August 28 2015 – An additional 163 children – including 5 girls - have been released by an armed group in the Central African Republic.
The children were released by the anti-Balaka militia during a ceremony Friday in the town of Batangafo.
Today’s handover, which was facilitated by Unicef and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), comes three months after 357 children were released following an agreement between the country’s 10 armed groups to release all children from their ranks.
“This release is a sign that the process of implementing the commitment made by the leaders of these groups, as a part of the peace and reconciliation process, is on track,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, Unicef’s Representative, who attended the ceremonies. "We fully expect to see hundreds more children released before the end of this year.”
The children released received medical care and spoke to social workers. They were then taken to a transition center where they will be supported in either going back to school or enrolling in vocational training. Unicef and partners will also begin the process of tracing and reunifying the children with their families.
“Today marks an important step forward towards the end of the recruitment and use of children by armed groups in the Central African Republic and of course a step towards concrete peace in the country,” said Diane Corner, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, who was represented at the ceremony. “This ceremony is the result of long and arduous work done by different partners including Unicef, MINUSCA, the government as well as armed groups, to whom I extend my appreciation. MINUSCA is resolved with all partners to ensure the protection of children and I herewith reaffirm its determination to multiply efforts to identify and separate children who are waiting to return to normal life.”
Smaller release ceremonies also took place in the capital Bangui last week, and earlier in August in Basse Kotto and Mobaye districts during which a total of 125 children were freed, bringing the number of children liberated since May to 645.
Unicef estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 children have been associated with armed factions in CAR since 2013. This includes children serving as combatants, as well as those working as cooks, messengers and in other roles.
The agreement to release all children was made at a reconciliation forum in Bangui this past May. It also commits the groups to ending additional recruitment of children and gives Unicef and its partners immediate and unrestricted access to the areas under the groups’ control in order to identify and verify the number of affected children and to secure their release.
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