African Press Association

Religious groups implore rebels in CAR turmoil

From JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – RELIGIOUS leaders in the turbulent region have called on armed groups in the Central African Republic to embrace peace and release thousands of children serving in their ranks.
President of the Platform of Religious Confessions of Central Africa, Reverend Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, also called for an end to attacks on communities, kidnappings, killings, mutilations and rape against children.
“To take an eight-year-old child, to have him vaccinated in order to make him participate in the fighting is unacceptable and it must also stop,” Guerekoyame-Gbangou said in Bangui.
Acting administrator of United Nations Children’s Fund Child Protection Unit, Charles Fomunyam, said the UN Special Working Group had registered new allegations of recruitment and use of children in the CAR civil war.
UN children’s rights groups report that more than 9 000 children have been separated from armed groups, including the Christian radical anti-Balaka movement. Of the 9 000 freed children, half have been reintegrated to communities while others are still waiting due to limited funding.
Others remain associated with various armed or self-defense groups.
“With the ongoing clashes in the country, this trend can continue if the clashes persist,” warned Fomunyam.
Recruited children serve as fighters, cooks, porters and informants.
Clashes between the Anti-Balaka and the Muslim Séléka rebel coalition, plunged the country of 4,5 million people into conflict in 2013. Half of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
CAJ News