Police repression of street children in Bangui, Central African Republic
A website run by a network of Human Rights journalists in Central African Republic has published a series of articles relating to our work in the capital Bangui. War Child supports a local partner NGO called Fondation Voix du Coeur (FVC) which operates a Drop-In centre for street children. These articles outline one of the current issues facing children on the streets of Bangui - namely the treatment they receive at the hands of the police.
UNICEF has committed to provide additional ‘mattresses’ and soap, and War Child will add bedding, cutlery and lights, food and medication to enable the FVC to continue to provide shelter to young street children, as well as to adolescent ones, who have sought refuge there in the last few weeks.
The articles are in French so we've provided a rough translation here:
10 May 2012
Since April, the street children are hounded by the police, in particular, the Central Office of Drug Enforcement (OCLAD) in Bangui, the RJDH found.
"I was arrested Friday, April 4th, I spent ten days in jail for the OCLAD. The Commissioner has informed us we were punished because of drug use, " said one victim.
Another testified that he was captured and locked up at night for two days to the section of research and investigation. "I was released through the intervention of acquaintances who have pleaded for me, but eight of my friends were immediately sent to Ngaragba prison," he said.
The department head of toxicology at the OCLAD, Commander Aristide Zongo, confirmed there are several departments forming an urban task-force, the FCIB. This is composed of the National Security (CNS), the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB) and OCLAD. This task force was set up to track young people taking drugs in the city.
"The network was set-up for a period of three months from the month of April 2012. Children under 18 are arrested and handed over to Department for Juvenile Justice (DSPJ). Those over 18 are brought to the Ngaragba jail," said the commander Aristide Zongo. He said that since April, the OCLAD had despatched a hundred street children over 18 to Ngaragba jail.
The Director of FVC, Father Angel Anatole Ngassélémo, deplored the imprisonment of minors. "We regret the arrest of these children, especially their treatment in jails. These children may suffer psychological trauma and physical harm" he said.
12 May 2012
The communications officer of Fondation Les Enfants d’Abord (Children First) (an association to protect the rights of the children), Armand Zémoungou Ketté Cyrus, said he was outraged at the treatment that afflicted street children, rounded up by police and kept in police stations.
"Being a street kid does not mean necessarily be a robber. We must investigate why these children are in the street and try to help them instead bullying them" noted Cyrus Armand Zémoungou Ketté. He condemned the multiple forms of violence targeted against street children who have for some time, been victims in the city of Bangui. This is due to targeted police patrols.
He noted that at the executive level of the special judicial police where juveniles are held, there is no place reserved for children. "They share cells with adults, in violation of laws on the protection of the child. "
A joint unit of the police has been created since April to hunt down street children. The Service of Toxicology of the Central African Office drug enforcement has indicated that this initiative was taken to deter young people who use drugs and create a feeling of insecurity in the city.
15 May 2012
The number of street children who go to Fondation Voix du Coeur in Bangui has increased significantly since April, due to the conduct of the police, found the RJDH.
"Fondation Voix du Coeur has a capacity of 60, but with the prevalent situation, the centre currently houses 73 children. Each day the number is increasing," said the Director of this NGO, Father Ange Anatole Ngassélémo.
"Before the crisis period, the street children over 15 years, stayed until the afternoon, to make use of the centre’s activities. But for now, they spend all their time and sleep here, " he said.
Because of the police repression, more street children, often scattered across the city of Bangui, and conducting some small income generating activities for survival, are finding refuge at the foundation. "With the pressure from police, the only solution for me was to go back to the foundation," a 17 year old boy I met in the courtyard of that foundation.
Father Ange Anatole Ngassélémo noted that following the increase in the number of street children, he received a few mats from UNICEF to help adding material to the dormitories. In addition, the Foundation is facing a funding problem. The centre’s budget has increased and there is a lack of medicines," said the director before appealing to the government for putting sufficient child protection structures to reflect this situation.
It should be noted that since April, a joint police unit was set up by the government to track down street children.