SRSG Coomaraswamy witnesses action plan signing for the release of children in the Central African Republic

PRESS RELEASE

OSRSG CAAC/211111-21

SRSG Coomaraswamy witnesses action plan signing for the release of children in the Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic, November 21 2011 - Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, traveled to the Central African Republic to assess the situation of the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) and to sign an agreement or ‘action plan’ for the release of child soldiers with the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP), an armed rebel group listed by the United Nations for recruitment and use of children.

In N’dele, on Universal Children’s Day, SRSG Coomaraswamy witnessed the signing of the action plan by the UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, Margaret Vogt, and UNICEF Representative Tanya Chapuisat on behalf of the United Nations with CPJP President Abdoulaye Hissene.

“There is a momentum gathering in the Central African Republic for the release of children from armed groups. Today’s signing follows the recent signature of an action plan by the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie (APRD), another rebel group in the country, reaffirming their commitment that their ranks are free of children. Additionally, the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) committed to United Nations verification of the presence of children in their ranks,” said SRSG Coomaraswamy.

“The signing of the action plan is critical because children should have never been implicated in the conflict in the first place,” said SRSG Vogt, “now we have to ensure that we get these children separated and reintegrated.”

Also on this visit, SRSG Coomaraswamy traveled to the LRA-affected area of Obo to speak to child victims and local authorities. She also met with the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), during which she emphasized the need for the UPDF to protect civilians, especially children, in their theatre of operations, and abide by their standard operating procedures for the handover of abducted children to child protection actors.

“The LRA is a brutal force and the international community must stand together to provide security for these communities and to ensure that child survivors of the LRA are given proper care and support,” said SRSG Coomaraswamy.

Children who have been associated with armed groups experience unspeakable atrocities, often for long periods of time, and require specialized programmes to rehabilitate and re-integrate them back into society.

“With these new commitments by armed groups in the Central African Republic, swift follow-up is imperative to release children amongst their ranks and ensure programmes are in place for their rehabilitation and reintegration. To achieve this, an immediate injection of new funds is required,” said UNICEF Representative, Tanya Chapuisat.

While meeting with government officials including the Prime Minister, and Ministers of Defence, Justice, Social Affairs, and Territorial Administration, SRSG Coomaraswamy emphasized the need to establish provide social services and ensure the protection of children at the community level. During her meeting with the Speaker of the National Assembly, she encouraged the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and was informed that this would be completed before the end of the year.

Further information:
Contact:

In Bangui, Central African Republic
Timothy La Rose
Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1 917 346 3404
larose@un.org

In New York
Muriel Gschwend
Associate Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+917 367 35 62
gschwend@un.org