A joint MONUC - Congolese National Police (PNC) campaign for child protection in the DRC, in partnership with UNICEF and the DRC Ministry of the Interior, was launched this Thursday 14 June 2007 at MONUC headquarters in Kinshasa, aimed at aiding the lives of more than 14,000 children living on Kinshasa's streets.
The campaign will run until November 20, 2007, when the campaign partners will meet to assess the achievements and progress made in relation to this important issue, which is paramount to the future success of the DRC.
In his opening address, UN Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary General in the DRC Ross Mountain said that every day one hears of the problem of street children and the law in Kinshasa.
"UNICEF did a census which estimated that there are more than 14,000 children living on the streets of Kinshasa, with many open to violence and abuse on a daily basis. They count on the PNC to protect them, which is the reason why this initiative was launched."
"The objective of the campaign is to underline the important role of child protection and to have well trained and informed police who will respect the rights of minors, and promote the message of child protection," he added.
The campaign also aims, in conjunction with UNICEF, the PNC, as well as MONUC police and MONUC's Child Protection Division, to instill a code of good practice within the PNC in relation to child protection as well as reinforcing their capacities and sensitizing the public on the importance of child protection within society.
Spokesman for the DRC Ministry of the Interior Col. Kabengele explained that the DRC government is committed to working in partnership so that this problem can be addressed.
"50% of the DRC population are children, and it's critical that they be protected. We have set up technical groups to examine the problem, comprising of representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Youth and Social services, and specialised child protection units within the PNC are planned," he said.
Tony Bloomberg from UNICEF said the situation of children vis à vis the law in the DRC was a concern for them, with up to 10 children being held in police cells every day.
"The key actors with regard to child protection are the PNC, children's courts and social welfare services. The first step in this process will be a new code of protection for children, which will be legislated in July," he said.
"Up to 60% of children living on the streets of Kinshasa alone are thrown onto the streets with impunity by their parents, accused of sorcery and witchcraft. Poverty is no excuse for the violence done against these children, and a protective environment needs to be set up for children so that they can be protected," he underlined.
MONUC Police Commissioner Daniel Cure said that what was needed was a police force in the DRC that works closely with the population and responds to their needs.
"A necessary partnership with civil society is needed which give a collective awareness among all of the importance of child protection, in the family, schools, the PNC and DRC society in general.
The campaign will officially start on Saturday June 16, which is African Child Day.