A report by the Danish Refugee Council, NRC has indicated that young boys, but also young girls, have joined non-state armed groups in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon since the crisis rocking the two regions started in 2016.
According to the report released in 2020 after a Focused Group Discussion with parents, caregivers, community members, adolescents and children from 7 different communities of the Fako Division, some these children join the groups in search of revenge for arrests, killings and harsh treatment of family members, some in search for livelihoods, while others have been abducted and forcibly recruited.
The report also highlighs children’s fascination towards NSAG’s habits and behaviours especially following prolonged lockdown periods such as the one imposed by NSAGs prior to elections in early February 2020.
DRC’s team observed children masking their faces with their clothes as a way to reproduce the clothing NSAGs wear, the frequent use of NSAG nicknames, such as “odeshi” (which designates the magical power that prevents bullets from penetrating the body) or “commander” among young children.
The report notes that the adoption of NSAGs’ habits and practices is developing as a means to seek revenge on the military, for arrests or violence used in the communities. The participants to the FGDs in the report underlined that some children experience dreadful treatment on behalf of the military, as they force men and women to undress before the children and then beat them up.
The trauma experienced by the children sometimes encourages them to join or cooperate with NSAGs the report regrets citing an instance in Fako where one orphaned boy who joined the NSAGs as he believed that the conditions with the NSAGs are better than the ones he is experiencing at the orphanage.