By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – According to the charity, Save the Children, the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has resulted in an increase in child abductions by rebel groups. While the conflict has forced about 800,000 people from their homes, only about 800 children have been freed from armed militias during 2007.
The Congolese director for Save the Children, Hussein Mursal, has described the situation for children and teenagers in eastern DRC to be “catastrophic.” Militant groups have been forcibly capturing children as young as age ten to fight in the front lines. The UN claims “that rape, pillage (and) the recruitment of child soldiers are practiced by all Nord-Kivu fighters.”
Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for MONUC, the UN mission to DRC said “Our latest information shows 200 pupils were forcibly recruited on December 17, with school materials and ID cards being burnt.”
General Nkunda has reported that he is not interested in using child soldiers to fight against Rwandan Hutu rebels who threaten the DR Congo’s Tutsi population. Nevertheless, reports show that Nkunda’s men have been responsible for taking children from Tongo.
Presently, Nkunda has called for a ceasefire in an attempt to undertake internationally sponsored peace negotiations in Goma that will take place on January 6, 2008. Currently, 20,000 government soldiers with the help of United Nations forces are fighting 4,000 Nkunda loyalists.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Child Kidnap Surge in DR Congo – 24 December 2007
BBC – DR Congo: Voices of Violence – 17 October 2007
VOA – DRC Rebel Leader Calls for Ceasefire – 26 December 2007
AFP – UN slams Congolese rebel child soldier recruitment – 26 December 2007