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Dem. Rep. of Congo: Prioritize child protection
June 20, 2013

Dem. Rep. of Congo: Prioritize child protection
Considering their precarious life conditions, displaced youth living in camps are at very high risk of forced recruitment in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (Danilo Giannese/Jesuit Refugee Service)
The exceptional powers of the Brigade must first be made to serve the most vulnerable. To this end, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) should imperatively and diligently organize child protection training sessions for the troops that will constitute the Brigade and for those FARDC troops that will support them.

(Rome) June 20, 2013  – The imminent deployment of a UN "Intervention Brigade" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presents new opportunities to strengthen the protection of children against recruitment and prevent their use in hostilities. Jesuit Refugee Service, Child Soldiers International and other non-governmental organizations note these opportunities should be identified and seized by the United Nations and the Congolese government as soon as possible.

The Brigade, which could fight alongside the DRC armed forces (Forces armées de la RDC/FARDC), can and should play a crucial role in preventing the use of children by the M23 and other armed groups. It can also assist in apprehending those suspected of recruitment and use of children, which constitute war crimes.

To this end, the troops which will form the Brigade should operate under strict guidelines and procedures aimed primarily at protecting children; they should also receive thorough training in child rights and child protection before their deployment.

Since the resurgence of violence in eastern DRC in April 2012 with the emergence of the M23, violations against civilians, including the recruitment and use of children, increased dramatically.

The exceptional powers of the Brigade must first be made to serve the most vulnerable. To this end, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) should imperatively and diligently organize child protection training sessions for the troops that will constitute the Brigade and for those FARDC troops that will support them.

These should prioritize interventions against armed groups suspected of recruiting and using children in order to demobilize them, and the arrest of those responsible for their recruitment. The Brigade and its allies should therefore be equipped with clear procedures for the reception, care and handover of children captured or separated during military operations.

Accordingly, the signatories below welcome the recent adoption of a Ministry of Defense directive, which orders the FARDC to transfer "any children escaped from Congolese and foreign armed groups" to relevant agencies, and which warns that "the detention, torture or ill-treatment of children on the basis of their association with an armed group" will be severely punished. These instructions should be disseminated as widely as possible and communicated to the troops of the Brigade.

It should be recalled that the Intervention Brigade is being deployed as part of a renewed and broader effort to resolve the armed conflict in the region. Irrespective of military considerations or political maneuvering, peace efforts should under no circumstances lead to the integration of armed groups into the FARDC without their prior screening to identify and demobilize any children that may be in their ranks. A special effort should be made to separate girls, who are more difficult to identify and sometimes deliberately concealed because they are considered by combatants as "dependents" or "wives."

The signatories commend the good cooperation currently existing between the military authorities, MONUSCO and child protection agencies with regard to identification and release of children associated with armed forces and groups.

To be effective, screening processes should be conducted in a rigorous manner, and always in collaboration with child protection agencies. This has not always been the case: hundreds of children were integrated into the armed forces during the vast integration process in 2007 and during the "accelerated integration" of 2009.

The commitments made by the UN and the Congolese government in the “Action plan to end the recruitment and use of children and other grave child rights violations” (4 October 2012) should form the basis of all efforts towards peace and stability at national and regional levels, in particular: 

• Preventing child recruitment and other grave child rights violations perpetrated by the armed forces and security forces;

• Ensuring the immediate transfer of children escaped from armed groups to competent state social services or relevant international bodies;

• Allowing child protection agencies to identify and separate children associated with armed and security forces through screening;

• Promptly investigating all allegations of recruitment and sexual violence against children and prosecute alleged perpetrators;

Refrain from recruiting into the armed and security forces perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights.

Signatories

- Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture au Nord-Kivu (ACAT NK), Goma/North Kivu

- Association de jeunes pour le développement communautaire (AJDC), Lubarika/South Kivu

- Association de jeunes pour le développement intégré-Kalundu (AJEDI-Ka), Uvira/South Kivu

- Bureau pour le volontariat au service de l’enfance et de la santé (BVES), Bukavu/South Kivu

- Caritas Bukavu, Bukavu/South Kivu

- Child Soldiers International, London

- Fondation Monseigneur Emmanuel Kataliko (FOMEKA), Uvira/South Kivu

- Fondation solidarité des hommes (FSH), Bukavu/South Kivu

- Groupe d’action et d’appui pour un développement endogène (GRAADE), Walikale/North Kivu

- Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Great Lakes

- Passion for Souls Mission (PSM), Butembo/North-Kivu

- Union paysanne pour le développement rural intégré (UPADERI), Masisi/North Kivu

- Union pour la paix et la promotion des droits de l’enfant au Congo (UPDECO), Rutshuru/North Kivu



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Mr Christian Fuchs
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202-629-5946