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NEWS STORY

Chad: Child Soldiers Forcibly Mobilised Not Demobilised




December 26, 2007

A UN programme to demobilise hundreds of child soldiers in Chad has been on hold since November following the resurgence of fighting between the army and rebel groups in the east.

"The process on standby," head of protection programmes with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Chad, Jean Francois Basse, told IRIN. "It's now all just a big mess."

UNICEF began helping hundreds of child soldiers to demobilise after signing an agreement with the government in May 2007. But in recent months, soldiers have reportedly been recruiting people, including children, by force.

The Chadian human rights group Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF) says it has received reports since November of army units raiding private homes and taking away children.

"Many youth being made to join the army are under-age," according to Deuzoumbe Daniel Passalet, head of DHSF.

New recruits are given at most 10 days' training and then sent to the front, Duezoumbe said. "We have a report of a child being killed by shooting himself with his own gun because he didn't have proper training in how to use it."

With both the army and rebels suffering heavy losses in recent fighting, UNICEF says that the reports are plausible.

The Chadian military has been seen picking up young men in towns and villages around the country with several raids in the capital N'djamena in public places where youth gather, such as cinemas, according to several sources, including an eyewitness who spoke to IRIN.

Government spokesperson Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor responded to the allegations earlier in December saying that if troops are carrying out such raids they are not authorised to do so.

Humna Rights Watch stated in a July report that the Chadian army and its allied paramilitary forces are keeping thousands of child soldiers out of demobilization efforts, despite the government's promises to release underage fighters.


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