HRW: Congo Rebel Group Forces Children into Army

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Congo Rebel Group Forces Children into Army
New Report Details Recruitment Campaign

(New York, May 29, 2001) The major rebel group in eastern Congo
continues to recruit children to wage war against the Congolese
government, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released today.

The report, "Reluctant Recruits: Children and Adults Forcibly
                                   Recruited for Military Service in
North Kivu," details recruitment
     efforts since late 2000 by the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma
                                           (RCD-Goma) and the Rwandan
army troops who support it. RCD-Goma has
             repeatedly pledged to demobilize its child soldiers, but
has not fulfilled these promises, the report says.

"Children are being abducted and sent to battle by the very soldiers who
are supposed to protect them," said Alison Des Forges, Senior Adviser to
the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "RCD-Goma must live up to its
agreements to end this terrible practice."

As part of the 1999 Lusaka Accords, RCD-Goma agreed to halt the use of
children as soldiers. In May 2000, RCD-Goma said it would create a
commission to supervise demobilization of child soldiers, but a year
later the commission is not functioning effectively. In April 2001,
authorities of the rebel movement promised to deliver several hundred
children in training at military camps to representatives of the United
Nations. But several days later, they reportedly allowed some 1800 new
recruits between the ages of 12 and 17 to graduate from training at one
of these camps. Each child soldier received a new uniform and firearm.

In the early months of the recruitment campaign, RCD-Goma soldiers and
their Rwandan allies simply abducted children and young men who were
sent for military training and later service in the rebel forces.
Recruiters picked up children on their way to school or church and took
adults en route to work or the market. In some cases, they raided homes,
taking away anyone who might be made into a soldier. In some communities
parents refused to send their children to school for fear of their being
kidnapped. In others, families slept outdoors to avoid raids on their
houses or organized to create an uproar when military raiders arrived in
the community so that children and young men might escape. As the use of
child soldiers attracted increasingly critical comment from
international observers, RCD-Goma moved recruiting efforts further from
urban centers, making it harder to document their activities. They are
also increasingly using promises of rewards to enroll poor and hungry
children who lacked other sources of support.

The RCD-Goma military forces pressure local civilian authorities to
deliver new recruits. To ensure their cooperation with this and other
efforts, RCD-Goma and their Rwandan backers in February 2001 transported
more than 400 Congolese officials and traditional chiefs to Rwanda for
five weeks of ideological and paramilitary training at a Rwandan
military camp. "According to observers on the spot, trucks are still
rolling through Goma, transporting children to military camps in the
Congo and even to Rwanda for training," said Des Forges. "This is
         bad news, both for those children and for hopes for peace in
the Congo."

A copy of the report, "Reluctant Recruits: Children and Adults Forcibly
Recruited for Military Service in North Kivu," can be found at

For more information on human rights and the war in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, please see Congo: A Continuing Human Rights Disaster
(HRW Focus Page, last updated May 29, 2001) at

Servizio informazioni Congosol

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