894 Child Soldiers Released From Civilian JTF In Maiduguri – UNICEF

Over 3,500 Children Recruited By Insurgents, Says UN

 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has said that 894 children have been released from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri.

The children, including 106 girls were released on Friday as part of commitments to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the fight against insurgents.

According to a statement from UNICEF, the release would be followed up with reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life.

“Any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights and must be recognised and encouraged,” said Mohamed Fall, Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria and the Co-chair of United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR).

“Children of north-east Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict. They have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence. This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being.”

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The organisation further stated that since September 2017, when the CJTF signed an action plan committing to putting measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, 1,727 children and young people have been released. Since then, there has been no new recruitment of children by the CJTF.

It also noted that the children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life, seize new opportunities for their own development, and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria, as productive citizens of their country.

According to the UNICEF, without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life, as most are not educated and have no vocational skills.

More than 3,500 children are said to have been recruited and used by non-state armed groups in the conflicts in northern Nigeria between 2013 and 2017.

According to UNICEF, others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.

“We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria,” Fall said.

The organization says it would continue to work closely with state authorities and partners to support the implementation of reintegration programmes for all children released from armed groups, as well as others affected by the ongoing conflict.

The gender and age-appropriate community-based reintegration support interventions include an initial assessment of their well-being, psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.

At least 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities, have accessed such services between 2017 and 2018.

DR Congo Child Soldiers Surrender Arms And Amulets

 

“For me, the war is now over.” If words alone carry weight, there are hopes that a brutal conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo may draw to an end.

The words were spoken by Mado, a hard-eyed child fighter all of 12-years-old from the deeply-feared Kamuina Nsapu militia in central Kasai region.

Along with several dozen adults, the young girl marched out of the brush and into the town of Kananga, some 700 kilometres (450 miles) east of Kinshasa, where they surrendered their weapons.

There they laid down old rifles, machetes and good-luck charms at the governor’s feet following the surprising victory of Felix Tshisekedi who was elected president after December’s elections.

Like most of the Kamwina Nsapu fighters, Tshisekedi comes from the Luba tribe.

With them were two other children — one aged about 10 who had a red bandana around his head and a large hunting knife in his hand.

Red is the colour of the militia, which mixes politics with mysticism and took up arms against Kinshasa in August 2016 after its tribal chief, known as the Kamwina Nsapu, was killed by troops.

Since then, the uprising has claimed at least 3,000 lives and displaced another 1.4 million people.

The conflict eased off in 2017 and the situation has further improved since Tshisekedi took office in January, ending the 18-year iron-fisted rule of Joseph Kabila.

Dreams

Dressed in a filthy skirt and tattered vest, her feed bare, Mado lays down her amulet alongside a small knife and a red bandana.

She was a “Yamama”, she explains, a girl fighter who had been encouraged to join the militia by her father.

“There were 10 young people. One of us is dead,” she said.

“Our job was to save our country. Before heading off to war, we went to a tshiota (initiation site) to call on our ancestors for help.”

Regional governor Denis Kambayi, whose presence seemed to intimidate her, accused the militia of co-opting “young prepubescent girls by giving them amulets”.

“They tell them that they are invincible,” he said.

When such children turn themselves in, they are sent to UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, which takes them to a centre to help re-educate them.

There Mado gets her own brand-new set of clothes and the shot at a very different future.

“I want to study,” she says.

Her dream, she explains, is to become a primary school teacher.

Vicious Circle

Jules Losango, who works at the centre, says children need to educated but often families cannot afford to pay, making them easy targets for recruitment by militia groups.

“When we talk to the children, we find they want to go to school. But families aren’t really able to afford the fees,” he explained.

“It’s a vicious circle: when a child doesn’t go to school and a movement emerges, they join it without a second thought.”

The government, he said, could reverse that trend by creating well-paid jobs which would allow families to send all their children to school.

While the child soldiers want to go to school, the adults also have their demands from the authorities they once fought.

“When we lay down our arms, we are not doing it for nothing,” said former fighter Guelord Tshimanga, known as “general”.

“We have to find work for people. The kids should go back to school. What we want is help,” he said.

And these needs must all be brought to “the head of state for whom we fight,” he said alluding to Tshisekedi and his tribal ties to Kasai, home to a large number of Luba.

Child Soldiers Awarded $10m Damages From Congolese Warlord

International judges on Friday awarded $10 million (8.5 million euros) in damages to child soldiers recruited into the ranks of a brutal Congolese militia by former warlord Thomas Lubanga.

The judges at the International Criminal Court set “the sum of reparations for which Mr Lubanga is liable as the total sum of $10 million,” presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut said.

While the court formally acknowledged 425 victims, he added that “hundreds or even thousands of additional victims” suffered at the hands of Lubanga’s militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

AFP

UNICEF: Boko Haram Recruited Over 2,000 Child Soldiers In 2016

UNICEF, Boko Haram, Child SoldiersOver 2000 child soldiers were recruited and used in combat by the terrorist group, Boko Haram in 2016.

These statistics were provided on Tuesday by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on the anniversary of the Paris commitments to end the use of children in conflict.

UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, said the exact data on the number of children used in armed conflict was difficult to ascertain because of the unlawful nature of the exercise.

“For instance, since 2013 an estimated 17,000 children have been recruited in South Sudan and up to 10,000 have been recruited in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“Similarly, nearly 2,000 children were recruited by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries last year alone, and there have been nearly 1,500 cases of child recruitment in Yemen since the conflict escalated in March 2015.

“We cannot give up the fight to end child recruitment,” the UNICEF chief said.

Lake offered estimates that tens of thousands under the age of 18 were being used in conflicts worldwide.

“It is not only about looking back at what has been accomplished; but looking forward to the work that remains to be done to support the children of war,” he said.

End To Child Recruitment

Adopted 10 years ago, the Paris commitments, together with the Paris Principles and Guidelines, lay out guidance for protecting children from recruitment and use by armed forces or armed groups.

The Paris Agreement also assists the release of child soldiers and their reintegration, with other vulnerable children affected by armed conflict in their communities.

“There has also been progress: since it was adopted, the number of countries endorsing the Paris commitments has nearly doubled from 58 countries in 2007 to 105 at present, signalling an increasing global commitment to end the use of children in conflict.

“Globally, more than 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups, including 20,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Nearly 9,000 in the Central African Republic; and over 1,600 children in Chad. But more needs to be done,” the UNICEF chief said.

According to him, seeking to build on the current momentum, the Paris International Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts has appealed for unconditional release of all children without exception, and putting an end to child recruitment.

“It is also calling for increased resources to help reintegrate and educate children who have been released, and urgent action to protect internally displaced children, child refugees and migrants.

“As long as children are still affected by the fighting, we cannot give up the fight for the children,” Lake added.

Nigerians Should Gang Up Against Those Who Have Ganged Up Against Them – Iroegbu

Dickson IroegbuA Public Affairs Analyst, Dickson Iroegbu, says Nigerians should stop playing the ostrich but rather gang up against those who have ganged up against them.

Iroegbu gave the suggestion during a conversation on the award winning breakfast programme on Channels Television, Sunrise Daily.

He urged Nigerians to wake up and realize that there was a common enemy which everybody has to get involved in fighting.

He warned that if Nigerians do not pay attention to the most important things from the family level, if the country should find itself in a full-fledged war; everyone would be forced to get involved.

“My elder brother died a military man. He died on the 1st of October 2013; he was in Yola. So we have been affected directly too”, he said.

Speaking further, he said that the situation in the country was one which should help define the country’s nationhood, as he expects that the need to win the war would help the citizens become conscious of how to move the nation forward.

“I am very convinced that this issue of insecurity will make us activate that spirit of ‘Nigerianess’ that we need”, he said.

Iroegbu, who is also a filmmaker, accused the media of having helped the insurgents by celebrating their activities. He explained that the act of highlighting the acts perpetrated by the insurgents amounted to celebrating evil.

As someone who had a military man in his family, Iroegbu was asked what the experience had been within the family as regards welfare, but he noted that rising up to fight for one’s country should not be monetised.

“First of all, it was a contribution that we have made. When my elder brother decided to join the force, his was ‘I couldn’t sit back and observe at the corner’ and he paid dearly for it.

“He wasn’t in there to go and make money for us. For us he died a hero”, maintaining that “we don’t have to be paid or wait for moments when we are being coerced to be conscious of doing something for Nigeria”.

He, however, revealed that from his interaction with his late brother, he deduced that the Nigerian military had been compromised with politics, religious and tribal sentiments allowed to creep into the military environment.

“A lot of overhauling needs to be done in that area”, he advised.

He also noted that the issues of insecurity and the Chibok abduction have thrown up a lot and Nigerians were more awake to the need to hold politicians accountable.

“Thank God we are going to have elections soon, Nigerians are watching, we’re not fools anymore.”

On the role of the movie industry in the nation’s security, Iroegbu stated that Nollywood has been fully involved in the fight against insurgency. He revealed that the issue of child soldiers was one that he had personally worked on and called on all Nigerians to embrace the motion picture medium better for propagating ideas.

He added that it was not only a good medium to disseminate good ideas, but it was also good business.