UNICEF secures release of up to 10,000 child soldiers in Central African Republic

5th May 2015

UNICEF secures release of up to 10,000 child soldiers in Central African Republic
Armed groups commit to ending child soldier recruitment amidst one of
the world’s worst humanitarian crises

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 5 May 2015 – Leaders of armed groups in the Central African Republic agreed today to release all children associated with their forces and to immediately end any new child recruitment. An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 children are currently associated with the country’s armed factions according to UNICEF. The figure includes those serving as combatants and used for sexual purposes, as well as those working as cooks, messengers and in other roles.  

UNICEF Ireland Executive Director, Peter Power said: “This is a major step forward in the protection of children. The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child, and UNICEF is eager to work with local authorities to help reunite these children with their families.”

The agreement, which was facilitated by UNICEF and its partners, was signed during a week-long national reconciliation forum in the capital Bangui, from 4 to 11 May, aiming to restore peace to the strife-torn country. The forum brings together members of the government and parliament, political parties, civil society organisations, religious and community leaders as well as the leaders of the armed groups.

Following the signing of the declaration, the parties will agree on a schedule for the release of the children, for their reunification with their families and communities, and for the provision of protection and support to help them to rebuild their lives. 

The leaders of the armed groups have also agreed to give UNICEF and its partners immediate and unrestricted access to the areas under their control in order to identify and verify the number of affected children and plan the release process.

More than two years of violence in the Central African Republic has created one of the world’s worst – and least visible – humanitarian crises. The release of the children by the country’s armed groups will place additional demands on the already limited funding available to respond to the emergency. 

In 2014, UNICEF and partners secured the release of over 2,800 children in the Central African Republic, including 646 girls, from armed groups. That compares to the 500 children released by armed groups in the country in 2013.

For further information please contact:
Clare Herbert, UNICEF Ireland, Communications and Media Manager, clare@unicef.ie / +353 87 942 1281 / + 353 1 878 3000

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.ie.