A child soldier rescued from a rebel militia group in the Central African Republic by Unicef before being forcibly re-recruited has been stoned to death by a mob, it has emerged.
The boy, aged 17, and a second child soldier who had since turned 19 were ordered to steal a car in the country’s capital, Bangui, by their local commander when they were cornered by an angry crowd.
Both had been among 64 child soldiers evacuated to the capital by Unicef when the Seleka rebel coalition led by Michael Djotodia began its uprising at the end of the last year. The rebels seized control of Bangui in March, toppling the government of Francois Bozize.
The remaining children saved by the charity are now in a series of secret locations across the capital where they are being supported with funds donated by Independent readers in our Christmas Campaign.
“It’s an absolute tragedy,” said a Unicef spokesman. “But it does reinforce the vital need for us to continue working in a country as fragile as this to protect as many children as we can from the horrors of warfare.”
Child soldiers were used in some of the heaviest fighting in the battle for the capital, including when South African troops were attacked at the end of March. Even before the recent rebellion, Unicef warned there were more than 2000 child soldiers in CAR and it is now believed many more have been recruited.
News of the two deaths, which occurred in April, came as a human rights group released new evidence showing how elements of Seleka, a grouping of five rebel movements, went on the rampage after toppling the previous government, raping women, executing opponents and looting homes.
Human Rights Watch said fighters had rounded up men suspected of belonging to Bozize’s forces, many of whom were later executed, and killed civilians who attempted to stop their homes being looted.
“My wife approached the door but they kicked it down and shot her,” one witness told the charity. “[Our] baby was in her arms and she was hit in the head. My wife was then hit in the head and chest.” A priest was also reportedly among those murdered.
The International Criminal Court has warned it will take action against any individual found responsible of committing war crimes during the country’s recent rebellion. The new government has blamed the continued violence on militias loyal to ousted President Bozize and on fighters who are not part of Saleka.