Chad army signing up boys, says Amnesty


BOYS AS young as 13 are being recruited as soldiers by the Chadian national army and armed groups, a report by Amnesty International has stated.

The report is published less than a year after Irish peacekeepers withdrew from Chad.

The rights group says children dressed in good clothes are being sent to refugee camps in the east of the country with money and cigarettes to lure new recruits, offering $20 to $500 (€14.60 to €365) to those who join up.

They are then used in direct combat roles, with children as young as 10 being used as porters and messengers.

“Thousands of children are being manipulated by adults into fighting their wars, into killing and being killed. This is child abuse on a massive scale and must not be allowed to continue,” said Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“The Chadian government – and the various 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 Chadian government vehemently denied that children between the ages of 13 and 17 were being used in the army.

“We do not recruit children. There are no children operating in Chad’s government forces,” Ngarbatina Odjimbeye Soukate, the minister of social action, national solidarity and family, told The Irish Times. “On the contrary, we are helping former child soldiers that are still being recruited by rebel groups reintegrate into society.”

The report comes eight months after a senior UN official in Chad told The Irish Timesthere were serious doubts over the Chadian government forces’ ability to protect vulnerable civilians in camps in the east. At the time he warned Chad could become a “Sopranos-style free-for-all” once UN troops left the country.

At the end of 2010, Minurcat – the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad – withdrew from eastern Chad by request of the Chadian government. Irish soldiers served in Chad from 2007 until May 2010 when the Chadian government asked the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping operation. Refugee camps are now under the control of the Chadian government.

Humanitarian groups operating in eastern Chad have warned the situation there remains highly volatile, eights year after the region was dragged into the crisis in neighbouring Darfur.

About 260,000 Darfuri refugees live in camps in eastern Chad, in addition to more than 170,000 Chadians present at internally displaced persons (IDP) sites.