UNICEF and partners support reintegration of child soldiers in Chad
By Salma Zulfiqar
A regional conference on the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups will take place 7-9 June in N’Djamena, Chad – organized by UNICEF and the Government of Chad to seek international commitments on ending the use of child soldiers and better providing for their re-integration and care. Here is a related story.
N’djamena, Chad, 28 May 2010 – For Dowa Samna, 19, working at a garage in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, is a far cry from his former life in the armed forces. The former child soldier recalls that conditions in the military were rough. “We did not eat regular meals,” he says, “and we had to share everything.”
Dowa joined the Chadian National Army when he was 16 but was demobilized a year later when the authorities discovered his true age. “We were so relieved when Dowa came home. We were so afraid he would never come back,” says his father, Gong-na Samna.
Commitment to Paris Principles
But there is reason for hope. Dowa’s release from the army followed a 2007 agreement between UNICEF and the Government of Chad to intensify efforts aimed at getting children out of armed groups and forces and back into society.
This accord, in turn, followed Chad’s signed commitment to the Paris Principles, an international agreement to stop the recruitment of children in combatant and non-combatant roles.
Tools for reintegration
Demobilized youths are brought to interim care centres in N’Djamena that are run by the non-governmental organization CARE International. At the centres, they receive psychological counselling and learn skills to help them reintegrate into society.
Since 2007 more than 800 children have gone through this UNICEF-supported process.
‘Back to a normal life’
“Because you are young and you are trained and you spend all your time with the rebels, you still want to fight all the time even though you are civilian. You feel the need to always fight with people,” Souleymane explains.
Getting used to life without a gun is a challenge for many former child soldiers.
“These children have actually been trained to kill,” says UNICEF Representative in Chad Dr. Marzio Babille. “It’s very difficult to overcome the psycho-social aspect of this trauma and get them back to a normal life.”
Like Dowa and many others in similar circumstances, Souleymane has a new lease of life due in large part to the work of UNICEF and its partners. He has not yet reunited with his family but says he now feels that he has a future.