Some child soldiers recruited during the civil war remained within the Angolan armed forces (FAA), although many will have reached the age of majority. Some under-age soldiers may remain in the FAA.25
Demobilization and child protection programs
In March 2003 the Angolan government, UNICEF and civil society partners reaffirmed their policy on former child soldiers.26 The Ministry of Assistance and Social Reinsertion formalized its commitment to intensify efforts in birth registration, family tracing and reunification, education and training. The policy specifically addressed the needs of children in the former opposition reception areas and newly accessible areas. It intended to assist former child soldiers through access to identity and citizenship, family reunification, education and vocation opportunities. UNICEF stated that healing psychosocial wounds of former child soldiers and reuniting them with their families was
important for Angola’s long-term recovery.27 According to UNICEF, by July 2003 the last of the children demobilized from the FAA would have returned to their families.28 Under an International Committee of the Red Cross program to reunite families—particularly children pressed into service by the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) including child soldiers—some 225 children had been reunited with their families by the end of 2002 and another 750 were scheduled to be reunited by June 2003.29 As many as 11,000 children were involved in the last years of fighting.30
Women and girls taken as “wives” by UNITA feared exclusion from government aid.31 One NGO working in Angola estimated that up to 30,000 female children were abducted during the war.32 The current disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program restricted assistance to UNITA soldiers, preventing “wives” and abducted women and girls from gaining access to it. Refugees International voiced concern over the possible negative reception these women and girls may face on return to their villages, since they were often used to cook, clean and carry supplies for soldiers.33 UNITA has also expressed concern about thousands of UNITA health professionals and teachers who have not yet received confirmation from the government that they would be integrated into the country’s health and education system.34
According to Human Rights Watch, existing demobilization and reintegration programs discriminated against child soldiers, many of whom carried out the same duties as adults during the conflict.35 While adult combatants received identification cards, resettlement kits and food assistance from the government, many child soldiers were excluded, receiving only an identification card and food aid. Specific programs are needed to address the needs of girls who were used as cooks, domestics, porters and sexual slaves.36
25 Information received from Human Rights Watch, 24 June 2003.
26 UNICEF, “New Phase in Action for Separated Children and Child Soldiers in Angola”, 7 March 2003.
27 UNICEF, “New Phase in Action for Separated Children and Child Soldiers in Angola”, 7 March 2003; IRIN, “Rehabilitation of child soldiers critical, UNICEF”, 10 March 2003.
28 Email communication to Human Rights Watch from Akhil Iyer, Senior Program Officer, UNICEF Angola, 27 June 2003.
29 US State Department Official, electronic communication, 12 February 2003 cited in the US Department of Labour’s 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 18 April 2003.
30 HRW, “Forgotten Fighters: Child Soldiers in Angola”, April 2003.
31 IRIN, “Angola: UNITA "wives" fear exclusion from government aid”, 10 March 2003.
32Christian Children’s Fund, “Peace in Angola Brings Critical Needs”, at www.christianchildrensfund.org/emergencies/Angola_peace.
33 IRIN, “Angola: UNITA "wives" fear exclusion from government aid”, 10 March 2003.
34 IRIN, “UNITA welcomes vocational training for ex-soldiers”, 31 March 2003.
35 HRW, “Forgotten Fighters: Child Soldiers in Angola”, April 2003.
36 HRW, “Forgotten Fighters: Child Soldiers in Angola”, April 2003.; IRIN, 29/04/2003