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article imageIs Seleka using child soldiers in Central African Republic?

By Thomas Haeflin     Apr 1, 2013 in World
Bangui - Alleged use of child soldiers by rebel coalition Seleka in Central African Republic is making the headlines as South African soldiers are reporting what they witnessed in Bangui.
A few days after the coup that occurred in Central African Republic, South African soldiers who were part of an international peace-keeping mission who survived the attacks from the Seleka rebels claimed that child soldiers were taking part in the conflict. After identifying the corpses of dead rebels, many of them seemed to be underage.Early reports from the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) warned about the presence of children in the conflict. UNICEF estimates that even before the latest crisis, some 2500 children were part of armed groups in the country. In the clashes opposing Seleka rebels, who overthrew president Bozize, during the battle for capital Bangui saw the death of 13 South African soldiers. According to French agency AFP, approximately 200 South African soldiers fought against some 3000 rebels during the battle for the Central African Republic capital that lasted several hours. The South African National Defence Force refused to comment on allegations that child rebel soldiers engaged its troops in Bangui. According to defence spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga “What we were informed is the SANDF were attacked by advancing groups of rebels…and they opened fire on our soldiers and our soldiers returned fire in self-defence”.
The Seleka rebel movement began its advance on the capital in December before agreeing to peace talks with the president Francois Bozize. The deal signed allowed Bozize to finish his term in return for a number of concessions. The deal was broken when the rebel leader Michel Djotodia took over Bangui and appointed a new cabinet. Bozize flew to Cameroon where he is now in exile.
The African Union suspended Central African Republic and imposed sanctions on Seleka leaders. The new self appointed government which will hold power during the next three years will retain the opposition leader Nicolas Tiangaye as Prime Minister, while Djotodia takes the seat at the Minsitry of Defense.
Djotodia comes from a long history of military coup and political assassinations. His political mentor and ex- president Patasse was overthrown in 2003 by Bozize’s rebel forces at that time. Djotodia had soviet style training when he spent 10 years in the USSR, where he married and had two daughters.
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