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Children of the Front

A rehabilitation center that helps child soldiers erase war memories and rejoin society

In 2012 a civil war broke out in the Central African Republic. The bloody conflict between the Muslim ‘Seleka’ and Christian ‘Anti-balaka’ militias lead to heavy casualties among civilians. The indiscriminate killing of both Christian and Muslim populations resulted in thousands of orphans and lost children being recruited by the armed groups. The children were turned into reluctant soldiers, taught to kill and regularly drugged. Not only did they witness horrific war crimes, many were forced to kill.

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In May 2015, the warring parties agreed to a ceasefire and the demobilisation of child soldiers began. UNICEF and the Red Cross have undertaken the delicate and extremely challenging job of taking children from the war lords and reuniting them with their families. However, traumatised by war, these children might pose danger to their relatives. 

Before going home they need to be ‘deprogrammed’ in specially set up rehabilitation centres. They are given psychological help and even attend school, in many cases for the first time in their lives. They can also learn various crafts and skills to aid their socialisation and provide them with a living back in the real world.

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Meanwhile, families too need to be prepared for the return of estranged children changed by war. RT Doc meets child soldiers after the war, trying to reclaim their childhood and return to a normal life. We talk to social workers who help them relearn how to live in society and meet the commanders who gave the children drugs and sent them into battle.