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Central African Republic signed child soldiers reintegration agreement

GORDIL/CAR, 16 June 2007 – UNICEF, the Government of Central African Republic (CAR) and the Assembly of the Union of Democratic Forces (UFDR) rebel group have today signed an agreement which will allow those children associated with armed groups to be reintegrated. This means children will be returned to their families wherever possible.

The accord has been signed by UNICEF Representative Mahimbo Mdoe, CAR’s Minister for Family, Social Affairs and National Solidarity, Marie Solange Ndakala, and General Damane Zakaria, head and founder of UFDR who agreed on releasing some 400 children enrolled among the rebel’s ranks.

Some 200 children have been identified as being associated with armed groups in the Vakaga region so far.

UNICEF Representative said: “This important process will allow the restoration of children’s rights in Gordil. The demobilized will now be able to go to school and to take advantage of health care facilities. UNICEF hopes to use Gordil as an example to renew such initiatives in other regions and do so on a larger scale. This will allow all of CAR’s child soldiers to become children once more.”

UNICEF will help prevent future recruitment of children into armed groups and ensure liberation and reintegration into their communities.

Despite CAR not being listed amongst the countries who endorsed the Paris Principles – signed 6 February 2007 – which call upon State Parties to reintegrate all children enrolled in armed groups and forces, this agreement signals a voluntary step by CAR’s armed groups towards respecting children’s rights.

The Minister of Social Affairs said that “this agreement allows the boys and girls of whole Vakaga region to return to normal life. This is something which will lead to CAR’s long term development and prosperity. The Government, in collaboration with UNICEF, has helped initiate this important program for the demobilization and reintegration of the children associated with the UFDR. As a result, the children and their families will receive more opportunities and a better life. Today is a historical moment, it is a day when we come altogether to celebrate the rights of the African child. The Government of CAR feels that all children are equal. They all have a right to development. Today’s events are one step in ensuring that this will happen in the future.”

UNICEF’s support for the release and reintegration of children will be carried out at the community level. Communities will be supported and social services rehabilitated in order to welcome the released children and reintegrate them back into their families, something which is hoped will help them to resume a normal life.

General Zakaria thanked UNICEF “for their hard work, and the Government for this great collaboration, something which will allow the children of Gordil to become children once again. It is not normal for children to carry arms, today’s event ensures that this will no longer be the case.”

The UNICEF program will also be extended to include all the children of northeastern CAR, who will benefit from improved health care, schooling, recreational activities, enhanced protection and security.
 
About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. As the world’s largest provider of vaccines for the developing world, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Anne Boher, UNICEF CAR: Tel + 236 58 96 01, +88 216 54 209 903 ; aboher@unicef.org
Martin Dawes, UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa: Tel: 221 869 76 54, mdawes@unicef.org
Rafael Hermoso, UNICEF Media, New York: Tel + (1) 212 326 7516, rhermoso@unicef.org


 

 

 

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