Boko Haram: 894 children released from armed group

No fewer than 894 children including 106  have been released from the ranks of  the Civilian Joint Task Force in Borno State, the  United Nations Children’s Fund  confirmed  on Friday.

The  move was aimed at ending and preventing  the recruitment and use of children  for the  fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.

The CJTF is a local militia  formed in 2013 to  help  security forces in the fight against Boko Haram.

Speaking  at an event  marking  the release of the children in Maiduguri  UNICEF’s representative  in Nigeria and the Co-chair of  the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations, Mohamed Fall, said, “Any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights and must be recognised and encouraged.”

He added,  “Children  in the  North-East  have borne the brunt of this conflict. They have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence. This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional wellbeing.”

He  said  since September 2017, when the CJTF signed an action plan  to  stop the  recruitment and use of children for the fight against insurgency, 1,727 children and young people had  been released.

Fall said  the children  released would  benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life, seize new opportunities for their own development, and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria.

He said,  “Without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life as most are not educated and have no vocational skills.”

He lamented that in the ongoing armed conflict in  the North-East, more than 3,500 children were recruited and used by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017. Others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.

Fall said,  “We cannot give up the fight for the children as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria.”

He promised that UNICEF would  continue to work closely with state authorities and partners to support the implementation of reintegration programmes for all children released from armed groups, as well as others affected by the ongoing conflict.
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