You are in: Home :: News Story
Chad: Government Keeps Children in
(New York)- 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 from military service, Human Rights Watch said in a
report released today.
On July 19, the UN Security Council’s
working group on children in armed conflict will meet to discuss
Security Council responses to the use of child soldiers and other
human rights abuses against children in Chad’s armed conflict.
In May, the Chadian government pledged to cooperate with UNICEF
in identifying and demobilizing child soldiers in the ranks of its
military. Since then, several hundred children, some as young as 8
years old, have been released from a military base in central
Chad. But none belonged to the national army; all came from a
government-aligned paramilitary group. UNICEF’s requests to visit
two other bases, both in conflict zones in eastern Chad, have not
been granted by Chadian government officials.
“The Chadian government is failing on its promise to remove
children from its armed forces,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa
director at Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council should
demand that the Chadian government and its allied forces end child
recruitment and release children from their ranks.”
The 46-page report, “Early
to War: Child Soldiers in the Chad Conflict,” documents how
the Chadian army, its allied paramilitary militias and rebel
forces have used and recruited child soldiers in both northern
Chad and along the eastern border with Sudan’s Darfur region. The
report is based on interviews with senior officers in the Chadian
military as well as current child soldiers themselves.
Since December 2005, the Chadian National Army (Armée Nationale
Tchadienne, or ANT) has
fought against Sudanese-backed Chadian rebel groups seeking to
unseat President Idriss Déby. When battles raged in northern and
eastern Chad in the autumn of 2006, both the government and rebel
forces increasingly turned to the recruitment of children, who
continue to serve as fighters, guards, cooks and lookouts on the
frontlines of the conflict. In recent months, as pro-government
forces have gained the upper hand, the government has engaged in
peace negotiations with the rebels.
A former rebel group that recruited and used child soldiers,
the Front Uni pour le Changement (United Front for Change, FUC),
signed a December peace agreement with the government, which is
now integrating FUC forces into the national army. However, after
the FUC agreed to contribute many more soldiers to the army than
it had under arms, it conducted aggressive recruitment drives that
brought many children into its ranks.
Despite the Chadian government’s promises to demobilize child
soldiers, Human Rights Watch interviews with army commanders
indicate that military personnel would attempt to exclude children
from the demobilization process.
“Some of the child soldiers will be demobilized, but most will
be hidden,” a senior Chadian army officer told Human Rights Watch.
“They will be stationed on the frontlines and other places that
Notably, none of the 413 children demobilized from Chadian
government military installations since May have been from the
national army. All of them were former FUC fighters who had been
integrated into government forces.
“The Chadian government needs to release children from all
corners of the military, not just the ranks of its former
enemies,” said Takirambudde.
Since January 2006, Human Rights Watch researchers have
observed the use of child soldiers by the army and pro-government
forces, including integrated ex-rebel forces (namely the FUC),
village-level self-defense forces and two Sudanese rebel
movements. Each of these groups has forces deployed all along the
The UN Security Council has proposed a civilian-protection
mission for deployment to eastern Chad, but this has met
persistent opposition from Chadian government officials.
“The insecurity in eastern Chad leaves children vulnerable to
recruitment as soldiers,” said Takirambudde. “An international
mission is needed to protect civilians and end this insecurity.”
Both the Chadian government and the government-affiliated FUC
are in violation of international law, which prohibits the use of
children under the age of 18 in armed conflict. In addition, the
recruitment or use of children under the age of 15 is considered a