and ensure that former child soldiers are not re-recruited is to enrol them in reintegration programmes, which keep them safe while helping them to adjust to normal life after what has often been a brutal military ordeal.
UNICEF is working to make sure that a more systematic follow-up of demobilized children takes place, and is advocating for child protection monitors be stationed in border towns.