Some 10,000 children still fight alongside armed groups central african republic More than a decade after the civil war broke out, the government said on Monday.
Children are still recruited as fighters, spies, couriers, cooks and even used as sex slaves, Family and Gender Minister Marthe Kirima said in a statement. She said that while 15,000 children had escaped from the rebels, many were traumatized and found it difficult to return to normal lives.
The mineral-rich but impoverished country has been in conflict since 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced President François Bozize Mostly Christian militiamen fought back, also targeting civilians.
The United Nations, which has a peacekeeping mission in the country, estimates that fighting has killed thousands and displaced more than a million people, or a fifth of the population. In 2019, the government reached a peace agreement with 14 armed groups, but fighting continues.
The United Nations is working to prevent children from joining armed groups and to make it easier for released children to reintegrate into society, with training programs for them to become mechanics, masons, carpenters or other professions.
some former child soldiers told Associated Press Their painful experiences motivated them to become ambassadors for peace.
“I took up arms because Seleka was killed by her parents,” said Arsène, who insisted on giving only his first name because of the sensitivity of the situation. He said he was recruited by a Christian rebel group when he was 14. After three years of fighting, he now tells young people not to join the rebel group.
Osman, another former child soldier, said joining the rebels ruined his life and the lives of those around him. “What we do is indescribable,” he said.
Local civil society group Danny Galasso Foundation called on the government to speed up the peace process to protect child soldiers.
“They may have been fighting yesterday, but they can still fight for peace today,” said foundation director Ngarazo.