More than 220 children have been separated from armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) within the past week, the United Nations mission in the country, known as MONUC, says.
MONUC has announced that its child protection section got 28 more children out of the ranks of the rebel National Congress for the People`s Defence (CNDP) and varied ethnic Mayi Mayi and Pareco groups in North Kivu Province.
The UN News Centre says surrendering the children in their ranks, a process facilitated by MONUC, is among the requirements for these groups to be integrated into the national army as part of the peace process that ended the DRC`s devastating civil war.
The children are now in the custody of the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF), whose teams will prepare them to reintegrate into civilian life.
The mission thanked the Congolese authorities for working toward a full integration of the army and renewed its appeal to all parties to continue to support this initiative, to prevent children from being sent to the front, and to help separate them from armed groups.
According to UNICEF, it is estimated that there are still some 2000 child soldiers with armed militias in North Kivu province.
Meanwhile, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator today begins a four-day visit to the DRC where he is expected “to advocate concrete steps to end the violence in eastern Congo along with abuse of civilians, including sexual violence against women”.