Rescuing child soldiers is the goal of a child protection officer with the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF). Benoit Daoundo, speaks out about his work…
“Nothing could have prepared me for my role as a child protection officer in Central African Republic. My home country, Benin, has never been at war and I had never seen children associated with armed groups before. But working with kids had always been my dream. Back home I trained as a social worker and worked with vulnerable children in Benin and local and international NGOs before joining UNICEF. My family were concerned for me, and a few weeks after I arrived in Central African Republic, violence erupted.
He explained that in the beginning (June 2014) the workers who were rescuing child soldiers could not live in town. It was too dangerous. They actually lived in their offices.
He explained that it all started with a very scary meeting. He had been asked to come to the “general’s office, the one in charge of the anti-balaka or anti-militia groups. He was to arrive at dawn with a local worker in order to discuss the fate of the children. Benoit sat outside in the bush for a while…but then realized that an large group had started to surround them. Soon there were hundreds of soldiers wearing uniforms, motionless. Many were children carrying weapons. He continued…
I asked the commander what was happening and he replied that it was for my safety…
I explained how important it was for us to educate people about the negative impacts of having children in armed groups. In short, I talked a lot before he understood this, insisted that I wasn’t going to be harmed and realised I hadn’t come to carry out investigations for the International Criminal Court. The most rewarding part of my job is probably when I check on the children that have been released from armed groups. Those children have been through hell, they have seen or done things that no human being should ever have to witness – so reintegrating them into a normal life is always a challenge.
How can these children possible return to a normal life after being forced to kill the enemy? But according to this article, there are success stories. Benoit recalls seeing the boys return to school and his sense of pride when an older one starts a business.
To read the entire article about rescuing child soldiers and their release, click on the link below.
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