Child soldiers patrol CAR capital

2013-04-20 20:30
After rebels ousted the CAR president, child soldiers patrol the capital. (AP)

After rebels ousted the CAR president, child soldiers patrol the capital. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Cars
    A DVD fuelled with plenty of humour, action, heartfelt drama Now R79.00
    buy now
Bangui - As fighters in fatigues lounge in the shade of the rebel camp in the capital of Central African Republic, a boy jumps up to greet visitors with a wide toothy grin. He says he is 14 and joined the rebels three months ago.

It is the wrong thing to say. A female commander in uniform warns him: "We'll kill you if you talk to them."

Her boss, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, gets up from his plastic chair, stares at the boy who had been playing in the grass moments before and declares: "There are no children here."

Despite the rebel's denial, the UN children's agency warns that it has "clear evidence of the continuing recruitment and use of children by armed groups" in Central African Republic.

And an Associated Press reporter saw dozens of youths among the ranks of the Seleka fighters in the capital, Bangui, more than three weeks after the insurgents caused the president to flee the country.

Supervised

They were riding in pickup trucks with other rebels and in some cases on foot patrol, always closely supervised by older, heavily armed fighters.

Child soldiers were even used in some of the heaviest fighting in the battle for Bangui. They directly engaged South African troops in and around the capital from 22 to 24 March, according to the soldiers who survived the fighting that left 13 of their comrades dead.

"It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids. We did not come here for this - to kill kids," one paratrooper later told the Sunday Times newspaper.

"It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help - calling for [their] moms."

South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the soldiers had no choice but to shoot back at the children who were firing at them.

"If our soldiers were attacked by children they were correct to defend themselves," she said, according to the South African Press Association. "If a child shoots at you, are you going to... blow kisses?"

Those who recruit children under the age of 15 to serve in combat can be indicted on war crimes charges, and the International Criminal Court already has convicted one former Congolese warlord of conscripting young fighters.

Sex slaves

Soldiers as young as 10 have been used by rebels not only as combatants but also as sex slaves, porters and cooks, according to the UN.

"Recruiting children is both morally unacceptable and prohibited under international law," said Souleymane Diabate, Unicef's country representative.

"We have called on the new leadership in CAR to ensure that all children associated with armed groups should be released immediately and protected from further violations."

Even before the latest rebellion launched in December, Unicef said more than 2 000 children in Central African Republic were with the myriad of armed groups destabilising the country's north.

The practice is ingrained here in one of the continent's poorest countries. The new Minister of Youth and Sports in Central African Republic comes from a rebel group that has been accused of conscripting child soldiers.

In a country where life expectancy for men is a mere 49 years and many children are put to work at an early age, the rebels in Central African Republic don't view 14 as too young to carry - and shoot - an AK-47 automatic assault rifle.

The government's new information minister, Christophe Gazam Betty, insisted that his government believes only about 40 child soldiers are still with the Seleka fighters.

Counselling

"If there are combatants who are under the age of 18, there is a system in place through the United Nations," he said. "They will be separated and picked up by Unicef."

Unicef says the rebel groups who make up the alliance now in power have previously disarmed child soldiers, and the UN children's agency is now calling for that process to start immediately.

Some child soldiers can be returned to their families or to other relatives. Others will be placed in foster homes where possible, though some will be given training on living independently, said Shannon Struthers, Unicef senior adviser for emergencies.

Many will need counselling and help after actively taking part in combat, Struthers said.
- AP
Read more on:    car  |  security  |  central africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
20 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Africa
 

Adventure holidays you HAVE to put on your bucket list

Need a break from your usual boring routine? Consider one of these places for your next adventure holiday.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Top 10 water sports to try before you die
6 impressive camping tips
Free outdoor yoga classes
Watch: 5 skills to improve your BMX riding

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the surface...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.