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13,000 Former Child Soldiers Pin Hopes On Brussels Conference

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A former child soldier in Central African RepublicWorld Vision

A Christian charity is urging global leaders to secure the future of thousands of children forced to take up arms on behalf of militia in the Central Africa Republic (CAR).

Government leaders, European Union representatives, NGOs and donors will meet in Brussels tomorrow to discuss reconstruction in CAR.

Development agency World Vision is calling for commitments to help restore peace and security and revive CAR's economy.

Moussa Sangara, World Vision CAR's response director, said: "Violence has scarred a generation of children. They have witnessed and committed crimes that no child should be exposed to.

"This conference is pivotal to the future of children and their families in CAR. We need leaders to commit to social and economic action that will bring about real change. And we need children, communities and faith leaders to be a part of this as, ultimately, they will be the ones who can make peace a reality".

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He added: "The former child soldiers I work with are desperate for an end to the violence. Over 1400 former child soldiers in our 'Peace Clubs' have turned their lives around. They've rejected violence in favor of peace, and they are telling their friends and families to do the same."

Conflict erupted in Central African Republic in 2013, when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power triggering revenge attacks by Christian militias. More than 13,000 children have been conscripted by various militia since then.

World Vision cited the example of Francis* who was recruited into one of the several militia groups. Francis said: "I joined the militia after my brother was killed. I didn't want his death to go unpunished."

At the age of 13 he joined a local armed group, and by 14 he had used a knife to kill four children and one adult. He was eventually able to escape and received counseling and educational support from World Vision.

Original Article

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