MONUSCO leads in freeing children from rebel groups

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In what is seen as a stride forward in an ongoing effort to free children from rebel groupings in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the UN mission in the central African country announced withdrawal of over 200 children “detained” by armed groups.

The Child Protection Section (CPS) of MONUSCO said 235 children were no longer with rebel groups in Ituri province during a two-day workshop for validation of an operational plan for the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of children in DRC.

Children recovered by CPS/MONUSCO are handed to UNICEF for care, reunification and reintegration into the community. According to Jean Muzama, who heads the MONUSCO child protection section in Bunia, there are still up to 40% of children in armed groups active in the province.

This situation negatively impacts communities from which these children are recruited. Some are forced to join militias as part of a “war effort” imposed on parents by armed groups who make them believe they are taking up arms to defend their communities.

Others are recruited for economic reasons with the lure of profit uppermost. “Cattle thefts during militia incursions, looting and other rackets perpetrated by rebels entice children who find ways to feed themselves,” an anonymous source told a MONUSCO representative.

In almost all villages in Djugu, Irumu, Mambasa, Mahagi and Aru territories, young people and children are forced to join armed groups to swell their numbers. The paradox is the communities from which these children come become victims of violence and abuses of own children used by the same armed groups.

The operational plan for the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of children (DDR-children) is intended to be a tool, better still, a guide adapted to the DDR-children’s operational framework which takes into account capacities and opportunities for responding to the demobilisation needs of children in Ituri. This is an important tool allowing for co-operation on both the community aspect and stabilisation.

It also makes it possible to identify, for example, trained agents who can facilitate the exit of children from armed groups and opportunities for psycho-social care structures for sexual violence victims in different areas to receive and care for children after leaving armed groups.