Democratic Republic of Congo Report

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  • 8/13/2019 Democratic Republic of Congo Report

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    C H I L D S O L D I E R S G L O B A L R E P O R T 2 0 0 8

    CONGO, Democrati c

    Republic of the

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Population:57.5 million (31.0 million under 18)Government armed forces:51,000Compulsory recruitment age:no conscriptionVoluntary recruitment age:18Voting age: 18Optional Protocol:ratified 11 November 2001Other treaties ratified (see glossary):CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

    An estimated 7,000 child soldiers

    remained in government forces and armed

    groups, including foreign armed groupsmostly to be found in the eastern provinces

    of Equateur, Ituri, Katanga, North and

    South Kivu, and Maniema. They were

    used as combatants, porters, guards and

    sexual slaves. Children were recruited from

    refugee camps in Rwanda and used by

    armed groups in North Kivu.

    ContextNearly 5.5 million people were estimated to havedied in the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC) since the beginning of the armed conflict in1998.1Exploitation of mineral and other economicresources fuelled the conflict, which wascharacterized by systematic human rights abusesand population displacement, particularly in theeast and north-east.Following an agreement in2002 a government of national unity took officein July 2003, composed of representatives ofthe former government, major armed groups,

    opposition political parties and civil society.

    2

    Priorities for the transition included restoringsecurity and the extension of state authoritythroughout the national territory, the creation of aunified national army and the demobilization andreintegration of combatants, including children.3The UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) maintaineda peacekeeping force of 16,000 troops across thecountry.4

    Delayed presidential and legislative electionswere held in July and October 2006. In DecemberPresident Joseph Kabila was inaugurated and

    became head of the DRCs first democraticallyelected government.5However, parts of thecountry remained under the control of differentarmed forces and groups, with some militarycommanders resisting army unification andoperating parallel chains of command. Tensionswere exacerbated by delayed and poorlymanaged army unification, which left thousands

    of former combatants without reintegrationsupport.6

    Armed activity by foreign armed groupscontinued, causing insecurity, violence anddisplacement in the east. These groups includedthe Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberationof Rwanda (Forces dmocratiques pour lalibration du Rwanda (FDLR)), and the UgandanAllied Democratic Forces and National Army forthe Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU). A smallnumber of Ugandan Lords Resistance Armytroops were located in the remote Garamba Parkarea.7By late 2007 about 15,300 foreign fighters,primarily from the FDLR, had been repatriated.8However, regional relations continued to becharacterized by tension and mistrust. In 2004Rwanda threatened three times to renew militaryoperations in the DRC, citing the need to protectCongolese Tutsi and to counter the threat posedby the FDLR.9

    Hostilities continued in several areas,particularly Ituri, Katanga, and North and SouthKivu provinces, where ethnic tensions weremanipulated for political ends or control ofeconomic resources in politically or militarilystrategic areas.10Human rights abuses againstcivilians, including rape and murder, were widelycommitted by armed forces and groups involvedin hostilities. Those suspected of committingabuses continued to enjoy near-total impunity. Ahandful of military and armed-group leaders were

    arrested and prosecuted, but dozens of otherswere promoted to senior military or governmentpositions.11

    Children were recruited and used by allparties to the armed conflict for combat andsupport roles, and thousands of girls were usedas sexual slaves. An estimated 30,000 childrenwere awaiting demobilization from armedforces and other parties to the armed conflictat the end of 2003. Child recruitment by theformer Congolese army officially ended in 2003,although some children remained in individual

    units. National army unification and the nationaldisarmament, demobilization and reintegration(DDR) programs did not begin in earnestuntil 2005; some 30,000 children had beendemobilized by mid-2007.12Thousands of others,including many girls, escaped, were abandonedor left the armed forces without being officiallydemobilized. From 2005 the UN reported anoverall reduction in child-soldier recruitment anduse by armed forces and groups a consequenceof a decrease in the number of active fightingzones, the progressive incorporation of armed

    groups into the national army and the associateddemobilization process for adults and children.13However, some 7,000 child soldiers remained inarmed groups and the Armed Forces of the DRC(Forces armes de la Rpublique dmocratiquedu Congo, FARDC). Active recruitment continuedin some areas in 2007, particularly in North Kivu.

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    Government

    National recruitment legislation andpracticeThe February 2006 constitution defined a childas any person below the age of 18. All forms of

    exploitation of children were punishable by thelaw (Article 41), and public authorities were underobligation to protect young people from threatsto their health, education and development(Article 42). The organization of military orparamilitary formations, private militias or youtharmies was prohibited (Article 190).

    The 2004 Defence and Armed Forces Lawprohibited the individual requisition of one ormore children below the age of 18 in the event ofa mobilization (Article 10) and the maintenanceof a youth army or youth subversive group

    (Article 41). Responsibility for child-soldierdemobilization was held by the Minister ofNational Defence, Demobilization and FormerCombatants (Article 25).14A previous decree-law,of 9 June 2000, ordered the demobilization ofchildren below the age of 18 from armed forcesand groups. A May 2005 circular issued by themilitary prosecutor instructed regional and localmilitary prosecutors to initiate proceedingsagainst all those accused of child recruitmentor use in military operations. The same circularinstructed military prosecutors to refer illegally

    recruited children accused of crimes to acompetent civilian court, or to the official DDRprogram for demobilization.15

    A comprehensive Child Protection Code wasawaiting approval by parliament in October 2007.The code prohibited the forced recruitment ofchildren or their use in armed conflict (Article50a), as well as the enlistment or use ofchildren in the national armed forces, the policeand armed groups (Article 73). Prison termsof between ten and 20 years were specifiedfor these offences (Article 193). The code

    criminalized rape, (Article 175) and sexual slavery(Article 189), with prison terms of 725 and1025 years respectively. A wide range of otheracts of sexual violence and exploitation werecriminalized by the code.16

    Child recruitment and deploymentChildren remained in FARDC units which hadcompleted the army unification program (knownas integrated units) and in those awaitingunification (non-integrated units). In mid-2006more than 26 cases of child recruitment and

    other violations by FARDC were brought to theattention of FARDC chief of staff by MONUC.Children were seen in FARDC brigades inKasai Occidental, Katanga and South Kivu.17FARDC troops undergoing redeployment inIturi and the Kivus abducted children to carryequipment and belongings.18In mid-2007

    local sources reported seeing children used asguards and wives in integrated and non-integrated units in the Fizi area, South Kivu.Children interviewed complained of lack of foodand harsh conditions.19Some child soldierswere abandoned by commanders en route tounification centres in several locations, includingSouth Kivu and Katanga, possibly for fear ofprosecution.20Children captured from armedgroups were detained by FARDC members inorder to gather information on armed groupsor to extort money from family members. Somehad been beaten while in detention. Former childsoldiers faced intimidation and harassment byFARDC members, including non-respect for theirofficial demobilization certificates.21

    Armed groups

    Child recruitment in armed units loyalto Laurent NkundaChild soldiers were actively recruited and usedin hostilities by FARDC brigades and other armedunits loyal to Laurent Nkunda, predominantlyin North Kivu. Recruitment intensified in late2006 and continued throughout 2007. Nkunda,a former military officer of the armed wing of theRwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy(Rassemblement Congolais pour la Dmocratie-Goma, RCD-Goma), remained hostile to the

    army unification process and exerted controlover troops and territory. Troops loyal to Nkundaclashed with the FARDC in Bukavu in 2004 andin Sake in August and November 2006, afterNkunda mobilized his troops, ostensibly toconfront threats posed by the FDLR.22An arrestwarrant for Nkunda, widely accused of humanrights abuses, was issued by the government inSeptember 2005, but he remained at large as ofOctober 2007.

    In January 2007 some armed units loyal toNkunda agreed to enter the FARDC following

    Rwanda-facilitated talks under an informallyagreed process known as mixage, underwhich Nkunda-affiliated troops combined withgovernment forces into five mixed brigadeswhich remained in North Kivu. In practiceNkunda retained command over the newlyformed FARDC units and his own troops, andcontrolled parts of North Kivu. Troops loyalto Nkunda were deployed to fight against theFDLR and Mai Mai militias,23especially in Masisiand Rutshuru, throughout 2007, contributingto rising insecurity, ethnic tension and human

    rights abuses in the province.24

    In July 2006Alphonse Batibwira, a non-governmentalorganization (NGO) staff member, was killedwhile trying negotiate the release of childsoldiers. A member of the non-integrated 81stbrigade, loyal to Nkunda, was accused of thekilling. 25Commanders of mixed brigades deniedthe presence of children, obstructed access to

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    camps and threatened child-protection workersthroughout 2007.

    Some 300 to 500 children, some as youngas 13, were reportedly serving in newly formedmixed brigades in North Kivu in April 2007,and were deployed to fight against Mai-Mai andthe FDLR.26Forcible recruitment was reported inNgungu and Rutshuru (North Kivu) in July, andchildren were being hidden by troops loyal toNkunda in these and other zones in violation ofMilitary HQ Commands orders. Children weretold to lie about their age (to state that theywere adults) and those who managed to escapereturned to their villages, where they remainedat risk of re-recruitment.27MONUC reported inOctober that around 200 children remained in theFARDC units loyal to Nkunda, particularly amongNorth Kivu brigades.28

    An upsurge in child recruitment from refugeecamps and communities in Rwanda occurred fromJanuary 2007.29Children said they were offeredmoney and employment if they returned to NorthKivu, but on arrival were recruited into mixedbrigades loyal to Nkunda.30Rwandan authoritiescarried out a joint assessment with officials fromthe UN refugee agency UNHCR in May. Theyvisited refugee camps to establish mechanismsfor improved child protection, including improvedcontrol over the exit of children from thecamps.31The Rwanda government initiated aninvestigation into the alleged removal of eight

    children from Kiziba camp in July, for deploymentin South Kivu.32Some Rwandan child soldiersrepatriated to Rwanda were reportedly arrestedand beaten by the authorities.33

    Armed groups in IturiNumerous armed groups, often formed alongethnic lines, continued to operate in Ituri, anarea of considerable natural wealth. Tensionsbetween Hema and Lendu (pastoralist andagriculturalist respectively) and associatedcommunities, over land use, arms smuggling and

    other resources, persisted throughout 2004. Thegroups carried out killings, rape and abductionsof the civilian population, as well as burningproperty and looting.34All the groups recruitedand used children. Some groups signed an actof engagement with the government in May2004. They committed to joining the transitionalprocess and agreed to take part in a pilot DDRprogram initiated in September.35However,disarmament was repeatedly delayed ascommanders attempted to negotiate amnestiesand to secure senior FARDC posts.

    Several leaders of armed groups werearrested in March 2005 after nine UNpeacekeepers from Bangladesh were killed inthe Bunia area. They included Thomas Lubanga,head of the Union of Patriotic Congolese (Uniondes patriotes congolais, UPC/L), and GermainKatanga, head of the Ituri Patriotic Resistance

    Front (Front de rsistance patriotique en Ituri,FRPI).36The two were subsequently indicted byand handed over to the International CriminalCourt (ICC). From 2005 the FARDC and MONUCincreased their efforts to compel the groups todisarm and to protect the civilian population. TheCongolese Popular Armed Forces (Forces armespopulaires congolaises, FAPC) was completelydismantled in 2006 and hundreds of children,including numerous girls, joined the DDRprogram. Some children could have remainedwith remnants of the group, which crossed theborder into Uganda.37

    While militarily weakened, the FRPI and theNationalist and Integrationist Front (Front desnationalistes et intgrationnistes, FNI) continuedto operate, and in 2005 they attempted toconsolidate their remaining forces under a newalliance, the Congolese Revolutionary Movement(Mouvement rvolutionnaire congolais, MRC).38Children continued to be recruited and re-recruited by the FNI, led by Peter Karim Udagathroughout 2005. In July 2006 Karim agreedto disarm and enter the DDR program, and 87children were demobilized from his forces. By lateAugust the UN reported that the FNI was againrecruiting children, including by force.39Severaldozen children were released from these groupsor escaped during the first months of 2007, butsome FNI commanders actively obstructed therelease of children.40Local sources estimated

    that as of April 2007 several hundred childrenremained in these groups.41They includedchildren forced to remain unless amnestyconditions for disarmament were met by theauthorities.42

    Forces dmocratiques pour lalibration du Rwanda (FDLR)Rwandan armed groups opposed to the Rwandangovernment had been present in the easternDRC since shortly after the 1994 genocide, andthe Rwandan FDLR had been active in North and

    South Kivu from about 2004. While officiallyopposed to the Rwandan government, it primarilyengaged in criminal activities in the Kivus,including extortion and trading in minerals.43Reports persisted of Congolese governmentassistance in the form of weapons and militarysupport to the FDLR, and in early 2007 someFARDC brigades might have been assisted by theFDLR in f...

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