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.

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.


Child soldiers patrol CAR capital

22 April 2013, 08:50

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.


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.


"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 News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
DP Ruto accuses Raila of selling ...

DP Wiliam Ruto has castigated Raila Odinga for seeking western support to fund his 2017 election bid. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Peter Kenneth announces Uhuru 201...

Peter Kenneth has announced that he will support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...