“At the height of conflict in 2013 and 2014, children were victims of relentless violence and appalling violations were committed in a climate of total impunity, aggravated by the collapse and disintegration of most State institutions,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Killing and maiming
The UN documented the killing of 333 children and maiming of 589 in brutal attacks targeting communities for reprisals or other motives. In successive waves of intercommunal violence fueled and manipulated by political leaders, children were targeted based on their religious affiliation. It is believed that hundreds more were killed and injured by machete, firearms and other weaponry, sometimes in a very brutal manner.
In a few particularly gruesome incidents documented in the report, children were beheaded, in one case leading to an outbreak of violence last Fall that killed and injured dozens more boys and girls.
Recruitment and use of children
In 2014, UNICEF estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 children were associated with all parties to conflict. The United Nations documented a surge, leading to large-scale recruitment and use of children in 2013 and onwards, following the Government takeover by the Séléka and the rise of anti-Balaka self-defense militias.
The children were used as combatants, sex slaves, looters and in various support roles. At peaks of violence, they were seen in large numbers associated with the armed groups, and often erecting barricades and manning checkpoints. Boys and girls were consistently brutalized and the UN documented cases of children used as human shields or to lure international forces into ambushes.
Over 500 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence were documented by the UN since 2011. It is believed that sexual violence was widespread, but remained underreported.
Cases of rape and sexual violence on children committed by international forces and United Nations peacekeepers have also been documented. The Secretary-General has recently appointed Jane Holl Lute as part of a series on ongoing measures following the report of the High-Level External Independent Review Panel on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by International Peacekeeping Forces in the Central African Republic. The Secretary-General is committed to closing institutional gaps, to ensure prevention, protection, accountability and more importantly the necessary assistance for all victims.
Attacks on schools and hospitals
The education and health systems, already fragile, were deeply affected by the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of children were deprived of their rights to education and basic health care. The UN verified 131 instances of schools and hospitals looted, burned, or attacked during confrontations between parties to the conflict. Teachers and medical personnel were threatened and killed and both schools and hospitals were used for military purposes.
The abduction of boys and girls was another violation perpetrated by all parties to conflict during the reporting period. In addition to the Lord’s Resistance Army, responsible for the abduction of several children in the country’s eastern part, children abducted for ransom also became an increasingly lucrative activity from 2014 onwards.
The way forward to better protect girls and boys
The end of the transition and the election of a new President in February bring new opportunities to restore law and order, and to build a protective environment for children. To prevent repetition, accountability for perpetrators of grave violations against children must be a priority for the new elected authorities.
In the past two years, over 5,500 boys and girls have been released from armed groups. It is estimated that many more remain in the ranks of all parties to conflict. It will be important to ensure that all disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes developed take into account the large number of children who will require assistance as well as their specific needs.
“I call on all those who can make a difference to support the process of stabilization and to help provide essential assistance, including adequate reintegration programmes, education and health services, to a generation of boys and girls deeply affected by conflict,” said Leila Zerrougui.
As a new chapter of the country’s history is beginning, the Special Representative expresses the hope that children- the majority of the population – will be able to grow up in a land that better protects their rights.
Note to editors:
Click here to find the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Central African Republic
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Communications officer, Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Source: Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict