"I was lucky. I was not sent out to fight"
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- Edad 29
"When the Séléka came into Bangui and seized power on March 24 last year, all the schools closed down. I was attending secondary school at the time. But since there was no school and no jobs, I joined the Séléka. I was told that I would make money there. My father, who works for the military, registered me and I worked under his command. My parents are divorced. My Mum didn’t know that I had joined the Séléka. I'm sure she would not have liked it.
I was lucky. I was not sent out to fight. Some of my friends who went into battle never returned. Those who did return from operations told us that our friends were dead. I would go to sleep every night afraid that I would wake up with an order to go to the front.
They told me that I would make money in the Séléka, but I wasn’t paid for five months. I realized that I was wasting my time in staying with them. On January 16, I decided to leave when social workers visited our unit stationed at Camp BEAL (one of the military bases where the Séléka were stationed and where UNICEF negotiated the release of children). They took all of us to a transition centre.
We are safer here in the Transition and Orientation Centre, where we get basic education, vocational training and support. Security has not yet returned to the city, and I fear that people who knew that I joined Séléka will recognize me and report me to the Anti Balaka groups. Since I arrived here in the Transition and Orientation Centre, I have decided to learn auto mechanics and to work as a mechanic. If I work, I could pay for my own education, if my father refuses to pay my school fees. I want to return to school as soon as possible."
- 'Andre' (17)
An estimated 6,000 children are associated with armed groups, forces and militias in Central African Republic. Many of these children have been recruited since fighting escalated between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels who launched attacks in December 2012, and Anti-Balaka, a mainly Christian militia. UNICEF is working to release the children caught in the conflict and help them to reintegrate into their communities. So far this year, UNICEF has helped to release 1035 children. 'Andre' is one of those children.
This post was prepared and submitted by the UNICEF office in Central African Republic.