My son went to join the rebels when he was 14 years old. One day he didn't come home from school. All that night I couldn't sleep. I was thinking, where is he sleeping? Does he have any food? Was he killed on the road? In the morning I sent my daughter to his friends' houses and they told her that he'd gone off with one of his friends to join the rebels.
After the Gurda battle [December 1, 2006] my son came home. He walked into the house, took off his rifle and his cartridge belt, washed his hands and feet and said his prayers. He thought he was a man but he was still a boy. I asked him where he'd been and he looked down and giggled, like he was ashamed. I asked him, "Why did you leave? I never yelled at you. If you needed something I would have given it to you."He said he left because his family members were being killed, so he was obliged to become a soldier. I said, "Isn't that rifle heavy? You can barely lift it." He said, "It's not heavy." I said, "That rifle's so big it's going to split your chest." Since that day he hasn't been back home. He said I talk too much.
-Aisha, a 38-year-old woman in Gurda whose 14-year-old son joined the FUC rebels in 2006
When Aisha (not her real name) spoke to Human Rights Watch in March 2007, she might have had reason to believe that her son would soon set aside his rifle and return home. After all, the rebel group her son had joined, the Front Uni pour le Changement(United Front for Change, FUC), had signed a peace treaty with the Chadian government in December. Peace, however, did not bring security, and the December 2006 peace accord actually put pressure on FUC rebels to increase recruitment. In January Aisha sent her 20-year-old son to retrieve his younger brother from the FUC ranks, but he too joined the rebels. Now she fears that she may have lost both of her sons to a conflict so greedy for foot soldiers that boys and even girls have come to be considered soldier material.
The Chadian National Army (Arme Nationale Tchadienne, ANT) is struggling to defeat a Chadian rebel insurgency. In the fall of 2006 both the government and the rebels turned to the recruitment of children as a matter of military survival. Children as young as eight serve as fighters, guards, cooks, and lookouts on the front lines of the conflict.
In some areas of eastern Chad the political dynamics of the Chad conflict intersect with localized inter-ethnic tensions and violence. Children escaping rampant insecurity sometimes fled directly into the ranks of paramilitary groups such as the FUC (FUC forces are concentrated in Dar Tama, a department in northeastern Chad where a climate of generalized insecurity has led to violent attacks against civilians). In December 2006, the Chadian government made peace with the FUC, hitherto one of its most formidable rebel opponents. But by agreeing to contribute many more soldiers to the government army than it had under arms, the FUC was obliged to conduct aggressive manpower drives. Insecurity in Dar Tama continued to drive many children to seek safety in the ranks of the FUC, including schoolchildren. But at the same time, active recruitment on the part of the FUC, including promises of money, pulled children into the group. Human Rights Watch does not have evidence of ongoing recruitment of children on the part of the FUC, but girls and boys continue to serve in the FUC, and some children have fought alongside adult soldiers as combatants.
Since May 2007 both the Chadian government and the FUC have been cooperating with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to identify and demobilize child soldiers in their ranks. While this is to be applauded, questions remain about the extent to which the government's stated commitment to these efforts is being translated to the field level, and interviews with ANT commanders indicate that Chadian military personnel may attempt to exclude children from the demobilization process. In this light, it is perhaps noteworthy that of the 413 children demobilized from Chadian government military installations since May, all were former FUC fighters.Chad's Ministry of Defense has promised UNICEF access to Chadian military installations, but UNICEF has only been able to visit a single military base since May.Requests by UNICEF for access to two other sites had not been granted at this writing.
Human Rights Watch believes the demobilization underway cannot be considered comprehensive unless it is consistently applied and enforced throughout the Chadian military apparatus, including in the paramilitary forces that serve as Chadian government proxies, such as village-level self-defense forces and Sudanese rebel groups. Access to all military installations must become a reality, and international child protection officials must be able to make spot inspections on all Chadian military bases and camps, including in frontline areas and among armed groups that are affiliated with the Chadian government, be it formally or informally. Even with rehabilitation and reintegration programs that are specifically tailored to the needs of children, demobilized child soldiers will be at significant risk of re-recruitment as long as the rule of the gun remains unchallenged in eastern Chad.
France has taken the lead on pressuring the government of Chad to demobilize its child soldiers, but other countries with an interest in Chad, particularly those that cooperate militarily with Chad, such as the United States, must make similar efforts to press for the respect of international humanitarian and human rights law in Chad, including the immediate demobilization of child soldiers.
A United Nations protection mission has been proposed by the United Nations Security Council for deployment to eastern Chad, but the proposal has met persistent opposition from Chadian government officials. An international protection mission for civilians in eastern Chad would represent a significant step toward bringing security to violent and volatile areas where children have been recruited into armed groups and where they continue to serve in roles that international law restricts to adults.
This report draws on field work conducted over the course of four Human Rights Watch research missions to conflict zones of eastern Chad since January 2006.Human Rights Watch researchers have noted the use of child soldiers in the Chadian National Army (ANT), ANT-integrated rebel forces (namely the FUC), village-level self-defense forces, and two Sudanese rebel movements: the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the G-19 faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA). Each of these armed groups acts in defense of the Chadian government, yet this report will focus primarily on the use and recruitment of child soldiers by the ANT and the FUC. It does not encompass Chadian rebel groups actively fighting the Chadian government.
All child soldiers referred to in this report are male unless specifically identified as female. A child is considered to be anyone under the age of 18.
Due to the sensitive nature of the research, Human Rights Watch has withheld the names of most interview subjects, as well as contextual information such as military rank or interview location when such information might compromise a source's identity. Sources inside the Chadian military insisted on strict conditions of confidentiality and secrecy, eschewing mobile phones for fear of surveillance and arranging meetings via third parties. In some cases pseudonyms have been used to conceal the identity of interview subjects.
To the Government of Chad
- Immediately end all recruitment of persons under age 18, whether for use as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers, guards, or for any other military purpose;
- Demobilize all children under age 18 from all Chadian National Army (ANT) forces, including self-defense militias and all other paramilitary groups receiving Chadian government support, and transfer them to their families or to appropriate child protection agencies;
- Ensure that all forces under the control of the Chadian government are reminded that recruitment and use of children as soldiers is illegal, and that recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime that will be prosecuted;
- Investigate whether war crimes, including the recruitment and use of children under 15 as soldiers, have occurred in Chad since the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force in Chad on January 1, 2007;
- Establish appropriate procedures for prosecuting any local or regional commanders who recruit children to act as soldiers or who do not immediately release children;
- Give all adults recruited into the ANT before age 18 the option to leave ANT forces;
- Cooperate with UNICEF and other national and international monitors to ensure compliance with commitments to end the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers;
- Provide international agencies such as the ICRC, UNICEF, OCHA, and OHCHR full and unhindered access to all military camps and installations for verification purposes, including bases and training camps at N'Djamena, Koundoul, Moussouro, Fada, Biltine and Am Timan, and to frontline troops in and around Adr and throughout eastern Ouaddai region;
- Allow international humanitarian observers to conduct spot inspections at all military camps and installations;
- Fully cooperate with all efforts to rehabilitate demobilized child soldiers, including their reintegration back into their home communities;
- Formalize the inclusion of the FUC and paramilitary groups such as self-defense forces into the ANT, and partner with agencies including the ICRC, UNICEF, OCHA, and OHCHR in this process; and
- Immediately release all prisoners of war under age 18 to the care of the appropriate agencies, and allow national and international human rights monitors unhindered access to facilities where children may be detained.
To the FUC
- Immediately end all recruitment of persons under 18, whether for use as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers, guards, or for any other military purpose;
- Demobilize children under age 18 from all armed forces, and transfer them to their families or to appropriate child protection agencies;
- Ensure that all FUC forces are reminded that recruitment and use of children as soldiers is illegal, and that recruitment and use of children under 15 as soldiers is a war crime that will be prosecuted;
- Establish appropriate procedures for reporting for the purpose of investigation and prosecution any local or regional commanders who recruit children or who do not immediately release children;
- Speedily complete the integration of all FUC units into the traditional channels of command and control in the ANT;
- Cooperate with UNICEF and other national and international monitors to ensure compliance with an end to the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers, and provide international agencies such as the ICRC, UNICEF, OCHA, and OHCHR full and unhindered access to all military installations and forces for verification purposes, including permitting observers to make spot inspections;
- Provide international agencies such as the ICRC, UNICEF, OCHA, and OHCHR full and unhindered access to all military camps and installations for verification purposes, including bases and training camps at Gurda, Aramkolle, Birak, Bali, and Dakhalaka;
- Allow international humanitarian observers to conduct spot inspections at all military camps and installations; and
- Fully cooperate with all efforts to rehabilitate demobilized child soldiers, including their reintegration back into their home communities.
- Use all available means to enhance cooperation with the government of Chad in identifying all persons under age 18 in armed forces and groups, and in facilitating their transfer to appropriate rehabilitation programs;
- Work with local communities and local nongovernmental organizations in order to effectively monitor child recruitment, put in place effective prevention strategies, and support the reintegration of children into their communities;
- Strengthen appropriate coordination mechanisms including information sharing with other multilateral, international, and local organizations working on this issue;
- Establish a UNICEF field office in Gurda;
- Take into account the specific needs of girls, former child soldiers who have attained the age of majority, and other vulnerable youth who may be marginalized from existing processes; and
- To reduce risks of re-recruitment of child soldiers, devote resources to reintegration and follow-up activities including psychosocial support, family tracing and reunification, and education and vocational training.
To the Government of the United States
- Make all military assistance and cooperation, including the pending sale of C-130 aircraft, contingent on the Chadian government's continued progress toward demobilizing child soldiers and preventing their re-recruitment, and establish a monitoring mechanism to track progress;
- Pass the bill pending before the US Senate entitled the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 1175), making governments involved in the recruitment or use of child soldiers ineligible for some US military financing, training, or arms transfers; and
- Appoint a special envoy to Chad to ensure that US efforts to protect civilians in Darfur neither ignore nor contribute to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Chad.
To the Government of France
- Partner with the Chadian military as observers, specifically to monitor violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
To the European Union
- Approve the deployment of an international protection mission to eastern Chad, as set forth in Human Rights Watch's February 21, 2007 briefing paper "Ensuring Civilian Protection in Chad: The Proposed UN Mission."
To the United Nations Security Council
- Urge the Chadian government and the FUC to immediately end all child recruitment and to demobilize all children from their forces;
- Ensure that the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict closely monitors the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Chad, and recommends appropriate steps if adequate progress is not achieved;
- Have local N'Djamena missions of Security Council members meet with the Chadian government to insist on progress in the demobilization of children, in accordance with Security Council resolutions on children and armed conflict; and
- Approve the deployment of an international protection mission to eastern Chad, as set forth in Human Rights Watch's February 21, 2007 briefing paper "Ensuring Civilian Protection in Chad: The Proposed UN Mission."
To the Donor Community
- Ensure that financial commitments for demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration programming for child soldiers in Chad are adequate and sustained.
The Chad conflict
Chad has never seen a peaceful transfer of power, and nearly 50 years after gaining independence from France,coup d'etat remains the primary means of changing governments in the country. Anti-government armed opposition in its current iteration was catalyzed by a June 2005 act of parliament that allowed Chadian president Idriss Dby Itno, an unpopular autocrat, to stand for a third consecutive term in office despite repeated promises to step down.
Since he seized power in a 1989 coup, President Dby has maintained a measure of control over Chad's volatile political environment in part by appointing members of his Zaghawa ethnic group to key positions in government and the armed forces. However, Dby's handling of the state apparatus, in particular his jealous control of Chad's newfound oil wealth, increasingly alienated him from his Zaghawa support base, to say nothing of the wider public. In May 2004 an attempted palace coup was engineered by members of Dby's Bideyat Zaghawa subclan, and beginning in October 2005 previously loyal members of the president's inner circle defected en masseto armed opposition movements based in Darfur, Sudan.
In late 2005 and early 2006, Chadian rebel groups gathered strength in Darfur, where they enjoyed the sponsorship of the Sudanese government, which has a history of backing Chadian insurgent groups at levels that fluctuate over time and according to strategic exigencies. The Chadian rebellion coalesced around powerful clan leaders, often along ethnic lines, and rebel groups variously entered into and broke a series of military alliances that resulted in a dizzying succession of groupings (and acronyms). At the outset of the rebellion the two strongest rebel groups were the Front Uni pour le Changement (United Front for Change, FUC), made up primarily of ethnic Tama fighters, and the Socle pour le Changement, l'Unit et la Dmocratie(Platform for Change, Unity and Democracy, SCUD) and its offshoot the Rassemblement des Forces Dmocratiques(Rally of Democratic Forces, RaFD), both made up of mostly Zaghawa deserters from the Chadian government and armed forces, including Bideyat Zaghawa subclan leaders and members of Dby's immediate family.
Beginning in December 2005, FUC leader Mahamat Nour Abdelkarim propelled his forces into a series of daring but unsuccessful raids against Chadian government positions, culminating in a disastrous attempt to seize N'Djamena, the capital, in April 2006. In November Khartoum withdrew its support for the FUC in favor of the Union des Forces pour la Dmocratie et le Dveloppement(Union of Forces for Democracy and Development, UFDD), a rebel faction under the leadership of Mahamat Nouri (no relation to Mahamat Nour). While Nouri's UFDD was laying siege to strategic towns in eastern Chad in late 2006, the FUC's Nour was suing for peace at talks in Libya.
By January 2006 the Sudanese government's support of the Chadian rebels, and the Chadian government's reciprocal sponsorship of Sudanese rebels, had tilted the two countries into a dangerous proxy conflict. Despite subsequent gestures toward detente, Chad and Sudan continue to back proxy forces at this writing. The government of Chad has been attending peace talks brokered by Libya in a bid to end the insurgency, but on July 2, 2007, Chadian rebels threatened to return to all-out hostilities due to a lack of progress.
The December 24, 2006 Peace Agreement
On December 24, 2006, the FUC and the Chadian government signed a peace accord, which extended general amnesty to all FUC soldiers and called for the "creation of the conditions" for the integration of FUC soldiers into the Chadian National Army (Arme Nationale Tchadienne, ANT) within three months of the effective date of the agreement. The accord also ensured the participation of FUC officials in the management of the business of the Chadian state. On March 4, 2007, FUC leader Mahamat Nour Abdelkarim was named Chad's minister of defense and on March 29, 2007, Gen. Abdullah Gok, a FUC field commander who had served alongside Mahamat Nour in Sudanese-government sponsored counterinsurgency operations in Darfur, was named deputy general secretary of the Gendarmerie Nationale.Other FUC officials to take positions in the Chadian government include Ismael Idriss and Longa Gong Raoul, secretary of state for foreign relations and secretary general in charge of the Executive National Assembly, respectively. While Mahamat Nour has taken up residence in a villa in N'Djamena, along with a substantial security detail, Abdullah Gok remains in Gurda, the FUC's stronghold in northeastern Chad. Both Nour and Gok maintain command of FUC units, in spite of their status as Chadian government officials.
The ongoing use and recruitment of child soldiers in the FUC falls under state responsibility as of March 4, 2007, when the first FUC officials accepted positions in the Chadian government. At the same time, the extent to which FUC soldiers are currently being integrated into the ANT as foreseen by the December 2006 peace accord remains difficult to assess. While a group of FUC soldiers reported to the Chadian government's ANT training center at Mongo in February, the FUC maintains a substantial military presence in Gurda. Of the FUC units in Gurda, some have conducted joint operations with ANT units, while others have not. Based on Human Rights Watch's observations in the field, both the former and the latter groups have remained under FUC command and control, well outside of traditional ANT channels.
Shortly after the December 2006 peace accord was signed, FUC units were deployed to the Chad-Sudan border to meet the threat posed by Chadian rebels with the SCUD and the RaFD. President Dby's divide-and-rule strategy, perfected over the course of 18 years of factionalist rule, was in evidence as his former adversaries squared off against one another.
Insecurity in Dar Tama
Dar Tama is one of three administrative departments in Wadi Fira, a region in northeastern Chad. The department capital is Gurda, 165 kilometers northeast of Abch. The traditional homeland of the Tama people, Dar Tama is home to a significant minority of ethnic Zaghawa who arrived in the region during the Sahelian drought of the 1980s. The Tama and the Zaghawa are both Muslim, non-Arab ethnic groups that can be found on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border.
Livestock raids by small bands of Zaghawa gunmen mounted on horses or camels led to communal tensions with the Tama, which worsened considerably after Idriss Dby came to power in 1989. Dby installed Zaghawa officials in ranks of local government and police in Dar Tama, and these officials did little to protect Tama civilians or to pursue prosecutions for Zaghawa raids against Tama villages. The climate of impunity helped inspire majority-Tama rebel movements such as the Alliance Nationale de la Rsistance (National Resistance Alliance, ANR) in 1994 and the FUC, which emerged from an ANR splinter group in 2005.
Inter-ethnic tensions between the Tama and the Zaghawa exploded in the second half of 2006, when dozens of Tama civilians were killed and thousands displaced in attacks by Zaghawa militias against Tama villages.
On December 13, 2006, almost two weeks before the FUC agreed to peace terms with the Chadian government, FUC units abandoned their hideouts in West Darfur and eastern Chad and took control of the streets of Gurda. After nearly 20 years of Zaghawa control over Dar Tama, the power dynamic in the region was suddenly inverted. Almost immediately, civilians in Gurda were being stopped by FUC rebels and asked to reveal their ethnic identity; Zaghawa civilians accused of anti-Tama sentiment were subject to arrest; and local authorities received death threats.
By January 2007, between 1,200 and 1,500 FUC rebels had taken up position in and around Gurda, and FUC vehicles mounted with heavy weapons and overflowing with rebel combatants ruled the roads. At the same time, Zaghawa militias continued to raid Tama villages in the eastern reaches of Dar Tama. On January 28, seven Tama civilians were killed and 200 homes were burned when Zaghawa militias attacked a cluster of predominantly Tama villages between Am Zoer and Biltine. The next day a FUC convoy was ambushed by Zaghawa militias southeast of Gurda, resulting in more than 30 FUC soldiers killed and 41 wounded, along with at least 20 civilians, part of a pattern of operations by SCUD rebels that inflicted appalling casualties on ANT and FUC forces.
The FUC's decision to establish a military camp 5 kilometers south of Kounoungo camp, a United Nations (UN)-supervised refugee camp that is home to 13,315 Sudanese refugees, worsened ethnic tensions inside of Kounoungo. About 50 percent of the refugees at Kounoungo are Zaghawa, and nearly 25 percent are Tama. Approximately 100 Chadian Tama families registered as refugees when the camp was originally incorporated, and many have family ties with locally recruited FUC soldiers. One result is that FUC soldiers frequent the camp to visit relatives, often bearing arms and in uniform. Zaghawa refugees at Kounoungo camp complained to Human Rights Watch of intimidation and harassment at the hands of the FUC throughout the first three months of 2007, including attempted rapes. Zaghawa refugees began to leave Kounoungo camp for UN-supervised camps in the Gurda area such as Mile and others in the wider region such as Touloum and Irdimi. On March 25, 2007, shortly after President Dby visited the camp with promises of increased security, FUC militants attacked Zaghawa refugees in the camp, beating five so badly that they had to be evacuated to Gurda hospital.
"It's dangerous for us here," said a Zaghawa refugee at Kounoungo camp. "Every market day [FUC soldiers] arrive here in uniform, with their guns."
Many of the abuses against Zaghawa civilians in Dar Tama have been attributed to dissident factions of the FUC that are not responsive to the command and control of the FUC's senior leadership, to say nothing of the ANT and the civilian leadership in N'Djamena. Zaghawa community leaders in Dar Tama told Human Rights Watch that militant factions of the FUC have been responsible for the deaths of 15 Zaghawa civilians (none of them inside refugee camps) between December 2006 and February 2007, including one woman.General Gok controls a powerful dissident FUC faction in the Gurda area. Gok, who has a reputation for volatility even among his fellow FUC soldiers, has been accused of summarily executing three FUC rebels on March 6, 2007, for refusing his orders to disarm.
Many Tama in Gurda sympathize with dissident factions of the FUC, and their agenda of avenging previous abuses against the Tama by Zaghawa militias. Ethnic animus among the Zaghawa appears to be elevated as well. A Zaghawa resident of Kounoungo camp told Human Rights Watch that Zaghawa rebels from both Chad and Sudan had visited the camp since December, prepared to take up arms against the Tama in defense of their ethnic kin. "They are saying, 'We must kill the Tama,'" he said. "It's coming time of ethnic war-groups of Zaghawa and Goran against the Tama. There is no safety in Dar Tama."
Broader recruitment and use of child soldiers
The FUC is not the only Chadian government-allied paramilitary group that is known to Human Rights Watch to have recruited and used child soldiers. Human Rights Watch has observed the use of child soldiers in village-level self-defense forces and Sudanese rebel groups, both of which have received Chadian government support.
In the fall of 2006, the government of Chad incorporated village-level self-defense militias into the ANT in areas where the ANT presence was particularly weak, such as the volatile Dar Sila department of southeastern Chad. Since January 2006 Human Rights Watch researchers have observed the use of apparently underage soldiers in self-defense forces in Goungour, Borota, and Koloy, and we have documented the use of child soldiers in self-defense forces in Modoyna, Tiero, and Dogdor, all in Dar Sila. The use of children is widespread among paramilitary groups, which make up a growing percentage of Chadian government forces, according to official figures.
Sudanese rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement and the G-19 faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army are also backed by the Chadian government and are also known to incorporate children into their ranks. In March 2006, a Human Rights Watch research mission revealed that Sudanese rebels from the G-19, working in cooperation with Chadian government officials, forcibly recruited 4,700 refugees, including hundreds of children, from the UN-supervised refugee camps 50 kilometers west of Adr in eastern Chad.
The Army arrives in the village and tells the people, "We need this many soldiers."Boys between the ages of 12 and 15 are obliged to join. They are called bandios and their job is to make tea, find water, collect firewood, mind the goats. It is forced recruitment. They don't want to join, but they are obliged to. Their parents don't want their children to join the army, because they know they are going to die. But they have no choice.
-Brigadier General, Chadian National Army
Numbers and identification challenges
UNICEF is undertaking a census of the Chadian National Army (ANT), but any systematic effort to quantify the number of children under arms in Chad is difficult, as the majority of child soldiers come from rural areas where birth certificates are rarely issued.
In some instances apparently underage FUC soldiers seem to have been encouraged to lie about their age. For example, when asked by Human Rights Watch to state their age, four FUC soldiers whom we interviewed from the same unit, who appeared to be underage, said they were 18 years old and added that they were born in 1986 and had been with the FUC for 9 months.
The Chadian National Army
A brigadier general (general de brigade) in the ANT told Human Rights Watch that the recruitment of children into the government army takes place primarily in Salamat and Ouaddai regions in the east and in and around the town of Biltine, in Wadi Fira region in the northeast, both areas of the country where Chadian rebel activity has been aggressive in the past two years.
According to another ANT officer who has conducted recruitment activities and is currently deployed with his troops in a frontline area of eastern Chad, civilians were recruited en masse from Zaghawa and Goran villages in Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region in northern Chad in the fall of 2006, a time when government forces were suffering terrible battlefield losses. Recruits were collected and rapidly organized into units, issued uniforms and weapons, and folded into the concentric circles of defenders arrayed around N'Djamena. Children as young as 14 were incorporated into the armed forces as part of these hasty manpower drives.
In the face of international criticism, the Chadian government denied that children served in the ranks of the ANT; it added emphasis to its denials by jailing a local journalist who made assertions to the contrary.In February 2007 a Chadian government official allowed only that "certain Chadians are very small" and suggested that any supposed child soldiers in the ANT were in fact "dwarves."
ANT officers contacted by Human Rights Watch were more candid about the presence of children in the Chadian armed forces. According to a senior ANT officer who has deployed to frontline areas of eastern Chad, the ANT depends on a steady supply of child soldiers. "Child soldiers are ideal because they don't complain, they don't expect to be paid, and if you tell them to kill, they kill," the officer said. "[President] Dby has trouble finding soldiers who are willing to fight for him, but children will do what they're told."
Yielding to international pressure, particularly from France, the government of Chad signed an agreement with UNICEF on May 9, 2007, to begin the demobilization of child soldiers in ANT and ANT-integrated rebel forces (see below). Despite acknowledged government cooperation with efforts to demobilize child soldiers, three ANT sources told Human Rights Watch that there was a likelihood that many children would not be demobilized despite UNICEF's efforts, and one of these-an ANT officer who is involved in training new recruits-said that Chadian military personnel would seek to actively hold children outside of demobilization efforts. "Some of the child soldiers will be demobilized, but most will be hidden," this source said. "They will be stationed on the front lines and other places that are off-limits."
Human Rights Watch has also learned that the Chadian government has held captured child soldiers suspected of insurgent activity in the same facilities as adult soldiers. FUC combatants freed from Chadian government detention in February and interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Gurda reported that children as young as 13 had been held in the same facilities as adult detainees. On April 26, 2006, Human Rights Watch researchers noted children among an estimated 250 FUC rebels who were detained in a single walled compound with a dirt courtyard and two cell blocks at the Gendarmerie Nationale in N'Djamena.
In March 2007 Human Rights Watch spoke with eight FUC rebels who said they were under the age of 18, and with another 11 soldiers who appeared to be under the age of 18, but either claimed to be older, declined to state their age, or were not asked to state their age.
Children in the FUC play a direct role in combat operations. A 15-year-old FUC soldier recounted the day in February 2007 when his convoy was ambushed by Zaghawa paramilitary groups. "We came to a narrow passage between two rocky cliffs," he said. "When our vehicles came through, [the Zaghawa paramilitaries] were ready. A shot went past me. There were gunshots, everyone was shooting, but I didn't know what to do. My brother was shot in the calf, so I helped him." Officials at Gurda hospital reported that they have received FUC casualties who were obviously under the age of 18 and were clearly combatants.
Though some child soldiers appear to join the FUC of their own accord, it is difficult to assert that they made free decisions given the lack of other options. Most child soldiers are poor and uneducated, and many were eager to escape difficult home environments. Above all, the climate of insecurity and armed violence led many children to conclude that it was safer to be with the FUC than in the countryside.
A 12-year-old FUC fighter from a village near Djimeze al-Hamra in eastern Dar Tama explained to us why he decided to become a rebel, in December 2006. "The village is not safe; it is better to go to war," the boy said. "If my gun jams and I can't clear it, I'll give it to my grand-frere and he'll clear it for me. If I go to war and I am killed, it is finished for me. If I kill my enemy, it is finished for him. I won't wait in the village to die. I'm a man. I want to participate."
This boy was among several child soldiers in the FUC who told Human Rights Watch that they joined the rebel force to seek revenge after close family members or other civilians were killed by Zaghawa militias. Others have joined the rebels after having been displaced by militia violence. One apparently underage FUC rebel told Human Rights Watch that he joined the rebels after an attack on his village near Djimeze al-Hamra forced his family and many others from his village to take up residence in an encampment on the outskirts of Gurda.
"The Tama were always being attacked, and we have to defend ourselves," the boy said. "In order to get a rifle I had to join the FUC. If security returns, I'll leave the FUC and go back to school."
A 62-year-old man from Barra, near Maraone, told Human Rights Watch that his 15-year-old son, along with three of his nephews ages 12, 15 and 16, had all gone to join the FUC, but that he was not frightened for them. "They're doing what they want to do," he said. "My son was studying and doing well at school; it's not good that he has joined the rebels. But you can't stop the children from joining. Their [Tama] brothers have been killed, and children's hearts hurt just like adults' do."
While it is clear that insecurity has inspired children to seek protection in the FUC, it is equally clear that the FUC actively recruits children.
Human Rights Watch has documented the forced recruitment by the Rassemblement pour la Dmocratie et la Libert(Rally for Democracy and Freedom, RDL), a precursor group to the FUC, in Tama areas of Darfur in late 2005. A FUC colonel who was captured in fighting in N'Djamena on April 13, 2006, told an African Union monitoring team that the FUC recruited children as young as 12 years old, and several other prisoners said they had been forcibly recruited from refugee camps in Darfur. The UN reported a May 2006 incident of the forced recruitment of a Tama child in Geneina, West Darfur, although this did not specifically implicate the FUC.
The recruitment risk has apparently been increased by the December 2006 peace accord between the Chadian government and the FUC. Sources in the FUC and the Chadian military report that the FUC was required to contribute between 6,000 and 7,000 soldiers to the ANT under the terms of a confidential annex to the peace accord. However, military analysts familiar with the situation in Chad believe that the FUC numbered no more than 1,200 to 1,500 when the December accord was signed, putting pressure on the FUC to fill out its ranks, and putting children at increased risk of recruitment.
"FUC is doing heavy recruitment," said an international humanitarian observer with knowledge of the situation in Dar Tama. "Nour moved soldiers from Gurda to Mongo to decrease his force strength in Dar Tama, but the ones who left have been replaced by others."
School records examined by Human Rights Watch at the Lycee de Gurda, the lone secondary school in the Gurda area, revealed that 80 percent of the boys who completed the 2006 school year did not enroll in school when classes resumed in the spring of 2007. Whereas 300 students completed the 2006 school year, only 180 students showed up for classes at the start of the 2007 school year, the vast majority of them girls and young boys, prompting one parent to describe it as a "girl's school." One observer interviewed by Human Rights Watch who asked that he not be identified for fear of FUC retaliation said the absences were easy to explain: the boys had left to join the rebels.
"Some boys from the 2006 school year came back, but after the holidays most of them didn't come back," the man said. "The boys all signed up for the military-they joined their brothers with the FUC."
One 16-year-old FUC member told Human Rights Watch that he was motivated to join the FUC because of the money promised by a FUC recruiter. "They said that when the FUC came to power, I could make enough money to buy a car," the boy said.
While insecurity persists in eastern Chad, children may be prone to re-recruitment as soldiers, particularly those older children whose self-conception has been altered by their participation in hostilities. Some child soldiers in Gurda adopt exaggerated postures of adulthood, smoking cigarettes and drinking millet beer to excess, driving recklessly and pushing the limits of the power that comes with a Kalashnikov. Celebratory gunfire is a regular feature of life in Gurda, and child soldiers are among the most enthusiastic followers of FUC commanders such as General Gok. One 15-year-old child soldier with the FUC who said he had experienced combat told Human Rights Watch that he had nightmares, but he insisted with bravado that they were not a result of his involvement with the FUC: "Everyone has nightmares, but I am crying because of what the Zaghawa [militias] are doing to my [Tama] people."
Girls in the FUC forces
Although women and girls are not frequently seen in the ranks of armed groups in Chad, the FUC's 3rd Brigade is entirely female, comprised of 52 women and girls. According to a 17-year-old member from the town of Hille Andjille, near the Chad-Sudan border, training for women and girls in the FUC lasts for two years, while the training for men lasts six months.None of the four 3rd Brigade soldiers interviewed by Human Rights Watch were armed. The brigade's commanding officer said that female FUC soldiers had participated in operations against ANT forces in late 2006, though she was not able to provide specifics. Human Rights Watch received no reports of sexual exploitation of 3rd Brigade soldiers by male soldiers in other brigades.Many of the women and girls in the 3rd Brigade had joined the FUC either because they had been raped or feared that they would be raped.
"The girls come to us because they know they Zaghawa can't come to the FUC base," said the brigade's commanding officer, a 33-year-old colonel who says she joined the rebels after she was tortured by a Zaghawa militia in 2003 and left hanging from a tree, leaving her arms and legs criss-crossed with scars. One 17-year-old soldier from the 3rd Brigade said she joined the FUC along with six other girls from her village in late 2006 after members of a Zaghawa militia raped two girls from her village, including her 10-year-old cousin. "Two men raped her and two men were holding her down and her hip came out," she said. "Afterward she didn't say anything to anyone except that the Zaghawa took her and that her leg was dislocated. She got no medical treatment and her leg still falls out to the side when she walks. After they did that she was afraid. She had to wait for a couple of months until she could walk, and then she joined the FUC. She didn't come for revenge, she came purely out of fear."
The role of UNICEF
UNICEF, the lead UN child protection agency in Chad, coordinates its efforts to demobilize child soldiers in Chad with the Chadian ministries of Social Affairs, Defense, External Relations, and Human Rights. UNICEF also partners with United Nations agencies such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program (WFP), along with national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Forty child soldiers from the FUC in Chadian government custody were released to the care of UNICEF on February 16, 2007, in a "liberation ceremony" at the PoliceSchool in N'Djamena that was announced by government officials only one day before. Seemingly an act of good faith, this gesture may have been related to the government's December 2006 peace accord with FUC leader Mahamat Nour, who insisted that all FUC militants be released from Chadian government lockups. The 40 children were immediately brought to the Transit Centre in Koundoul, 35 kilometers from N'Djamena, which had been opened that same day by the Ministry of Social Action. UNICEF provided technical and financial support for the project.
Boys at the Transit Centre complained that clothes, shoes, and even medical care promised to them by the Ministry of Social Action were wanting. In some instances the boys went without food. Just over one month after the Transit Center was opened, 15 of the 40 original child soldiers had left the site-four had been reunited with their families, seven joined the ANT in Mongo, and the other four's whereabouts were unknown.
On May 9, 2007, UNICEF and the government of Chad signed an agreement for the demobilization of child soldiers in Chad. The terms of the agreement allowed UNICEF more latitude to set up operational procedures for the release of children associated with armed groups. UNICEF officials were granted access to the ANT training facility at Mongo, 400 kilometers east of N'Djamena in south central Chad, and in May they identified 383 child soldiers at Mongo, some of them as young as eight years old. On June 12 and 13, UNICEF organized a demobilization workshop in N'Djamena that brought government officials together with international organizations with child-protection remits (UNICEF, UNHCR, Jesuit Refugee Service, Christian Children's Fund, and CARE) to draft an operational plan for the demobilization of child soldiers. In mid-June, 63 former child soldiers were transferred from Mongo to a transit center in Abch managed by UNICEF's partner Jesuit Refugee Service. By July 9, a total of 413 children between ages eight and eighteen had been released from Chadian military service in Mongo; 159 of the children were transferred to transit care centers in Abch and N'Djamena, and the remaining 254 were transferred to a temporary transit center run by the Chadian Red Cross in Mongo, pending their relocation to N'Djamena (the transit care center at Koundoul was closed by the Ministry of Social Affairs in May). All 413 children had formerly been in the ranks of the FUC.
Chad's Ministry of Defense has promised UNICEF access to Chadian military installations, but Mongo is the only Chadian government military installation UNICEF has been able to inspect at this writing.While this has been due in part to programming limitations related to UNICEF's funding constraints, requests by UNICEF for access to two other sites, Gurda and Goz Beida, in conflict zones in eastern Chad, have been met by Chadian government officials with suggestions that visits to those sites be postponed to a later date.
A humanitarian aid worker who is familiar with the child soldiers at the KoundoulTransitCenter questioned the wisdom of quartering demobilized child soldiers in or near major population centers such as Abch and N'Djamena.
"They're not kids; they're adolescents who think they're men," the humanitarian worker said. "They have alcohol addictions, get into stabbing fights where they need to be hospitalized, and they're going to disappear into Abch as soon as they get there."
The role of France
France, which provides military cooperation to the ANT and at the same time chairs the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, has been instrumental in pushing the Chadian government to take action on the problem of child soldiers.
French troops are based in Chad under the framework of a March 6, 1976 military cooperation agreement between Chad and France, plus a protocol to the 1976 agreement adopted on April 7, 1990, as amended on June 16, 1998. A small number of French troops operate in Chad in an ANT-support capacity, but the bulk of the 1,300 French troops currently stationed there are present under the terms of Opration Epervier, a 1976 French deployment to protect Chad from Libyan aggression.France has been a crucial military support for the Chadian government, providing the ANT with military intelligence, logistical assistance, medical services, and even ammunition. In April 2006 a French F-1 Mirage jet fighter fired warning shots at an advancing rebel column.
Beginning in late August 2006 and continuing in September, the French military encountered ANT units with apparently underage soldiers seeking transport on French military aircraft.France's then-Defense Minister Michle Alliot-Marie wrote a letter to President Dby on the issue of child soldiers, which Dby reportedly ignored. French officials subsequently threatened to withdraw France's military forces from Chad unless the Chadian government took concrete steps to demobilize child soldiers. Discrete but forceful French government pressure reportedly included personal interventions by French government officials at the highest level.
In spite of the threatened withdrawal, however, the French military has continued to provide steadfast support to the ANT.
On February 5-6, 2007, France hosted an international conference in coordination with UNICEF in Paris, where representatives from 58 states, including the foreign minister of Chad, committed themselves to putting an end to the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts. At the conference, states agreed to support and apply new guidelines, known as the "Paris Principles," for protecting children from recruitment and providing assistance to those who have already been involved with armed forces or groups.
The role of the United States
The United States government is not known to be as actively engaged as France on the issue of child soldiers in Chad. The United States is negotiating increased military support to Chad, with the sale of four C-130 aircraft pending at this writing. On February 15, 2007, the United States reached an agreement with Chad that opens the way for military transfers of surplus defense equipment to Chad and an amendment to the 2007 defense appropriations act called for the US Defense Department to expand Abch airport in eastern Chad.
US engagement with Chad is mediated primarily by counterterrorism objectives. In 2004 US Marines trained three ANT platoons (170 soldiers) in basic individual infantry skills under the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), which was later expanded into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI). Chadian troops received TSCTI training from US Special Forces instructors in 2006. In fiscal year 2007 Chad was projected to receive US$295,000 under the International Military Education and Training program. In the US 2006 defense budget, Chad was one of roughly a dozen countries to receive at least $10 million in Section 1206 funding, intended to build counterterrorism capacity in foreign military forces.
At this writing, a bill entitled the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 1175) is pending in the United States Senate. Under the terms of the bill, governments involved in the recruitment or use of child soldiers would be ineligible for five categories of US military financing, training, or arms transfers. Chad is one of eight governments that would likely be affected by the legislation.
International protection force for eastern Chad
In recognition of the deteriorating human rights situation in eastern Chad, the United Nations Security Council sent experts to Chad in November 2006 and January 2007 to study the feasibility of dispatching a UN protection mission to the region. Chadian government officials first agreed to the UN mission in principle only, and then made clear that the deployment of UN military personnel as part of a UN mission would be unacceptable. Without Chadian government consent, the proposed protection force could not go forward.
With the proposed UN mission stalled, Libya began operationalizing Paragraph 11 of the February 2006 Tripoli Accord between Chad and Sudan, which stipulated a "Peace and Security Force" to secure the Chad-Sudan border. While the Tripoli Accord did not specify which nations would comprise this force, recent military deployments have made it apparent that Libya and Eritrea have put themselves forward. The Peace and Security Force would deploy Libyan, Eritrean, and Chadian forces to five points along the Chad-Sudan border, and Libyan, Eritrean, and Sudanese forces to the Sudan side of the border, with the four nations contributing a total of 2,000 soldiers to the exercise. Chadian President Dby visited Khartoum in June, reportedly to discuss the deployment of joint border monitoring units.
After a June 10 meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, President Dby softened his opposition to a UN military presence in Chad, and on June 25 Kouchner announced an initiative by France and other European countries to deploy a European Union (EU) military force with significant French presence to eastern Chad. A French proposal for an EU bridging mission, which would subsequently be replaced by a UN mission, was discussed during a high-level meeting in Paris on June 25 attended by the UN, the Arab League, the United States, China, and Russia. On July 23, 2007 the EU Council of Ministers is scheduled to vote on a proposal for an EU deployment to eastern Chad.
An international protection mission for civilians in eastern Chad would represent a significant step toward bringing security to violent and volatile areas where children have been recruited into armed groups and where they continue to serve in roles that international law restricts to adults.
Both the government of Chad and the FUC are in violation of international law that prohibits the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. The government is also in violation of Article 77 of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantees that children who commit a crime related to an armed conflict shall be held separately from adults.
Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which applies during non-international armed conflicts, prohibits states and non-state armed groups from recruiting or using children under the age of 15 in armed conflict. This standard is also reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Chad ratified in 1990. The prohibition on the recruitment and use of children below the age of 15 is now considered customary international law, and is binding on all parties to armed conflict.
Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998, the recruitment of children under the age of 15 or their use in hostilities is considered a war crime, whether carried out by members of national armed forces or non-state armed groups. The Rome Statute entered into force for Chad on January 1, 2007. Chad therefore has an obligation to investigate and prosecute members of its forces and other armed groups if they engage in recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers.
Chad is a party to the First Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which establishes 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment, and for any recruitment or use in hostilities by irregular armed groups. The protocol, which was ratified by Chad in 2002, also places obligations upon non-state armed forces. Article 4 states that "armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a state should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of eighteen." It also places obligations on the state to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices."
The Optional Protocol requires governments to deposit a binding declaration establishing their minimum voluntary recruitment age, which cannot be below 16. In the case of Chad, the Chadian government has established a minimum age of 18.
The Optional Protocol also obligates states parties to demobilize children within their jurisdiction who have been recruited or used in hostilities in violation of the protocol, and to provide assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.
Chad is also a party to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, in which states pledge to take all necessary measures to ensure that no child takes part in hostilities and to refrain from recruiting children. The charter defines a child as every human being below the age of 18. It further states that "Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure the care and protection of children who are affected by armed conflicts."
International humanitarian law prohibits all parties to armed conflicts from arbitrarily depriving any person of their liberty, including through abductions and forced recruitment. Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and applicable to non-international armed conflicts requires that all civilians be treated humanely-arbitrary deprivation of liberty is incompatible with this requirement.
In 1999 the member states of the International Labour Organization (ILO) unanimously adopted the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182). It defines a child as any person under the age of 18 and includes in its definition of the worst forms of child labor "all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict."
Chad ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention on November 6, 2000.
The convention obliges the Chadian government to "take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of labour as a matter of urgency." Under the Convention, the government is required to take measures to prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor, remove them from these circumstances, and assist their rehabilitation and social reintegration. Recommendation 190 accompanying Convention No. 182 encourages states to make recruitment of children under the age of 18 a criminal offense.
ACCORD DE PAIX ENTRE LE GOUVERNEMENT DE LA REPUBLIQUE DU TCHAD ET LE FRONT UNI POUR LE CHANGEMENT DEMOCRATIQUE ( FUC ).PREAMBULE En rfrence aux dispositions pertinentes de la Charte des Nations Unies et des Traits de l'Union Africaine, de la CEN-SAD relatives au rglement des conflits par la voie pacifique ; Conscient de la ncessit du dialogue pour l'instauration d'une paix juste et durable sur l'ensemble du territoire national, conditions essentielles la reconstruction du pays et l'dification de la dmocratie ; Considrant la volont manifeste du Gouvernement de la Rpublique du TCHAD et le Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ) de privilgier le dialogue pour rsoudre les problmes du pays ; Rsolus consolider l'Etat de droit, la bonne gouvernance, ayant pour corollaire le progrs social, le plein exercice des liberts fondamentales sur la base de l'galit des citoyens; Rpondant la mdiation du frre Guide de la Rvolution d'El Fath, Haut Mdiateur de l'espace CEN SAD et en prsence des reprsentants des nations unies, de l'Union Africaine, de l'union Europenne ; Considrant la disponibilit permanente du FUC de rsoudre les problmes Tchadiens par un dialogue franc et sincre ; Convaincus par la dtermination de son Excellence Monsieur IDRISS DEBY ITNO, Prsident de la Rpublique du TCHAD de parachev] l'uvre de paix prne par le Gouvernement ; Le Gouvernement de la Rpublique du TCHAD et le Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ), conviennent de ce qui suit :ARTICLE 1 L'abstention de tout acte militaire ou tout autre forme de violence directe ou indirecte et l'arrt de toutes campagnes mdiatiques entre les deux (2) parties.ARTICLE 2 La libration des prisonniers des deux (2) parties et la proclamation de l'Amnistie gnrale l'endroit des militaires et sympathisants du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ).ARTICLE 3 Le stationnement des forces du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ) dans un endroit convenir entre les deux parties en attendant leur intgration dans les rangs des forces de dfenses et de scurit.ARTICLE 4 La participation du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique (FUC) la gestion des affaires de l'Etat dans un esprit de concertation et conformment aux dispositions de la Constitution.ARTICLE 5 La mise en place d'un programme urgent et prioritaire de : 1- Rinsertion, intgration et rhabilitation des combattants du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ) dans les rangs des forces de dfenses et de scurit et des formations paramilitaires conformment au statut militaire; 2 - Aide du gouvernement et de la communaut internationale au retour, la rinstallation et la rinsertion des populations dplaces cause du conflit; 3 - Cration des conditions pour l'intgration des combattants du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ) dans les rangs des forces de dfenses et de scurit dans un dlai n'excdant pas trois (3) mois compter de la date de prise d'effet du prsent accord; 4 - Rhabilitation dans leurs droits des militaires radis et des fonctionnaires civils du Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique (FUC) dans leur cadre d'origine.ARTICLE 6 La mise en place d'une Commission paritaire (Gouvernement, FUC) de concertation et de suivi de l'application du prsent accord. Cette Commission peut faire appel toute personne qu'elle juge ncessaire dans l'accomplissement de sa mission.ARTICLE 7 Le prsent accord reste ouvert pendant une dure d'un (1) mois Mouvement Politico-Militaire alli du Front Uni pour le changement Dmocratique ( FUC) encore en opposition.ARTICLE 8 Le Front Uni pour le Changement Dmocratique ( FUC ) renonce la lutte arme comme forme d'expression.
ARTICLE 9 En cas de divergence dans l'application du prsent accord l'une ou l'autre des parties peut faire recours la mdiation.ARTICLE 10 Le prsent accord de paix sign en prsence des reprsentants de l'Union Africaine, de la CEN-SAD , de la Rpublique du Congo, de la Rpublique Centrafricaine, de l'Egypte , du Soudan, de l'Erythre ,du Burkina Faso entre en vigueur ds la date de sa signature. Fait Tripoli, le 24 Dcembre 2006 Pour la Rpublique du Tchad ADOUM YOUNOUSMI, Ministre d'Etat, Ministre des Infrastructures Pour le Front Uni pour le Changement DmocratiqueMAHAMAT NOUR ABDELKERIM, Prsident du FUC Pour la Grande Jamahirya Arabe Libyenne Populaire et SocialisteCHALGAM ABDERAHMAN