Release of child soldiers in Chad ongoing
N’djamena, Chad, 29 January 2010 - A recent release of child soldiers in north western Chad brings the total number of children demobilised since 2009 to 240.
Aged between 11 and 18, all 15 Chadian children were transferred from the city of Moussoro to transit centres run by the NGO, CARE International and supported by UNICEF in the capital, N’djamena.
The children will spend up to three months at the centre, with efforts underway to rehabilitate them.
UNICEF is currently supporting two transit centres in N’djamena with the capacity to accommodate 100 children in each facility. The interim care centres provide activities and support to help give the youngsters a normal life. Children receive food, health care and psychosocial support, as well as education and professional training, such as carpentry.
The child’s progress during the rehabilitation process is tracked and documented as part of the support provided by UNICEF.
Recent examples of reintegration into society include 8 children currently employed by companies in the capital where they received vocational training; one young man has opened his own restaurant and another is working as a carpenter.
"We are continuing to make progress, more than 184 children aged between 13 and 18 are in formal education. All of these results are very encouraging," Philippe Assale, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF Chad, said.
"But we are facing many challenges. The family reunification process is very lengthy due to the security problem in the east of the country where the majority of our beneficiaries are from. We are looking for alternative solutions to family reunification," he added.
"The lack of job opportunities due to the economy situation is also a concern for us," he explained.
UNICEF continues to push for children to be demobilized. On 9 May 2007, UNICEF and the Government of Chad signed an agreement for the demobilization of child soldiers throughout the country.
This accord follows Chad’s commitment at the Paris Protocols, agreed in February 2006, to demobilize children enrolled in armed forces and groups.
Since February 2007, 795 children have been released. While there are no exact figures on the number of child soldiers, it’s estimated that 7,000 are with armed groups in the country in combatant and non combatant roles.
The government of Chad offers adult soldiers who have been demobilized from rebel groups a cash payment of 400.000 CFA, around US $900. It’s believed this payment is also encouraging children to join armed groups.
The recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 is defined as a war crime in the statute of the International Criminal Court.
A task force has been established under Security Council Resolution 1612 to monitor and report on the issue of children and armed conflict and supports efforts of the Government of Chad to eradicate child recruitment.
The Task force is co-chaired by UNICEF and the United Nations Mission to the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).
By Salma Zulfiqar