Return of child soldiers alarms war-scarred Central African Republic
5/16/2013, 5:04 p.m.
May 14 (GIN) -The rebel-led government in the Central African Republic has another worry on its head -restless child soldiers demobilizing from rebel armies in the country's volatile north.
Teenagers, coming back jobless and often homeless, are being re-recruited by armed fighters, according to Unicef. Last week an angry mob stoned a 17 year old ex-soldier to death - a reflection of growing hostility towards the rebels who ousted the president and took control of the government in March.
"Action must be taken against those who are recruiting and using children to commit crimes," said Souleymane Diabate, the country representative for Unicef.
Thousands of child soldiers were used in some of the heaviest fighting of the battle which ended with the flight of former Pres. Francois Bozize. The child fighters directly engaged troops from South Africa, leaving some 14 South Africans dead on the battlefield.
The African Union has issued a statement expressing "grave concern about the precarious security and humanitarian situation, especially the repeated attacks against the civilian population..."
After defeating Pres. Bozize, Michael Djotodia, leader of the Seleka rebel army, declared himself president but few regional or international leaders would recognize his self-appointment. The Central Africa regional bloc designated him 'transitional head,' barred from re-election.
Meanwhile, a famed World Heritage site in the rainforests of southwestern Central African Republic has been raided by poachers who already killed some 40 elephants in the Dzanga-Sangha reserve. Bas Huijbregts of the World Wildlife Fund's campaign against poaching said: "Elephant poaching is on the increase ...we are fearing for the worst."