Violence against children in the armed conflict in the Central African Republic

Classroom-destroyed-300x225Percolating into global consciousness is the armed conflict that’s ravaged the Central African Republic this past year. Fighting began last December, and in March rebels entered the capital, Bangui, and ousted the President who’d ruled for 10 years, François Bozizé. A transitional government eventually was put into place. But that has not eased fighting. Just yesterday, fighting was reported in the capital following the assassination of a judge and his aide.

Estimates that “more than 1.6 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance” – nearly a third of the country’s entire population – prompted  Louise Arbour, President of the International Crisis Group and formerly the top U.N. human rights official, last week to urge the Security Council to “take decisive action.”

As in many conflicts, the months of violence have taken a severe toll on children. Underscoring this is the image with which Foreign Policy‘s Peter Bouckaert began a recent report:

‘In the schoolrooms of the northern Central African Republic (CAR), the blackboards still show dates from late March — when Seleka rebels seized power in the country and a nightmare began.’

The statement jibed with an October report by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund:

‘Seven out of 10 primary school students in the Central African Republic (CAR) have not returned to school since the conflict started in December 2012 …’

Blocking the return of children and their teachers to school: attacks, destruction, and occupation by armed groups. (credit for photo by Save the Children) Many families remain in camps like those that drew attention because of a visit by Mia Farrow, the actor who serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. (See the child’s drawing that Farrow posted here.)

Among the many offenses that Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, denounced in an August statement was the recruitment of child soldiers – a crime that’s reportedly doubled in the last year.

And last week, concern focused on allegations of stepped-up killings of civilians, particularly children.

Much to be discussed during the Security Council’s scheduled consideration, later this month, of the crises in the country.

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