UNICEF welcomes removal from CJTF of groups using children in armed conflict

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said yesterday that the delisting of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) from the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict as one of the recruiting armed groups and using children in northeast Nigeria is a step towards child protection.

In his latest report released this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attributed the delisting to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF and the armed group’s commitment to is implementing an action plan that it signed with the United States. United Nations National Monitoring and Reporting Working Group (CTFMR) in 2017 to end the recruitment and use of children.

Formed in 2013 with the stated purpose of supporting the Nigerian military’s efforts to protect communities from Boko Haram attacks, the CJTF has grown and grown in influence in the region. At the height of its operations in 2016, the group was listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict for the recruitment and use of children.

Since the signing of the 2017 action plan, however, the CJTF has released more than 2,000 children from its ranks, many of whom are in school and receive psychosocial support from UNICEF.

Children have borne the brunt of the protracted conflict in northeastern Nigeria. At least 3,500 young children were recruited by parties to the conflict as combatants between 2013 and 2020. Girls and boys were used as suicide bombers, spies, laborers, cooks, messengers and wives. Girls recruited by armed groups often experience gender-based violence, including rape.

Children used as soldiers are at great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat. They are forced to witness or participate in torture and murder, triggering lifelong physical and mental health problems. Likewise, they are denied access to education, nutrition and conducive living conditions, among other serious violations of their rights.

“This is a welcome development for the children of Nigeria,” said Phuong T. Nguyen, Maiduguri Field Office Manager at UNICEF. “But we have to remember that this is the first stop on a long journey. I urge CJTF leaders to establish child protection units in its offices to prevent the future recruitment and use of children and to systematically shape its agreement not to use children for any reason. type of role whatsoever.

“Recruiting children into armed groups robs them of their innocence and the protection they need. Let us not forget that the deployment of children as soldiers jeopardizes the peace and perpetuates the cycle of generational violence. I call on other armed groups and parties to the conflict to immediately stop the recruitment of children and return them safely to their families and communities, where they belong, ” said Phuong T. Nguyen.