Caught in a Combat Zone – Novo relatório da Save the Children sobre o aumento de crianças soldado na República Centro-Africana (RCA)

Dezembro 22, 2014 às 2:30 pm | Publicado em Divulgação | Deixe um comentário
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descarregar o relatório aqui

Just two years after the outbreak of bloody civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR) in December 2012, the number of girls and boys under the age of 18 recruited by armed groups has escalated to four times its previous level.

An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 children are currently members of armed groups, compared to around 2,500 at the beginning of the crisis.

Some were abducted or forced to join armed groups, while others joined voluntarily in order to survive when they found themselves in desperate need of food, clothing, money and protection. Many also joined because of pressure from peers or parents, a desire to protect their community, or to avenge dead parents or relatives.

Children, some as young as eight years old, are forced to fight, carry supplies, and perform other frontline and support roles. They are often victims of physical and mental abuse by militants, and some have been ordered to kill or commit other acts of violence.

“Every morning we trained hard, crawling through the mud. The soldiers wanted to make us mean, unforgiving”, says Grâce à Dieu* who joined an armed group in December 2012 at the age of 15.

“When we fought, it was us, the children, who were often sent to the frontline. Others stayed further behind. I saw many of my brothers-in-arms killed while we were fighting. I saw many things, many atrocities.”

Having witnessed or committed killings and other acts of extreme violence for months, or even years, children associated with armed groups are highly likely to suffer fear, anxiety, depression, grief, and insecurity, and many require specialised psychological support.

“Many of these children have been through things that no adult, let alone child, let alone child, should have to go through, witnessing the loss of loved ones, seeing their homes destroyed, and surviving in harsh and insecure conditions in the bush for months”, says Julie Bodin, Save the Children’s Child Protection Manager in CAR. “Even if they leave the armed group or are released, these children can find themselves stigmatised, feared or rejected by their communities, while they can struggle to re-enter ‘normal’ life after being so long immersed in violence.”

Extreme poverty, coupled with the dire lack of access to education for young children and employment opportunities for older children, all contribute to the spike in children joining armed groups, effectively creating a huge reservoir of potential new recruits.

Two years after the outbreak of the latest conflict, and three months into MINUSCA’s mandate, the CAR Government, MINUSCA, UN agencies and troop contributing countries and donors, must scale up their efforts to prevent child recruitment and demobilise children. Rapid and sustained interventions must also include specialized support to help children recover and reintegrate into their communities.

“Further resources are urgently needed to rebuild these children’s lives, and to rebuild and strengthen the institutions, such as schools, which will help them thrive. This is essential not just for them but for the future of the country”, Bodin says.

While the situation remains volatile in many parts of the country, Save the Children provides specialised psychological support for children associated with armed groups, as well children who have witnessed crimes or other acts of violence, through Child Friendly Spaces and Youth Networks. The agency also facilitates demobilized children to return to school.

Read the report “Caught in a Combat Zone” here >

 

Dez mil crianças-soldado combatem em África

Dezembro 22, 2014 às 2:00 pm | Publicado em Relatório | Deixe um comentário
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Notícia do Expresso de 18 de dezembro de 2014.

GORAN TOMASEVIC  REUTERS

O novo relatório da organização “Save the Children” diz que o aumento de crianças em combate se deve à pobreza extrema e à falta de educação e de emprego.

O número de crianças-soldado a combater na República Centro-Africana (RCA) duplicou desde que uma guerra civil eclodiu no ano passado naquele país africano. A organização “Save the Children” publicou, esta quinta-feira, um relatório onde se estima que entre seis e dez mil rapazes e raparigas combatam em grupos armados, muito acima dos 2500 recrutados no início do conflito.

O documento, intitulado “Apanhados na zona de combate”, descreve que as crianças começam a ser recrutadas a partir dos oito anos. O recrutamento é feito com armas apontadas à cabeça das crianças ou, noutros casos, são as próprias crianças que se voluntariam, na expetativa de sair da pobreza ou para vingar a morte de pessoas próximas.

Segundo a organização, muitas das crianças tornam-se vítimas de abuso físico, mental e sexual, acabando por cometer atos de violência ordenados pelos seus superiores.

Julie Bodin, responsável pela “Save the Children” na RCA, relata que “muitas dessas crianças já passaram por coisas que nenhum adulto, muito menos uma criança, deveria ter que passar”.

O aumento exponencial de crianças nestes grupos deve-se, segundo o relatório, à pobreza extrema na República Centro-Africana e à falta de acesso à educação e emprego.

“Eu tinha uma arma. Com ela matei muita gente” A organização descreve a vida de Jean (nome fictício), um cristão que se juntou aos rebeldes de maioria muçulmana Seleka quando tinha 16 anos.

“O tempo que passei no grupo foi intenso, não tinha ideia de que seria desta forma. Eu tinha uma arma, mas vendi-a quando regressei para poder ficar com o dinheiro. Com ela matei muita gente”, relatou Jean à “Save the Children”.

O relatório indica que as crianças que testemunharam ou cometeram assassínios e outros atos de extrema violência no seio de grupos armados têm mais probabilidade de sofrer de transtornos de ansiedade, medo, depressão, desgosto e insegurança, e podem precisar de apoio psicológico.

“São necessários mais recursos urgentemente, para reconstruir a vida destas crianças e para fortalecer as instituições como as escolas. É essencial não apenas para as crianças, mas para o futuro do país”, afirmou Julie Bodin.

 

 

Ex-child soldiers live with scars of war

Maio 28, 2014 às 12:00 pm | Publicado em A criança na comunicação social | Deixe um comentário
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Reportagem do Los Angeles Times de 11 de maio de 2014.

mais fotografias da reportagem aqui

Rick Loomis Los Angeles Times

Conflict in the Central African Republic

By Alexandra Zavis | Photography by Rick Loomis

SIBUT, Central African Republic — Not long ago, Charly had all the money he needed. He had a rebel uniform that commanded fear in his hometown. He had an AK-47, and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

He was still a boy, but he felt like a man.

Now he has returned to his old life. He is once again a helpless boy. The thought of it makes him sit rigid with anger, his eyes flashing.

“See the shoes I’m wearing,” the teenager snapped, pointing at a pair of dusty blue flip-flops. The soles were so full of holes that he might as well have been barefoot.

With the rebels, he said, it was different: “I had boots, a uniform and a gun in my hand.”

With the rebels, he had power.

The conflict tearing the Central African Republic apart has not only turned neighbor against neighbor. It has brought childhood to a halt.

Children have seen their parents hacked to pieces. They have watched as boys and girls just like them were shot or maimed. Some have been forced to make cold calculations far beyond their years, taking up arms with the same fighters who upended their lives or killed their relatives.

Children have been pawns in virtually every conflict in this country plagued for decades by coups, mutinies and rebellions. When a mostly Muslim rebel coalition known as the Seleka seized power a little more than a year ago, as many as 3,500 children were in the ranks of armed groups. The number swelled to 6,000 or more as self-defense militias, mostly Christian or animist, started fighting back, UNICEF estimates.

Some, like Charly, were handed guns. Others toted cargo or were taken as sex slaves.

Children barely in their teens still accompany bands of fighters along the rutted 100-mile road from Bangui, the capital, to Charly’s hometown, Sibut. Even by day, the road is dangerous. Armed men menace travelers from makeshift roadblocks; other fighters march the winding route with rifles and machetes slung over their shoulders and protective amulets draped around their necks.

The Seleka left behind nearly 400 children when they were pushed from power in January. Even as the fighting picked up again recently, UNICEF negotiated the release of more than 1,000 others from the self-defense militias.

The agency made some of the former rebel children available to tell their stories on the condition that their precise location and their full names not be used.

On a recent day, dozens of the children were gathering on a shaded veranda here. Some were about to perform a reenactment of their lives with the rebels for visiting aid workers. They carried wooden guns, brandishing the rough-hewn toys with the ease born of experience.

Several of the children appealed to the visitors with shy, winsome smiles. A few were angry, shouting that they needed help. A pregnant young girl was pushed forward. “See what they did?” a boy said of the rebels.

Sitting on a bench in a dim, windowless room, Charly recalled the day the rebels arrived.

It was more than a year ago. He was selling soap, sugar and other goods from a market stall here. At 15, it provided his only income. His father was dead, and his mother couldn’t support him.

The fighters streamed in on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, firing their guns, ransacking homes and businesses and setting them on fire.

“They were firing everywhere,” Charly said, his voice quavering. “I abandoned everything and ran.”

The fighters were with the mostly Muslim rebel alliance. Charly is Christian.

But something was more pressing than his fear of the rebels: Survival.

“I entered the Seleka to feed myself,” Charly said.

At first, he recalled, the rebels were suspicious of the lanky local boy who appeared in their midst. Then they found out he could help them. He wasn’t afraid, and he knew the town.

“When they saw I was brave, and I could point out houses to rob, they accepted me,” he said.

He was given a Kalashnikov assault rifle and sent on patrols around his hometown. His fear was replaced by swagger.

“Everyone saw me carrying an AK,” he said. “One day, an old woman tried to curse my grandmother. I was furious, so I shot her in the foot.”

At 14, Jordy doesn’t look much taller than the gun he carried for the rebels.

“It was a way to protect myself, and it was a way to survive,” he said.

It was also a way to seek revenge against the Seleka fighter he said killed his brother and a cousin. One day, he spotted the man. Jordy wanted to shoot him, but other rebels intervened, he said dully.

He doesn’t like what he did with the Seleka.

“I did a lot of bad things,” he said, eyes downcast. “I ransacked. I pillaged. I took people’s things by force.”

When the rebels continued their advance on Bangui, Jordy, Charly and other youths went with them. Some were forced to go, but others were enticed by the prospect of looting in the capital.

Jordy’s grandmother, who has cared for him since his parents separated years ago, followed him to Bangui to beg for his release. His commander agreed, but at first Jordy didn’t want to go.

“When I saw them starting to kill people, that’s when I left,” he said.

Jordy was fortunate to have his grandmother plead his case. Other children don’t even know where their relatives are — hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in the fighting. Humanitarian workers who are caring for some of the former fighters and sex slaves can spend months trying to locate the children’s families.

Even when family members can be traced, they may be reluctant to accept a former fighter into their homes. And children who are used to carrying weapons can find it hard to obey their parents.

Jordy said he hasn’t had any trouble with the mostly Christian and animist militias that are now ascendant in this area. He shares the same religion and ethnicity as the fighters.

“They even gave us food,” he said.

But in Bangui, militia members ransacked a center that helps the children; a boy who tried to join the anti-Muslim militias was killed when the fighters learned that he’d previously been with the Seleka.

And here in Sibut, some neighbors can’t forgive the children for joining the rebels. Not long ago, a man who recognized Jordy assaulted him in the street, knocking him down.

Charly was sitting with Jordy as he told of being beaten. He put his arm around his friend, and they were two boys together against the world.

Mireille was 14 when a rebel colonel spotted her last year selling homemade alcohol by the side of the road. He announced that he wanted to marry her.

“I said, ‘No, I’m still young,’ ” recalled the slender girl with intricately braided hair. She sat hunched on a bench as she told her story, wringing her hands in her lap.

That night, the rebel showed up at her home, where she was alone with three siblings. Their widowed mother was out of town at a funeral.

Mireille was taken to a Seleka base. The colonel gave her a new name, Kadija. And he raped her repeatedly.

None of the other rebels were allowed to touch her. The colonel assigned an aide to watch her when he went out looting.

“I wanted to escape, but I couldn’t because everyone had weapons,” she said.

After several months, the colonel lost interest in Mireille and took other “wives,” including her older sister. Mireille doesn’t know what happened to her. She tries not to think about it.

The reunification process has been especially fraught for the 78 girls freed by the Seleka. Like Mireille, most were sexually abused. Their families and communities often consider them tainted.

It took two weeks for Mireille’s mother to allow her into the house again. At first, she stayed with neighbors who prevailed upon her mother, arguing that it wasn’t Mireille’s fault she had been taken. Church members also spoke on her behalf.

Today Mireille has no interest in getting married or starting a family. The colonel ended those dreams.

Over and over, she used the same words for what he did to her: “He deflowered me.”

She said she’d heard later that the colonel had died in battle. Her voice betrayed no emotion.

Many children still march with the fighters. Those who have left struggle to find a way forward.

Mireille said she’d like to go back to school, maybe learn to sew. But schools in her area have been closed for months.

Jordy said he would like to try farming. “If the NGO here can help me to get cows, just so I can have some money, that will help,” he said.

Charly has already been approached by militias on the other side, eager to take advantage of his knowledge of the Seleka.

He regrets ever leaving the world of men to take care of his ailing mother.

“With a gun,” he said, “you always have money.”

Contact the reporters | Follow Alexandra Zavis (@alexzavis) and Rick Loomis (@RickLoomis) on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Crianças da República Centro-Africana enfrentam crueldade e violência

Fevereiro 28, 2014 às 12:00 pm | Publicado em A criança na comunicação social | Deixe um comentário
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Notícia da Rádio ONU de 14 de fevereiro de 2014.

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Segundo Unicef, mais de 130 menores foram mortos ou mutilados nos últimos dois meses; crianças testemunham violência sem precedentes e viram alvo de ataques devido a sua religião.

Crianças da República Centro-Africana. Foto: Unicef

Leda Letra, da Rádio ONU em Nova York.

O Unicef afirmou esta sexta-feira estar “horrorizado” com a crueldade enfrentada pelas crianças da República Centro-Africana, que estão sendo assassinadas ou mutiladas.

Segundo a agência da ONU, o nível de violência contra os menores é sem precedentes. As crianças são vítimas de ataques sectários por parte das milícias anti-Balaka, de maioria cristã, e de combatentes muçulmanos ex-Séléka.

Brutalidade

Em Genebra, a porta-voz do Unicef, Marixie Mercado, explicou que 37 crianças foram mortas e 97 mutiladas nos últimos dois meses. Ela ressaltou que os atos foram cometidos com uma brutalidade difícil de entender.

A agência da ONU destaca que os menores se tornaram alvo de ataques devido a sua religião ou pela comunidade a qual pertencem. A violência sectária aumentou na capital do país, Bangui e também no oeste e no centro.

Amputação

O escritório do Unicef na República Centro-Africana constatou casos de crianças feridas em fogo cruzado e de menores que tiveram partes do corpo amputadas porque não chegaram a tempo no hospital para tratamento.

Apesar das ações serem cometidas por dois grupos, o Unicef diz que ataques contra a população muçulmana levaram à fuga de comunidades e com isso, muitos menores foram separados de suas famílias.

A agência pede investigação dos casos de violência e punição para quem comete os crimes. Além disso, o Unicef apela ao desarmamento dos grupos e das milícias na República Centro-Africana.

Children associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic win back their lives

Setembro 27, 2012 às 12:00 pm | Publicado em A criança na comunicação social, Vídeos | Deixe um comentário
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17-24 August 2012: UNICEF correspondent Suzanne Beukes reports on UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah’s recent visit to the Central African Republic, where 10 children were released from armed groups.

“I have seen terrible things,” says 16-year-old Abdelkarim. “I have seen my friend’s body on the ground.”

Until last week, Abdelkarim was a child soldier with the armed group Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace in Central African Republic. He was one of 10 child soldiers to be released by the group into the care of a UNICEF-supported rehabilitation centre.

UNICEF Ambassador and former child soldier Ishmael Beah was there to witness their release and offer support and advice.

Watch this video on Ishmael’s recent mission for UNICEF to find out how we are helping Abdelkarim and children like him in the difficult road ahead.”

For more info, please visit: http://www.unicef.org


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