Concerted efforts by aid agencies has seen 83 child soldiers released by an armed group in the DRC.
All of them were apparently recruited by the Mayi Mayi Bataka Katanga group during the last six months, the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) said.
The children – 69 boys and 13 girls aged from eight to 17 – were identified and removed from the group by the concerted efforts of child protection agencies working in the Katanga areas of Kibwela, Moabi Territory and Kayumba, according to Martin Kobler, UN Secretary-General special representative and MONUSCO head.
About half of them were immediately re-united with their families and the rest are receiving interim care until they can be placed back with their families.
“We are concerned about continued reports of active recruitment by Mayi Mayi Bakata Katanga as well as other armed groups in the eastern DRC. The recruitment of children, particularly those younger than 15, could constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account,” he said.
In June the world body reported at least 53 children were at risk of being re-recruited in the DRC’s Nyuragongo Territory by the M23 rebel group.
UN Special Representative for Children and Armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, urged M23 and other armed groups to stop abusing children.
“I remind leaders they will personally be held accountable for any violations against children, including recruitment, re-recruitment or the use of children in their ranks.
In February UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the world body was determined to stamp out the use of child soldiers “one of the world’s most appalling human rights abuses”.
“Thousands of children are being exploited. Every day they are compelled to endure and inflict violence that no child should ever have to experience.
“This is unacceptable. The recruitment and use of children in warfare violates international law. It also violates human decency. The entire UN system and I are determined to stamp out this abuse,” he said.