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  • A former ex-Seleka child soldier waits to be released in Bambari, Central African Republic, May 14, 2015.

    A former ex-Seleka child soldier waits to be released in Bambari, Central African Republic, May 14, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 February 2019

Minors are used as soldiers in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria.

Tens of thousands of children are still forced to serve as soldiers in at least seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the NGO Child Soldiers International (CSI) denounced on Thursday, in coincidence with the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers (Feb. 12).

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"Continuing unrest in Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and other countries are making children increasingly exposed to recruitment," CSI said adding, "boys and girls are used usually as combatants, informants, looters in villages, domestic workers and sexual slaves."

The '2018 UN Children and Armed Conflict Report' verified the use of minors as soldiers in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The number of child soldiers in Somalia grew in 2017, while at least 203 children were used as suicide bombers in Cameroon and Nigeria, according to the UN report.

In South Sudan, at least 1,221 were recruited in 2017, which amounts to about 19,000 children participating in the conflict that has occurred since the end of 2013.

At least 14,000 cases of recruitment have been verified in the Central African Republic since its internal conflict began six years ago until mid-2018.

And more than 3,000 were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2017, according to Unicef, by the numerous active militias in the northeast of the country.

In Africa, between 2012 and 2017, the recruitment of new child soldiers increased from 3,159 children in 12 countries to 8,185 children in 15 countries, that is, this practice rose by 159% during the period.

"These statistics are impressive and probably only show the surface of the true scale of child exploitation by armed actors around the world," Isabelle Guitard, CSI director, warned and stressed that "it is fundamental that the world does not turn a blind eye to this continuous abuse and that local and international resources be amplified and combined to face it more effectively."​​​​​​​

Globally, more than 240 million children are currently living in war zones; many of them in contexts of violence, displacement, hunger and exploitation.

In addition, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund ​​​​​​​(Unicef) announced on Thursday that 120 child soldiers, including 48 girls, were demilitarized in South Sudan.

With the release of these children, a total of 3,000 children have been already removed from the armed conflict that began in 2013, Helene Sandbu Ryeng, Unicef spokesperson in South Sudan, commented and explained that "the way to go is long because there are 16,000 children enrolled so far."​​​​​​​

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