CAR: More kids recruited by armed groups
12 April 2013, 17:58
Geneva - The UN's children's agency on Friday charged that
armed movements in the Central African Republic were recruiting more children,
including as soldiers, in the wake of a successful coup by rebels.
"Unicef has clear evidence of the continuing
recruitment and use of children by armed groups in the Central African
Republic," the agency said in a statement, urging leaders on the ground to
fight the "grave violation of international law".
Even before the latest insurgency began last December, the
UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said it estimated that more than 2 000 boys and
girls were "associated with armed groups".
Since then, "there has been an increase in terms of the
geographic scope and the magnitude of the practice," Unicef spokesperson Marixie
Mercado told reporters in Geneva, without providing specific estimates.
"The past four months of widespread lawlessness and
insecurity and lack of access by humanitarian workers to large parts of the
country is placing children at greater risk than ever," she said, pointing
out that last month's coup had not improved matters.
The Central African Republic was plunged into chaos when the
Seleka rebel coalition seized power on March 24 after a rapid-fire assault on the
capital Bangui, on the grounds that ousted leader Francois Bozize had failed to
abide by a January peace deal.
Mercado said both boys and girls had been recruited by both
sides in the conflict and were being used, among other things, as "spies,
porters, messengers, cooks in addition to fighting on the front lines."
Mercado said the UN agency had urged the new leadership in
the Central African Republic - currently headed by Seleka strongman Michel
Djotodia - "to immediately release children associated with armed groups,
and the new authorities in Bangui have indicated their intention to identify
and release children among the ranks of armed groups".
Since 2007, Unicef has helped release and rehabilitate more
than 1 000 children from armed and self-defence groups in the chronically
unstable and impoverished country, it said.