International Response

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).78 

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 Police School 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.79 

On May 9, 2007, UNICEF and the government of Chad signed an agreement for the demobilization of child soldiers in Chad.80 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.81 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 Abéché managed by UNICEF’s partner Jesuit Refugee Service.82 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 Abéché 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. 83

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, Guéréda 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.84

A humanitarian aid worker who is familiar with the child soldiers at the Koundoul Transit Center questioned the wisdom of quartering demobilized child soldiers in or near major population centers such as Abéché 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 Abéché as soon as they get there.”85

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, 1998.86 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 Opération Epervier, a 1976 French deployment to protect Chad from Libyan aggression.87 France has been a crucial military support for the Chadian government, providing the ANT with military intelligence, logistical assistance, medical services, and even ammunition.88 In April 2006 a French F-1 Mirage jet fighter fired warning shots at an advancing rebel column.89 

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.90 France’s then-Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie wrote a letter to President Déby on the issue of child soldiers, which Déby reportedly ignored.91 French officials subsequently threatened to withdraw France’s military forces from Chad unless the Chadian government took concrete steps to demobilize child soldiers.92 Discrete but forceful French government pressure reportedly included personal interventions by French government officials at the highest level.93 

In spite of the threatened withdrawal, however, the French military has continued to provide steadfast support to the ANT.94

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.95

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.96 On February 15, 2007, the United States reached an agreement with Chad that opens the way for military transfers of surplus defense equipment to Chad97 and an amendment to the 2007 defense appropriations act called for the US Defense Department to expand Abéché airport in eastern Chad.98

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),99 which was later expanded into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI). Chadian troops received TSCTI training from US Special Forces instructors in 2006.100 In fiscal year 2007 Chad was projected to receive US$295,000 under the International Military Education and Training program.101 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.102

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.103

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.104 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.105 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.106 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.107 Chadian President Déby visited Khartoum in June, reportedly to discuss the deployment of joint border monitoring units.108

After a June 10 meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, President Déby softened his opposition to a UN military presence in Chad,109 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.110 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.111 On July 23, 2007 the EU Council of Ministers is scheduled to vote on a proposal for an EU deployment to eastern Chad.112

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.

78 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with UNICEF official, Chad, June 2007.

79 Confidential communication on file with Human Rights Watch.

80 See Annex II.

81 “Chad signs deal to demobilise child soldiers,” Reuters, May 9, 2007, (accessed May 14 2007). See also “Enfants soldats: le sujet n’est plus tabou,” Radio France Internationale.

82 UNICEF, “UNICEF External Situation Report Eastern Chad - 15-30 Jun 2007,” June 30, 2007, (accessed July 9, 2007).

83 The 413 FUC soldiers reported the following areas of origin: Goz Beida, Am Zoer, Guéréda, Fada, and N’Djamena. Human Rights Watch e-mail exchange with UNICEF official, N’Djamena, Chad, July 9 and 11, 2007.

84 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with UNICEF official, Chad, June 25, 2007; Human Rights Watch e-mail exchange with UNICEF official, July 11, 2007.

85 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, May 22, 2007.

86 This amendment reflects the stationing of French troops at the aerial base of chief sergeant Adjii Kossei.

87 Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Eric Fournier, French Marines and senior French representative at Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Washington DC, March 19, 2007.

88 “Foreign fingers,” Africa Confidential, vol. 47, no. 9, April 28, 2006, p. 5. On May 10, 2006, then-French Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie outlined the actions undertaken by the French forces during the crisis in Chad in a presentation to the parliamentary defense and foreign affairs committee. These included the transportation of government troops and the evacuation of wounded government forces, as well as the supply of munitions to the Chadian army.

89 Economist Intelligence Unit, "Chad Country Report," June 2006.

90 Human Rights Watch interviews with French military personnel, various locations, Chad, February 29 to April 2, 2007.

91 A copy of the letter was also sent to the United Nations in New York. Human Rights Watch interviews with confidential sources.

92 Human Rights Watch interviews with confidential sources, December 2006 through April 2007.

93 Human Rights Watch interviews with confidential sources, January to June 2007.

94 For example, on January 19, 2007, UN and NGO staff at Abéché airport witnessed the French military supplying Chad military helicopter gunships with fuel, while refusing to supply UN World Food Program and Air Serv International planes, leaving all humanitarian flights to eastern Chad suspended. Confidential communication on file with Human Rights Watch.

95 “The Paris Principles: Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups” (“The Paris Principles”), February 2007, (accessed June 6, 2007).

96 Human Rights Watch interviews with various US government officials, February to May 2007.

97  Under the agreement, the ICC will not be authorized to take legal action against US citizens on Chadian soil. “U.S., Chad move toward closer military ties,” Associated Press, February 15, 2007.

98 H.R. 1585, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” introduced March 20, 2007, (accessed June 5, 2007).

99 Other countries in this group include Mali, Niger, and Mauritania.

100 Training is conducted by US forces available to take part, so both US Marines and Special Forces have conducted the training. Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Eric Fournier, March 19, 2007.

101 United States Department of State, “FY 2008 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations (Revised),” May 2, 2007, (accessed June 30, 2007).

102 Center for Defense Information, “Chad Country Profile,” (accessed July 8, 2007).

103 United States Department of State, “FY 2008 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations (Revised).”

104 United Nations Security Council, “Statement by the President of the Security Council,” S/PRST/2007/2, January 16, 2007,  (accessed June 30, 2007); “Security Council requests dispatch of advance team to Chad, Central African Republic to explore possible United Nations mission in border areas,” United Nations press release, SC/8941, January 16, 2007, (accessed June 30, 2007).

105 Confidential communication on file with Human Rights Watch.

106 According to records examined by Human Rights Watch, a Libyan C-130 transport plane arrived in Abéché from Benghazi, Libya, on March 5 with a cargo of weapons and ammunition, and on March 16 another Libyan C-130 arrived from Benghazi with a cargo of weapons, ammunition, and 40-50 soldiers. According to a Chadian military source, the Libyan soldiers who arrived in March were tasked with conducting assessments in eastern Chad toward the deployment of a larger border force, and were deployed to Bahai, in northeastern Chad. According to Sudanese rebel sources, Eritrean soldiers had deployed a small advance mission to Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, by late February. By late April, 90 Eritrean soldiers had taken up positions outside of Abéché. Human Rights Watch interview with ANT colonel, confidential location, Chad, April 1, interviews with confidential sources, March and May, and confidential communication to Human Rights Watch, March 30, 2007.

107 “Sudan reiterates desire for good relations with neighboring countries,” Xinhua, June 8, 2007, (accessed June 29, 2007).

108 “Monthly Forecast July 2007,” Security Council Report, June 28, 2007, (accessed July 8, 2007).

109“Chad opens door to possible foreign military force,” Reuters, June 10, 2007, (accessed July 9, 2007).

110“France, others to propose force for eastern Chad,” Reuters, June 25, 2007, (accessed July 7, 2007).

111 “Monthly Forecast July 2007,” Security Council Report.

112 Confidential communication on file with Human Rights Watch, July 11, 2007.