A student gets his youngest brother back from an armed group in the Central African Republic

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By Name withheld

When I learned that my brother Malik* had become involved with the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, I was heartbroken, as if his death had been announced.

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 6 March 2013 –The Central African Republic has endured a decade of repeated of military and political crises that have affected the socio-economic fabric, defence and national security of the country.

Today, the Central African Republic remains politically unstable and economically weak, and insecurity in remote areas remains a source of concern.

The national language of the country, Sango, is almost universally spoken, a commonality that one would hope could promote the settlement of crises and national reconciliation. However, despite national dialogue in 2003, the signing of a peace accord in June 2008 and the signing of a peace agreement between the Government and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) in August 2012, peace has been evasive. A mere three weeks after CPJP signed the agreement, CPJP dissidents were among those assigned responsibility for attacks on two villages.

Such conflicts increase the number of internally displaced people and refugees, separate families and have children bear witness to the death of their parents.

The recruitment of children into armed groups has been a pervasive problem in the Central African Republic.

Children recruited

When I learned that my brother Malik* had become involved with the CPJP, I was heartbroken, as if his death had been announced; that day I remained home and was paralysed by the news. It was really hard for me – I was certain he would be killed.

After months, he called me on the phone. It was only then that I was a bit comforted. He would call to ask about our family, and I told him everything he wanted to know. On one call, I asked him to leave the CPJP. He promised that one day he would leave, but that it was difficult for him because he was an officer. He told me that he could not leave unless he left the Central African Republic, which was not his wish. I wanted to see him, but how?

When I heard that a UNICEF team was going to Akoursoulbak to release children associated with armed groups, I thought, “Thank you, my prayers are answered.” On 27 July 2012, Malik was brought to Ndélé, with UNICEF’s support.

Brothers reunited

I chose Bangui for our reunification because of its distance from the region and so that he would not take up arms again. The CPJP thought that Malik would come back to them one day. I believed in him even when nobody else did.

On 15 November, my dream became a reality. At 5 p.m., Malik arrived at the airport in Bangui. I was in college and returned home immediately after lessons and before his arrival. I heard a knock on the door at 6 p.m., and it was Malik.

It was very emotional. I could not help but cry. I cried because I had missed him.

I informed my mother and my siblings the same day. What a joy this day was. We celebrated as though Malik had been resurrected. We stayed up till 2 a.m., and we slept in the same bed that day.

A chance to succeed

Thank to UNICEF’s work, I got my younger brother back.

I would like UNICEF to continue its programme to release children associated with armed groups and reunite them with their families, to give them a chance to succeed and earn a living in areas besides taking up arms. Malik is a tangible example that it is possible.

I would voluntarily help UNICEF save the lives of these children.

I hope Malik will complete his studies. I’m sure he can succeed with my support. I think that, with his courage and determination, he will one day be of great service to the Central African Republic, his country.

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.