Six central African countries reassure commitment towards the end of recruiting child soldiers
N’DJAMENA, CHAD 9 June, 2010 – Six Central African countries showed historic commitment to ending recruitment of child soldiers and to support social reintegration at the regional conference held in Chad today by signing the N’Djamena Declaration.
Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan signed the declaration during the closing ceremony of the Regional Conference: Ending Recruitment and Use of Children in Armed Forces and Groups Contributing to Peace, Justice, & Development, organized by the Government of Chad and UNICEF.
The N’Djamena declaration is a binding document that outlines the commitments to and reinforce international standards for the protection of children, notably the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC), and the Paris Commitments (and Paris Principles and Guidelines) on the Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Forces and Armed Groups.
“The interest given by stakeholders to this conference is unprecedented in the history of Chad. We, in Chad have taken into account certain conditions and measures to respect the rights of our children affected by armed conflicts." said, Ms Ngarmbatina Odjimbeye Soukate, Minister of Social Action, Chad "If we stand idle to these atrocities taking place in the very fabric our societies affected by constant conflict, who else will take action in our place.”
Chad and Sudan have signed and ratified the OPAC. Cameroon and Nigeria have signed, but have not yet ratified. Central African Republic and Niger have neither signed nor ratified.
“This is a new beginning in Africa, a firm step towards giving all children in the region the dignity of a childhood they’ve so often been deprived of by decades of conflict; it is now time to translate these powerful words into concrete actions, said Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Representative in Chad. “UNICEF Chad remains committed to sustain efforts of all the countries in the region to achieve that essential and noble goal,” he concluded.
A monitoring committee has been established as one of the key action points of the N’Djamena Declaration with the goal of monitoring its implementation. The committee will meet regularly and develop an action plan and timetable for reporting.
Chad, The Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sudan have been experiencing internal armed conflicts with cross border repercussions. Manipulation, abuse and exploitation of children by armed groups and networks have been reported in all of these countries. This situation is further aggravated by poverty.
UN Security Council Resolutions 1612 and 1882 call for an end to the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups. The conflict in Darfur region of Sudan and unrest in the other countries have also resulted in the proliferation of small arms, light weapons, organized crime and unexploded ordnances. Nigeria periodically faces sectarian violence with serious consequences on children’s rights. The influx of refugees from neighboring countries and movements of people uprooted due to conflict also lead to serious child protection challenges. All these countries share vast and porous borders that are difficult to monitor and conducive to forced or negotiated recruitment, exploitation and abuse of vulnerable children. A lack of educational and livelihood opportunities increases the risks for children in border areas.
A number of issues surrounding the recruitment of children in armed groups and forces were discussed during the conference, including violence against girls and the spread and use of small arms by children in conflict countries in the region.
Key speakers included the Prime Minister and Head of Government of Chad, Your Ecellency Mr. Emmanuel NADINGAR, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Ms. Barbara Beintein, UNHCR Deputy Regional Director for Africa, Mr. Raouf Mazou, Deputy Special Representative for the Secretary General for Chad, Ms Rima Salah, UN Resident Coordinator for Chad, Mr. Michele Falavigna, and four ex-child soldiers, from Sierra Leon, Liberia, Congo, and Sudan.
A live music advocacy concert was held in the capital on the evening of 8 June attended by over 15,000 people. Local artist “Sultan” performed live on stage with Prince Eyango, International artist from Cameroon, International Rap artist and former child soldier from Sudan, Emmanuel Jal and other local artists, Mounira and Yeleen. A special song on stopping recruitment of children by armed forces and groups, written by Sultan, was performed during the concert to hundreds of people.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.ca.