New York- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, is deeply concerned at the findings of the report released today by MONUSCO (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo), indicating that child recruitment by armed groups is systemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“All of us involved in the protection of children must ensure that everyone understands that recruiting children is not only unacceptable, it is against the law,” said Leila Zerrougui. “While the DRC authorities have made significant progress to protect children affected by armed conflict, it is crucial that they step up their efforts to ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable.
The report states that the recruitment of children by armed groups in DRC remains endemic in the eastern part of the country. Between January 2012 and August 2013, MONUSCO documented and verified close to 1,000 cases of underage recruitment by more than 25 armed groups. Half of the cases were attributed to 3 groups: Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Nyatura and Mouvement du 23 mars (M23). Evidence gathered by MONUSCO indicates that about a third of all documented cases involve children under the age of 15, with some children ten years old or younger.
Grave child rights violations and reintegration of children in their communities
In the majority of cases, children were recruited by force or abducted to join armed groups. They were used as combatants or in support functions such as cooks, porters, guards, spies or sex slaves. Many girls were raped or victims of sexual violence. The report also highlighted how children reintegrated in their communities were often stigmatized and persecuted, which often leads to re-recruitment.
Ms. Zerrougui welcomed the report’s recommendations and called on the Government, the international community, donors, and all actors involved in the protection of children to reexamine reintegration programmes.
“We must ensure that children separated from armed groups or armed forces receive adequate support to restart their lives in a safe environment, protected from re-recruitment and have access to the opportunities that will help them lead productive lives,” said the Special Representative.
Integration of former combatants into FARDC
The report mentions that members of Nyatura groups – known to have recruited children in eastern DRC – have surrendered to the Forces Armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), and in some cases integrated in the national army’s ranks. Without the establishment of a vetting mechanism, as part of the broader reform of the security sector, perpetrators of grave violations against children are being integrated in the national security forces without accountability.
“I am pleased by today’s announcement by the Government of DRC that they are taking measures to prevent the integration of child rights violators into the ranks of their army. There has been steady progress in the implementation of the action plan signed last year by the Government with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment of children as well as sexual violence. It is now essential for the Government to sustain its efforts and fully implement the action plan,” said Leila Zerrougui.
The Special Representative added that protecting children should be at the heart of all peace and reconciliation efforts in the country. She reiterated her full support to the Government and called on the international community to ensure that sufficient resources are available to develop and maintain effective reintegration programmes and ensure a successful implementation of the action plan.
For additional information, contact:
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Office: +1 212 963 8285
Mobile: +1 917 288 5791