More than 40 child soldiers from the central African country and neighbouring Darfur talk about being forced to fight in a study by human rights group, Amnesty International.
“It is tragic that thousands of children are denied their childhood and are manipulated by adults into fighting their wars,” said Amnesty’s Erwin van der Borght. “This scandalous child abuse must not be allowed to continue.”
“The Chadian government – and the Chadian and Sudanese armed groups operating in eastern Chad – must immediately stop the recruitment and use of children under 18 and release all children from their ranks.”
The country, which has plenty of gold and uranium and can now export oil, is Africa's fifth-largest nation, but it has a poor infrastructure and is dogged by internal fighting. Poverty is rife, and health and social conditions are dismal.
About half a million people live in refugee camps in eastern Chad after being forced from their homes by the violence. These camps are where many of the child soldiers are recruited, with many of the children there having lost family and friends in the fighting. Armed groups and the army send well-dressed children to camps with money and cigarettes to lure new recruits, offering them money to join up. They sometimes use boys as young as 10 as runners, said the report, A compromised future: The plight of children recruited by armed forces and groups in eastern Chad.
One former child soldier with the Sudanese opposition armed group, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told researchers: “There is nothing to do here; there is no work, no school, no money and I am poor…. In the JEM I am not paid but, when we are in combat, we take stuff from the enemy.”
Backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, in 2007, Chad’s government launched a push to demobilise and rehabilitate child soldiers. But it failed through lack of funding, will and continued fighting.
Amnesty International highlights the lack of accountability in Chad for people suspected of breaching human rights, including recruiting child soldiers. The rights group says no members of the army and other armed groups have been brought to book through the courts.
“Alleged perpetrators of human rights violations including the recruitment and use of child soldiers should be investigated. Individuals reasonably suspected of being involved in such crimes should be prosecuted in national courts in trials that meet international fair trial standards,” said Mr van der Borght.