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UN Accuses Mali of Recruiting Child Soldiers


French Translation of the Week

[caption id="attachment_2227" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Photo attributed to UNHCR_ACNUR Las Americas[/caption]

UN Accuses Mali of Recruiting Child Soldiers

In the recent report on children and war released by the UN, hundreds of children have been recruited by Islamist groups, Tuareg rebels, and government militias in Mali. For the first time, Mali appears in this annual report, which provides a "shame list" of abuses against children accountable in 2012.

For this country in crisis, the UN denounces "the exploitation and massive recruitment" of hundreds of children - mostly boys aged from 12 to 15 years - by Islamists such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Ansar Dine, and the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

This article has been translated from French. Click here to read the original version on Jeune Afrique

The same goes for pro-government militias: "In the region of Mopti Sévaré under government control, information has been received regarding the recruitment of children by the following militias: Ganda Izo, Ganda Koy and Liberation Forces of the North."

Furthermore, the report highlights the following statement: "Given that a number of militias are integrated into the armed forces of Mali, it is urgent to identify these children and to help them leave the ranks."

Unexploded ammunition has killed 24 children between March and August 2012 in the north of Mali, and the Malian army has led "interethnic reprisals against children of Arab and Tuareg origin."

The report also lists 211 cases of sexual abuse (rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage) against girls by members of the MNLA, MUJAO, Ansar Dine, and AQIM.

Finally, "in February 2013, 86% of students who were still in the north remain deprived of access to education" due to damage caused to schools.

"Human Shields" in Syria

The UN Special Representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, hoped that the new UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) "[will] allow [us] to improve our collective response to the needs of children."

The UN report now includes 55 armies and armed groups from 14 countries, including 11 new parties which operate in Mali, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria.

In a previous report in 2011, the UN also stipulated that, in Syria, "the situation regarding children has deteriorated in all areas."

In the same report, Leila Zerrougui states that, "thousands of children" were killed, tortured, used as human shields by the Syrian army, or recruited by the opposition.

According to the UN, "in May 2012, the Syrian government forces reportedly entered the primary school As Safirah in Aleppo province, took 30 boys and 25 girls aged 10 to 13 years hostage, and had them  march at the head of their troops to flush out a local unit of the Free Syrian Army.¨

The enrollment of teenagers by the opposition is also increasing. Based on the report, "former combatant of the original Free Syrian Army in the village of Kufr Zeita indicated that children not older than 14 years were often employed in the loading of weapons, food delivery, and the evacuation of the wounded".

In addition, detention for alleged association with the opposition is a disturbing trend; the report states that a 16-year-old from Kafr Nabl (province of Idleb) witnessed the sexual assault and murder of his friend during his detention."

In 2012, five action plans to release child soldiers were signed in South Sudan, Burma, the DRC, and Somalia. This has aided in the release of thousands of children. Nepal and Sri Lanka have been removed from the shame list.

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