Five years after the civil war in Cote d‘Ivoire, the UN is urging political actors to give due attention to the needs of children. The continued sustenance of the culture of impunity for those who commit crimes against children that gained prominence during the rebellion is harmful to the growth and peace of the nation. In July 2005, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1612 to monitor the situation of children in a number of countries affected by conflict – including Côte d’Ivoire – and to impose sanctions on violators. Together with other UN agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, UNICEF established a viable Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) in the application of the resolution.
Out of the six violations covered in a recent UN report, rape and other sexual violence against children received prominent attention and is of particular concern. The report indicates that while sexual violence against children – particularly girls – is lower than during the fighting between 2002 and 2004, it still occurs “with alarming frequency.” Statistics indicate that from October 2006 to September 2007 there was an upsurge in rapes against children. However, the report acknowledges that significant progress has been made, both in dialogue with the parties to the conflict, and in the implementation of action plans to end the association of children with armed forces.
The report also indicated that while conflict-related deaths of children are declining, children continue to die “as a direct consequence of the environment of high insecurity and the breakdown of law and order and of institutions.” Many unresolved inter-community tensions, particularly in the west of the country, exacerbated by land disputes and differing political affiliations, also remain a major cause of concern. These tensions have resulted in the mass displacement of communities, including a large number of children. In response to international intervention, the government signed a peace accord in March 2007 in an effort to restore peace to the once stable West African nation. It is important to sustain this fragile peace if the effort to reduce the rising incidence of sexual crimes against children is to achieve the desired result.
The UN special representative for children in armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, confirmed during her recent visit to the commercial capital Abidjan, that the Ivorian government is committed to improving children’s conditions. Through the United Nations dialogue with the Government on the formation and possible establishment of a national commission for children affected by armed conflict, the government has committed to creating an inter-ministerial commission to ensure the protection of children.
But how far the national government is able to go in protecting the rights of children is yet to be felt when considering the current rate of sexual crimes against children. AFJN continues to be committed to addressing the plight of children affected by armed conflict in Africa.