Congo-Kinshasa: children continue to
be ravaged by armed conflict despite signs of progress
Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
continue to endure some of the most inhumane treatment found anywhere in
the world, despite outward signs of progress, according to a new report
by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. The report, Struggling
to Survive: Children in Armed Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, documents dozens of continued, pervasive and egregious violations
against children by all armed forces and groups operating in DRC and
urges that immediate actions be taken to protect Congolese children and
to hold the perpetrators of crimes against children accountable.
"Despite the presence of the United Nations' largest peacekeeping
operation, the promise of upcoming elections and billions of dollars
granted by donors for post-conflict reconstruction in DRC, most
Congolese children are not faring any better than they were three years
ago – and for some children, health, safety and well-being have
drastically deteriorated," said Julia Freedson, Director of Watchlist, a
global network of non-governmental organizations based in New York.
Struggling to Survive details heinous violations
against children's security and rights in each of the six major
categories identified by the United Nations Security Council. These
categories include killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms
of sexual violence against children, abduction of children, denial of
humanitarian assistance for children, attacks on schools and hospitals
and recruitment and use of children into armed forces and groups. In
addition, the report documents a multitude of other abuses, including
forced displacement of children, coercion of children into the illegal
exploitation of natural resources and arbitrary detention of children.
Violations against children are committed against a
backdrop of outward progress towards reconstruction in DRC, such as the
demobilization of thousands of children from armed forces and groups,
the significant decrease in the number of displaced people in some
areas, serious efforts to confront sexual violence and exploitation and
the integration of combatants from armed groups into a unified national
army. Another recent positive step taken was the International Criminal
Court's arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Union des Patriotes
Congolais on charges of enlisting, conscripting and using children in
hostilities in DRC.
"Outward signs of progress should not lull the
international community into a false sense that children in DRC now live
in safety," warned Kathleen Hunt, CARE International's UN Representative
and Chairperson of the Watchlist. "To the contrary, stark evidence of
the ongoing rape and mutilation of girls, recruitment and use of
children by armed groups and other despicable abuses against children
continues to be well-documented. In addition, it's widely known that
thousands of Congolese children are dying of preventable diseases every
day and others are missing out on educational opportunities and other
possibilities for advancing their lives."
"The Congolese governing authorities, the UN team and
others have yet to implement an effective structure of child protection
in DRC. A wide gap remains between commitments to protect children in
theory and actual practices on the ground. The widespread trafficking of
small arms, difficulties in the disarmament and demobilization process,
and the persistence of general insecurity in the eastern DRC will
continue to contribute in the weak structure for protection of children
for the foreseeable future," said Beck - Bukeni T. Waruzi, Director of
Ajedi-Ka /Child Soldiers Project, a local child protection agency
operating in eastern DRC.
"Immediate and sustained actions must be taken
immediately by the governing authorities of DRC, all armed groups
operating in DRC, the UN Security Council, the United Nations
Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC),
the humanitarian community in DRC, donors and the International Criminal
Court to protect Congolese children from further violations and to find
remedies for those who have already endured imponderable suffering,"
Hunt added. Watchlist's report is being released today at events in
Kinshasa, DRC and at the UN headquarters in New York. A copy of the
report is available at www.watchlist.org. Interviews with experts on
children in DRC can be arranged available.
Click here to read the full report.
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict April 26,