A tweet from the London-based online newsmagazine ThinkAfricaPress, posted on September 3, reads: “Central African Republic Moves to Disarm Rebel Fighters. Some of those will be children.”
But the tweet’s emphasis on children underscores that this has become a conflict rife with human rights violations more than 3,500 boys and girls have been recruited into armed groups in the Central African Republic since the conflict began, according to an August report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Save the Children has said that more than 100,000 children face disease, sexualized violence, or forced recruitment into the country’s armed groups. The organization has begun launching health care programs for the survivors of sexualized violence and providing support to the country by distributing medical equipment to health care centers.
Sexualized violence against both children and women has also reportedly become a mainstay of the fighting, which has developed over many months.
In late 2012, rebel groups took over local towns in the Central African Republic. The groups eventually reached a peace deal with the government in January, which broke in March when Seleka fighters, a coalition of rebel groups, stormed the capital. The government was overthrown and President François Bozizé was forced to flee the country. Now, by launching the disarmament program, authorities are attempting to stem the violence that has ravaged the country.
A May report by Human Rights Watch documented “grave human rights abuses against civilians, including pillage, summary executions, rape, and torture by members in Bangui.” The report also included interviews with women who have said they were raped.