New York- The recruitment and use of children by armed groups remained endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2010 and 2013. Children were severely affected by several waves of conflict, especially in the country’s eastern provinces. They were killed, maimed, victims of sexual violence and abducted by all parties involved in the conflict. Hundreds of schools and hospitals were attacked or used for military purposes.
These are the main conclusions of the 5th report of the Secretary-General on the situation of children affected by armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo presented today by the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict.
“The chronic instability in eastern DRC, the multiplicity of armed groups and the weakness of state authority have made children extremely vulnerable to all forms of conflict-related violence,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “Impunity has encouraged perpetrators to continue their violations against children.”
Close to 4,200 cases of recruitment and use of boys and girls by armed groups and the Government armed forces were documented by the United Nations. One third of the cases involved children below the age of 15. The report also documented over 900 cases of sexual violence against children committed by all parties to the conflict, while acknowledging that many more children are likely to have been victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
There is also progress to report. The Action Plan signed in 2012 by the Government of DR Congo to end the recruitment and use of children and sexual violence by the national army (Forces armées de la RDC) has led to the release of hundreds of children. Command orders were issued to protect children. Additional measures to end and prevent the recruitment, such as age verification mechanisms, continue to be put in place and need to be strengthened throughout the country.
Last March, the Government endorsed the campaign Children, Not Soldiers and committed to making its army child-free by 2016.
“The Government has demonstrated that progress is possible,” said Leila Zerrougui. “The success of the action plan is essential. Non-state actors will not give up the recruitment and use of children as long as the country’s army continues to be on the Secretary-General’s list of child recruiters.”
The Special Representative added that fighting impunity is crucial to protect the country’s children. Investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators of grave violations against children have happened but they have to become systematic.
Ms. Zerrougui calls on the international community to keep supporting the Congolese authorities to make a lasting difference in children’s lives.
For additional information, please contact:
Communications officer, Office of the Special Representative
for Children and Armed Conflict
+1 917 288 5791