On the third day of their DRC trip, the UN Security Council Working Group on children and armed forces headed by H.E Ms Sylvie Lucas from Luxemburg visited UNICEF partner CAJED transit centre which provides support to children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups in Goma, in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In CAJED, the working group met with children to better understand their experience and the trauma they had gone through prior to their arrival in the CAJED centre. Raphael*, one of them, was 14 years old when his life changed completely overnight. As a schoolboy in Bukavu, he decided to visit his home village in Walikale territory with a friend.
The night they arrived, armed men burst into the village and kidnapped them. “They made us carry their luggage into the forest, and told us that now we were soldiers and that we could not go back home,” the child narrated. “When my friend tried to escape, they shot him in the head. He died. ”
Thousands of children have been recruited by armed groups operating in the eastern DRC for the past 20 years. Since it began partnering with UNICEF in 2004, the CAJED centre has hosted over 7,737 children including 212 girls and has reunited 5,461 among them with their families, including 178 girls.
When the CAJED centre is warned that children have escaped or have been demobilized, a team of specialists welcome them in one of the 15 verification centres set up by UNICEF near the demobilization sites. Children are identified, their age determined to ensure that they are children and that they were indeed associated with an armed group. Then, they are welcomed in the CAJED centre where they are being taken care and re-gain a sense of normalcy.
Raphael stayed within the armed group until April 2014 when he snatched the opportunity of a group outing, to escape. He is now staying in CAJED centre with 54 other children awaiting to be reunified with his family.
Children like Raphael continue to suffer from reminiscences and consequences of the violence, killings and rape they witnessed, and are subject to trauma. “Some children don’t play with others, don’t mingle with others. Social workers speak to them, listen to them actively to better understand their sufferings” said Gilbert Munda, coordinator of CAJED. “Such children are also followed through psycho-social activities to help them overcome their despair.”
The UN Security Council working group also visited other children placed in host families with support from PAMI, a UNICEF partner since 2006 who supports the implementation of the national plan on demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, by providing a pool of foster families. PAMI works with CAJED in the framework of a Consortium to support the children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups below 12 years old and ease their family reunification.
On the fourth day of their DRC trip, the delegation visited Kyeshero Hospital where UNICEF partners with Hope In Action since 2012 to develop emergency response in areas most affected by conflict-related sexual violence and where response remained limited. Through this partnership, UNICEF has become Kyeshero’s primary provider of PEP kits and medicines to address the life-threatening consequences of sexual violence, as well as capacity-building to Kyeshero health workers.
Hope in Action and Kyeshero hospital provided assistance to more than 2500 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, 25% of them children. Hope In Action has been one of the front-line SGBV actors in the territories of Walikale, Masisi and Nyiragongo (including Goma) and Beni.
In order to strengthen advocacy against recruitment of children in armed forces and armed groups and against sexual violence, HE Ms Sylvie Lucas met with General Lombe of the 8th FARDC Military Region in Goma. General Lombe reiterated efforts made by FARDC and the DRC Government to eliminate child recruitment and prosecute perpetrators of rape in their ranks. Ms Lucas reaffirmed the necessity for the FARDC to step up efforts to fight impunity, and ban recruitment of children in the upcoming army recruitment’s campaign. She also symbolically gave to General Lombe a #CHILDRENnotSoldiers pin to back up the campaign launched last year by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and UNICEF in many countries including DRC.
Ms Lucas, officially recalled how important it was to :
“ensure these children sustainable reintegration, including through budgeting of adequate resources by the Government of the DRC.”
*Raphael is an alias. The real name of this child was not used to protect him from reprisals.
Find out in images all the work of the CAJED centre who welcome the children formerly associated with armed forces and armes groups:
Traduit de l’anglais par Charlotte Gout.
Orginial article posted on DECEMBER 4, 2014 by NDIAGA SECK can be found here:
Ndiaga Seck est le Spécialiste en Communication de l’UNICEF à l’Est de la RDC. Il a une spécialisation en Études Humaines et Sociales, en Éducation et en Journalisme. Pendant les huit dernières années, il a travaillé pour IRIN et OCHA en Afrique de l’Ouest, OCHA et UNICEF en RDC. Son credo : « Un monde digne des enfants est à portée de main. Saisissons-le ! »
Ndiaga Seck is a UNICEF Communications Specialist in Eastern DRC. He specializes in human and social studies, education and journalism. For the past eight years, he has worked with IRIN, OCHA, in West Africa. His leitmotiv: “A World fit for children is within reach. Let’s grab it!”