C. Africa armed groups pledge to free thousands of child soldiers: UN
Leaders of armed groups in the Central African Republic agreed Tuesday to release thousands of child soldiers and to end underage recruitment, UNICEF said.
The United Nations children’s agency described the news as a “major step forward” in the country, where it estimates 6,000 to 10,000 children to be held by various armed factions.
“The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child, and UNICEF is eager to work with local authorities to help reunite these children with their families,” UNICEF representative Mohamed Malick Fall said in a statement.
The agreement was signed during a reconciliation forum in the capital Bangui this week, backed by UNICEF and its partners, which aims to restore peace in the conflict-riven Central African Republic.
More than two years of violence in the country has led to “one of the world’s worst — and least visible — humanitarian crises,” according to the UNICEF statement.
The country’s conflict took on an unprecedented religious dimension after a 2013 coup, pitting mainly Muslim rebels against Christian vigilantes at the expense of the civilian population.
The parties that signed the accord will now agree on a schedule to release the children, although this will place fresh demands on the already limited funding available, UNICEF said.
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