The People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) – since April of this year – has released 166 boys and 16 girls aged between 10 and 17. The promised release follows a visit by Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict UN Radhika Coomaraswamy and a signed peace agreement where a commitment to release the children was made. UNICEF has been a major player in coordinating the surrender of the children and “nearly all those child soldiers have since been reunited with their families.”
The UN agency has been working closely with the CAR Government and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to plan and coordinate the release of the children, who mostly hail from Ouham Pendé province in the north of the country.
To aid in the rehabilitation process, two centers have been constructed for initial processing , medical care and psychological counseling of the children. At the centers they are also given a package that includes “clothes, sleeping mats, blankets and personal hygiene items” and are provided with opportunites for classes in literacy and math.
Recognizing the importance of long-term rehabilitation programs, “UNICEF is calling for an additional $1 million to ensure that the demobilization and reintegration of the child soldiers can continue.” While longer-term recovery classes are available in their former communities once they have been reintegrated – including catch-up classes for school for younger children and technical training for older children – there is often a “limited access to basic services and few employment opportunities”. In addition, “sporadic fighting continues in northern CAR, particularly near the borders with Chad and Sudan,” further complicating the reintegration process. Says Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s representative in Bangui, the CAR capital:
Reintegration is a long and often difficult process in any circumstance, and the prevailing climate of insecurity adds to the challenges. We need to keep up our assistance to these communities if we want the demobilization programme to succeed.
For more information:
- A Primer on DDR for Child Soldiers
- DDR – Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs need long term support and funding
- Back to the topic of reintegration; stigmatization faced by former child soldiers
- Difficulties with Reintegration for former child soldiers, as discussed in the Child Solders Global Report 2008