Use of Child Soldiers in Chad
A new report by Amnesty International 'Chad: A compromised future: Children recruited by armed forces and groups in eastern Chad' is calling on Chad to put an end to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
The report found boys as young as 13 years old being used assoldiers by officers of the Chadian national army and Chadian andSudanese armed opposition groups. The Chadian government has said ithas no policy of recruiting children but has admitted to the presenceof children within the army.
Accordingto UN figures in 2007, between 7,000 and 10,000 children may have been used asfighters or associated with Chadian and Sudanese armed opposition groups andthe Chadian army.
Thesecurity situation in eastern Chad is highly volatile. Already a poor andpolitically unstable area, eastern Chad has been drawn into the crisis inneighbouring Darfur since 2003.
Around260,000 Darfuri refugees live in camps in eastern Chad, and more than 170,000Chadians are currently living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites. Thecamps have proved to be fertile recruiting grounds for children, as residentshave little access to education, few employment opportunities, and have oftenlost relatives and friends in the fighting. Children have frequently gonemissing from refugee camps and IDP sites in eastern Chad and later been foundin the ranks of armed groups.
Somechildren have been abducted and forcibly recruited whilst others have joinedthe army or armed groups to avenge the death of family members or pillage ofcattle. Some children have also become involved on order to escape poverty andthe lack of education or job opportunities. Children dressed in nice clothesare sometimes sent to camps with money and cigarettes to lure new recruits,offering between US$20 and US$500 to those who join up.
13 Year Old Rawan:
“I have no family in N’Djamena andmy relatives don’t know that I am here. In Guéréda I lived with my mother andmy brothers and sisters… I am the eldest son. In Guéréda I was going toschool.
“I left Guéréda because people werekilling members of our family and pillaging our goods. My father was killed bythe Zaghawa. I left, alone, two years ago, when I was ten-and-a-half years old.I did not talk about it with my mother or my uncles when I left. I went toEl-Geneina in Sudan and joined the MNR [Chadian armed group]. They took me toSinjara where I stayed for one-and-a-half years; then I went to Wadi Mangai forsix months. I did not have a specific role. I had received introductory andmilitary training. After two years our commander decided to join the Chadiangovernment and we left Sudan for Chad. When we arrived in Chad I found manyother kids, sometimes the same age as me and sometimes older.”
17 Year Old Saleh:
“Most of Guéréda’s inhabitants areZaghawa and Tama. I am Arab and so was my grandfather… One night, mygrandfather and three other traditional chiefs were attacked and killed. Fourpeople attacked him: two Zaghawas and two Tamas. After their arrest, theGovernor of Dar Tama asked for them to be executed. But President Débyintervened and said that all they had to do was pay the diyya.44 The fourindividuals were then secretly released…
“That’s the reason I joined therebellion. The day my grandfather died…I travelled by road to Adré and thenon to El-Geneina in Sudan. There, I met some armed groups and I went with themto their military base at Wadi Tamour. I went alone. The rebels I joined wereunder Abdul Wahid. I was trained at the Wadi Tamour base as a realsoldier…then Ahmat Hassaballah Soubiane’s group asked me to join them and Iwent with them to another place in Sudan. From there we attacked the town of AmZoer in eastern Chad. Six months later Ahmat Hassaballah Soubiane told us hehad decided to go back to Chad because there was peace and no more bandits.”
Despiteincreased international, regional and national concerns, the response of theChadian government to the recruitment and use of children has had minimalimpact.
In 2009the UN Committee on the Rights of Child expressed grave concerns about thepersistence of widespread violations and abuses committed against children, thecontinuation of recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict,in particular the Sudanese rebel movement [the Justice and Equality Movement(JEM)] and certain local commanders of the Chadian armed forces.
In April2010 the UN Secretary General reported that Chad had shown commitment tofighting child recruitment; and in June Chad was one of a number of governmentsthat pledged in the N’Djamena Declaration to stop the recruitment of childrenin armed forces and groups and to create better education and job opportunitiesfor former child soldiers.
TheChadian government, with the assistance of UNICEF, did launch a demobilizationand reintegration program for children associated with armed forces and groupsin 2007. However, the program has had little success, partly due tounderfunding, but exacerbated by continuing insecurity and unrest, extremepoverty, and the reluctance of political and military officials to engage withthe demobilization process.
ByDecember 2010 only around 850 former recruits had received rehabilitationassistance from UNICEF.
Childrensuccessfully demobilized have, in some instances, rejoined armed groups becauseof the lack of alternative opportunities.
It isessential that former child soldiers are rehabilitated and reintegrated, andhave the help and opportunities they need to leave behind their experienceswith the army and armed groups.
Withappropriate help and support, former child soldiers can be successfullyrehabilitated and find lives outside of the conflict.
Ibo was 14years old when he left his village with three other boys to join the FUC (UnitedFront for Democratic Change). He said he left because the Zaghawa did whateverthey wanted, including killing three members of his Tama ethnic group in hisvillage in 2006 and stealing, and he was looking for revenge. While with theFUC, he regularly went into the bush in Sudan. He received extensive training,including in weapons handling, with a large group of 60 or 70 children,including many who were his age. He became a leader of the group responsiblefor preparing meals. There was a separate group of girls, led by a woman ‘colonel’named Aisha. The girls did many things, including singing and chanting toencourage the fighters.
He wasdemobilized in 2007 when the FUC joined the government and all the childsoldiers in the FUC were let go. He was first sent to Mongo and thentransferred to the transit centre in N’Djamena, where he stayed for over oneyear. The situation at the transit centre had been very good – school in themorning, football and other activities in the afternoon.
Ibo nowruns a small shop in the neighbourhood of Farik al Shityeh in Abéché. He saysthat things are going well for him. His brother travels to buy goods for theshop and Ibo runs it on a daily basis. He told Amnesty International he is muchhappier now and has no plans to return to the FUC.
Additionally,those involved with the recruitment and use of child soldiers must be heldaccountable, so that progress can be made in stopping the use of children inarmed conflict.
AmnestyInternational is particularly concerned about the lack of accountability forthose suspected of committing human rights violations, including therecruitment and use of children. There have been no prosecutions of members ofthe army and armed groups for recruiting and using children.
Eleven menwere arrested in connection with the recruitment of children in a refugee campin September 2010 but it is not clear what happened to them. As far as AmnestyInternational is aware, these men were never brought to trial.
On 20th January 2011, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno ordered anamnesty for crimes committed by members of the armed opposition,effectively perpetuating impunity for the human rights abuses committedagainst children used in hostilities.
Further concerns are raised by the withdrawal of MINURCAT (the UNMission in the Central African Republic and Chad) at the request of theChadian government and following a UN Security Counil resolution in May2010. The withdrawal of UN forces was completed at the end of 2010. Itis feared that this will increase the risks faced by children,including the likelihood of them being recruited as child soldiers; aswell as deepening the challenges around their demobilization andreintegration.
Amnesty International is calling on the Chadian and Sudanesegovernments, Chadian and Sudanese armed groups and members of theinternational community, including the UN, to take effective steps toensure that the rights of children in eastern Chad are protected. Inparticular:
- All parties to the conflict must comply with obligations under international human rights law
- All children associated with armed forces must be released andprovided with educational, vocational and employment opportunities tosupport their reintegration into their communities
- The international community should prioritize programmes to demobilize and reintegrate children in eastern Chad
- An effective mechanism to monitor the recruitment and use of children must be in place following the withdrawal of MINURCAT
- Sufficient financial, logistical and human resources must be madeavailable to implement the N'Djamena Declaration on ending therecruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups.
For the full report – click here.
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