On Friday May 11 2007, a joint CONADER-World Bank delegation visited the Kwandroma transit site, 90 km north-east of Bunia in Ituri district, to assess the evolution of the disarmament process on the field.
Following the recent progress in the integration process of ex FNI militias of former Commander Peter Karim, now with the rank of Colonel in the FARDC, the MDRP partners (Multi Donors Reinstatement Programs) have just expressed interest in considering the possibility to resume the financing of demobilization and reinsertion phases.
After a series of meetings with different components of the Ituri Task Force, the delegation went to Kwandroma accompanied, among others, by General Mayala, FARDC Ituri Operations Commander, to meet 205 ex FNI presently under training in the transit site. They will be passing by the pre-brassage center of Rwampara (12 km south of Bunia) before flying to the brassage center of Lukusa, in Kisangani.
During the meeting with Colonel Peter Karim, the latter estimated about 1,000 the number of FNI militias still in the bush and affirmed that 280 among them are waiting to join the process. On the other hand, the delegation asked him to provide a list of FNI combatants and the weapons that are still in their possession.
As far as the issue of children in the armed forces is concerned, 1,571 have been disarmed and demobilized in the ranks of the FNI since July 2006. Similarly, 482 children have been disarmed and demobilized in the ranks of FRPI and 154 in the ranks of MRC since January 2007.
In total, more than 10,000 child soldiers have demobilized in Ituri since September 2004.
Hence, the 40% ratio of child soldiers in the Ituri armed groups, which is given as a reference figure, doesn't seem to fit with facts. In reality, the demobilization process shows that the rate is clearly higher. For example, concerning the FNI of Peter Karim, the official figures state 1,556 children demobilized out of the 2,357. This gives a percentage of about 66% of children recruited in their ranks. On the other hand, we can notice the impact of the Lubanga effect on the process insofar as children are now avoiding the disarmament points and heading off directly, by themselves, towards the different child protection partners' centers.
In addition, child protection partners in Ituri are currently facing a financial problem for their socioeconomic reinsertion programs. At present, children are identified and reunified with their families, while waiting for funds supervised by OCHA.
With regards to the fight against impunity, the Statute of Rome of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict clarify the legal framework. The Protocol ratified by the DRC strengthen this protection by raising to 18 years the minimum age for voluntary recruitment in the national armed forces (art.3) - it was 15 years in the Convention for the rights of Child - extending this legal obligation also to armed groups.
Therefore, the government has to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices."
With reference to the International Humanitarian Law, the DRC ratified the four Geneva Conventions and the two 1977 Optional Protocols as well as the Statute of Rome of the ICC. As to the latter, the recruitment of children of less than 15 years old in an international or internal armed conflict constitutes a war crime, and therefore imprescriptible, whether for the recruitment in the national armed forces or in the armed groups.