BATANGAFO, Central African Republic, Aug. 28 (UPI) — An armed group in the Central African Republic released 163 children, some of whom served as soldiers, cooks and other servants, the United Nations Children’s Fund announced Friday.
UNICEF said the children, which include five girls, were released during a ceremony in the town of Batangafo with the assistance of the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
“This release is a sign that the process of implementing the commitment made by the leaders of these groups, as a part of the peace and reconciliation process, is on track,” said UNICEF representative in the CAR, Mohamed Malick Fall.
The children released Friday are some of between 6,000 and 10,000 minors who have served as soldiers, cooks, messengers or in other roles with armed groups in the CAR. So far 645 children have been released from the groups since May as part of an agreement by various armed groups in the country to no longer use child soldiers.
“MINUSCA is resolved with all partners to ensure the protection of children and I herewith reaffirm its determination to multiply efforts to identify and separate children who are waiting to return to normal life,” said Diane Corner, the deputy special representative of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in CAR.
The children were taken to a transition center where they will be put back in school or enrolled in vocational training. UNICEF said it also intends to reunite the children with their families.