Armed factions in the Central African Republic have agreed to free all child soldiers and other children who may be used as cooks or messengers or for sexual purposes, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.
The deal covers an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 children and the eight main militia groups also agreed to end any new recruitment of children, according to UNICEF.
“This is a major step forward for the protection of children in this country,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, the UNICEF envoy to Central African Republic.
“The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child and UNICEF is eager to work with local authorities to help reunite these children with their families.”
The accord was signed during a week-long national reconciliation forum aimed at ending a cycle of sectarian conflict that has killed thousands and driven more than a million people from their homes. The country is now divided along sectarian lines, with a government-controlled, Christian-dominated south and a Muslim, rebel-held north.
The parties to the deal will agree a schedule for the release of the children and their return to their families and homes and protection and support to help them rebuild their lives, UNICEF said.