afrol News, 10 February - A new report documents the extensive recruitment of child soldiers in Chad. "Boys as young as 13-years-old are being used as soldiers by officers of the Chadian national army and armed groups," the report found.
These findings were done by the human rights group Amnesty International, speaking to more than 40 former and current child soldiers from Chad and Darfur. The 70-page report "A compromised future: The plight of children recruited by armed forces and groups in eastern Chad" sums up their testimonies.
Up to half a million people live in refugee or displacement camps in eastern Chad after being forced to flee from their homes following the violence. These camps prove to be fertile recruiting grounds for children as the residents have little access to education, few employment opportunities and have often lost relatives and friends in the fighting.
A former child combatant of the Sudanese opposition armed group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) now living in a camp in eastern Chad told the Amnesty researchers that "there is nothing to do here; there is no work, no school, no money and I am poor. In the JEM I am not paid but, when we are in combat, we take stuff from the enemy."
"Children dressed in nice clothes are sometimes sent to camps with money and cigarettes to lure new recruits, offering between US$ 20 and US$ 500 to those who join up," according to the human rights group's report.
According to the Amnesty report, several thousand children have been recruited to combat in eastern Chad. Those aged between 13 and 17 were most likely to be used directly in combat while children as young as 10 were used as porters and messengers, the researchers found.
Though the Chadian government with the assistance of UNICEF launched a demobilisation and reintegration program for children associated with armed forces and groups in 2007, "this ha
Further wall drawings by former child soldiers in Chad
s had little success," the researchers conclude. The failure of the program is partly due to under-funding but is exacerbated by continued insecurity, extreme poverty and the reluctance of political and military officials to engage with demobilisation processes.
Amnesty said it was "particularly concerned about the lack of accountability" for those suspected of committing human rights violations, including the recruitment of children. There have been no prosecutions of members of the army and armed groups for recruiting and using children.
Eleven men were arrested in connection with the recruitment of children in a refugee camp in September 2010, but it is not clear what happened to them. "As far as Amnesty is aware these men were never brought to trial," the group says.
On 20 January this year, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno ordered an amnesty for crimes committed by members of the armed opposition, effectively perpetuating impunity for the human rights abuses committed against children used in hostilities.
Amnesty's Erwin van der Borght protests this amnesty for human rights violators, insisting they "should be investigated." He adds that "President Deby must issue clear orders to all army commanders not to recruit or use children and to cooperate with demobilization programmes. There is never an excuse to violate the rights of children."
"This scandalous child abuse must not be allowed to continue. The Chadian government – and the Chadian and Sudanese armed groups operating in eastern Chad - must immediately stop the recruitment and use of children under 18 and release all children from their ranks," Mr van der Borght added.
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