Africa: Child Soldiers Released by Armed Groups Learn To Play Again

Children Learn to Be Children Again.

After Release by Armed Groups. In the transit center for children formerly associated with armed groups, in Bambari, Central African Republic, Jonathan* a 16-year-old boy, is sitting on the floor and going through a big bag full of ‘jujus’ – necklaces, armbands and little pouches.”This amulet used to protect me against Kalashnikov bullets. This other one made me invisible to the enemy,” he says. Other children circle around him, amazed to see that he is sharing these secrets with foreigners. Then Jonathan grabs a knife and rips open one of the amulets. A murmur erupts from the crowd. He looks up, smiles, and says: “we are safe now. We do not need these anymore.”

The bags of amulets that children released from the Anti-Balaka group brought to the transit centre. ©Unicef CAR/2015/Le Du
The bags of amulets that children released from the Anti-Balaka group brought to the transit centre. (Photo: Unicef CAR/ 2015/ Le Du)

I was present when these children were released some two months ago by one of the armed groups involved in a conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. They had been with the Anti-Balaka armed group, which was created as a “self-defense” militia against the mostly Muslim Ex-Seleka group that briefly seized power in 2013 in CAR.

I was present when these children were released some two months ago by one of the armed groups involved in a conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. They had been with the Anti-Balaka armed group, which was created as a “self-defense” militia against the mostly Muslim Ex-Seleka group that briefly seized power in 2013 in CAR.

Children associated with the Anti-Balaka group
Back in May, children associated with the Anti-Balaka group, stand in a clearing, minutes before their release. (Photo: Unicef CAR / 2015 / Le Du)

On May 14, in Bambari, a town located in the center of CAR, the two groups released a total of 357 children who had been serving in their ranks. The children from the Anti-Balaka and Ex-Seleka were released the same day but sent to different transit centers. Although at peace now, Bambari is still very much a frontline town, with a river dividing the city. Communities are just beginning to cross the bridge during daytime to go to the markets, but at dusk everyone goes back to their side of the river.

On the day of the release, we went down into the forest, as close as we could get to their base, in order to escort the children symbolically, up the hill, to freedom. It was a hot and humid afternoon. The commander, dressed in a ripped Bob Marley t-shirt, was waiting for us in the clearing. Around him stood 181 children in rags, some of them as young as six- or seven-years-old, in traditional camouflage made of leaves, their faces covered in black mud. They were silent.

To read the rest of this article By Donaig Le Du click on the link below.

Huffington Post: After Release by Armed Groups, Children Learn to Be Children

Africa: UN Peacekeeper Killed, Injured By Machine Guns, Grenades

Bangui (Central African Republic), One United Nations peacekeeper was killed and eight have been injured in Central African Republic’s capital after they came under attack by armed men bearing machine guns and grenades, a UN spokesman said.

The peacekeepers were attempting to carry out an arrest warrant issued by the public prosecutor in Bangui’s PK5 district yesterday, said the spokesman, Hamadoun Toure. “There was an exchange of fire. During the exchange we lost one peacekeeper and eight peacekeepers were wounded,” Toure said.

He declined to disclose the target of the warrant or the nationality of the peacekeepers. Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the president of a decade in 2013. Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka, who have targeted Muslims and sent tens of thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries. The Seleka leader, Michel Djotodia, resigned under intense regional pressure in early 2014, and a transitional government has been trying to steer the country to elections which are now scheduled for Oct 18.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing in a statement issued yesterday night. “The Secretary-General deplores in the strongest terms attacks against United Nations peacekeepers and calls for swift action to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice,” the statement read.

The UN peacekeeping mission took over from an African Union peacekeeping force last September. Toure said he believed that the latest peacekeeper death was “the seventh or the eighth” for the mission. 

via Central African Republic: UN peacekeeper killed in capital – Oneindia.

Nigeria: Army Rescues 101 Children, 67 Women From Boko Haram

The Nigerian Army has announced its capture of one of the commanders of the Boko Haram sect.

The Army said this was part of the successes of an operation which also saw to the rescue of about 178 captives of the sect in Bama area of Borno State.

A statement made available to the Nigeria Politics Online by the Deputy Director of Information of the 7th Division Col. Tukur Gusau claimed that the troops of 21 Brigade in conjunction with elements of 151 Task Force Battalion of 7 Division, Nigerian Army conducted offensive operations along Aulari in Bama axis.

“The troops successfully cleared terrorists’ camp in Fadan, Shuwarin, Wulari, Ngoro Dauye, Jidori, Alikashiri, Kalzamari-Shuwa and Kalzamari-Kanuri amongst others.

“During the offensive operations, 178 people held captives by the terrorists were rescued they include 101 children, 67 women and 10 men respectively. Also, three (3) Boko Haram flags were recovered while five (5) motor cycles were burnt by the troops. In addition, one (1) Boko Haram Terrorists Commander was captured alive and is presently undergoing investigation.”

Gusau assured that the troops’ morale remains high as they are determined to consolidate on the success already achieved.

via Army claims Captures of Boko Haram Commander; rescues 178 Captives  | Nigeria Politics Online.

Africa: 27 Aid Workers Killed In S. Sudan Since Conflict Started

A top UN official says he is deeply shocked at the killing and harassment of aid workers in South Sudan.

Stephen O’Brien, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Saturday that 27 aid workers had died since the conflict began in South Sudan.

S. Sudan has highest no attacks on un workers
South Sudan has highest no attacks on United Nations workers.

He says South Sudan’s government has given assurances that it will support investigations into deaths of the humanitarian workers.

United Nations workers released after being held hostage.
United Nations workers released after being held hostage.

He asked the groups in the conflict uphold their obligations to comply with the principals of international humanitarian law.

South Sudan’s civil war, which started in December 2013, has inflamed the country’s ethnic tensions.

The followers of President Salva Kiir, mostly from the Dinka ethnic group, are pitted against the Nuer of former vice president Riek Machar in a fight that started in December 2013.

AP Big Story: UN: 27 aid workers killed in S Sudan since start of conflict

Africa: Nigerian Refugees Flee Votile Border In Cameroon

Violence and insecurity have continued to affect population movements in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, the UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday (July 21, 2015).

In Cameroon’s remote Far North Region, a steady flow of Nigerian refugees are moving from the volatile Nigeria-Cameroon border area and seeking shelter some 100 km inland at the Minawao camp, which is run by UNHCR and its partners. UNHCR field staff said that on average about 100 people every day are registering at the camp, which was opened in July 2013. The camp’s population has increased from about 30,000 late last year to approximately 44,000 today.


“The arrivals at the camp are mainly Nigerian nationals who had earlier fled to Cameroon to escape violence in north-east Nigeria but had preferred to stay very near the border – hoping for a quick return home. The refugees said they had fled militant attacks in Nigeria’s Borno state,” UNHCR spokesperson Leo Dobbs told a press briefing in Geneva.


In recent weeks, there have been attacks and clashes on the Cameroon side of the border, including the first-ever suicide bombing in Cameroon on July 12, in the far-northern town of Fotokol.


As part of its response to this unrest, the government of Cameroon has begun registering Nigerian refugees in the immediate border area.


“UNHCR field staff reported that this registration process has provoked fear among some refugees that they might be returned to Nigeria against their will,” Dobbs added.


He added that UNHCR and the government are in the process of consulting the refugees in the border area about where they want to go.


“Some may opt to return to safe areas in Nigeria, while others may want to move to the Minawao camp. This process will continue over the coming days and weeks,” he explained.


Some of the arrivals at the camp said they had run out of food when they were near the border and wanted to benefit from food distributions in Minawao. Many of the new arrivals are being temporarily sheltered in a tarpaulin-construction school, currently closed for the summer break.


The camp is in a relatively arid area; wood for building shelters has to be transported from the forested regions in southern Cameroon, which is at least two days trucking distance away.


“We have always had a problem with wood supplies,” one of the camp managers said: “and then when we do receive wood, we sometimes also face a shortage of nails to erect the shelters.”


Minawao camp is located within sight of the dramatic Mandara mountain range that rises up to straddle the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.


The mountains are one of the areas where the Nigerian insurgents are believed to have hideouts, refugees familiar with the area said. Soldiers from allied regional military forces – mainly from the armies of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon – have been mounting joint operations against the insurgents for several months.


These actions are across large areas of west and central Africa. The military operations are reported to have dispersed some of the insurgents. But they have not stopped all insurgent activity.


UNHCR has limited access in the Far North Region for security reasons, but estimates the number of unregistered refugees in the area to be some 12,000. The Cameroonian authorities say this number may be as high as 17,000.


In a separate development in southern Niger’s Diffa region, authorities report the arrival of some 2,500 people from Nigeria following an attack by militants on the Nigerian town of Damassak last week.


The new arrivals are mainly women, children and older people.


They arrived in the border villages of Chetimari and Gagamari, located 20 km from Damassak. According to the Niger authorities, some 80 per cent of those arriving are Nigerian refugees and the remaining 20 per cent Niger returnees.


Some of the new arrivals had fled their homes last year after a first attack on Damassak and returned only recently. Some refugees are staying with the same host families they stayed with last year while others sleep in the open or in makeshift shelters.


Most new arrivals said they prefer staying in Chetimari and Gagamari rather than the Sayam Forage refugee camp, further inland.


“They hope to return to Nigeria as soon as possible. Locals have been sharing their meagre resources with them, including water and food. UNHCR teams are unable to access the border area for security reasons,” Dobbs said.


More than 100,000 people have fled Nigeria and found refuge in Niger since mid-2013.


The insecurity has also displaced 18,400 Nigerians to Chad and left at least 1.5 million people displaced within Nigeria, mainly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.


UNHCR: Nigerian refugees mve from volatile border zone in Cameroon.