On behalf of the parents of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, we wish to applaud your attention to the issue of children in armed conflict. We believe that the UN Security Council, and particularly the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, has a crucial role to play in ending the abuses that our children continue to suffer here in eastern Congo.
We represent 62 Goma-based parents' associations and Congolese organisations based in eastern Congo. We wish to take the opportunity of your discussion on children and armed conflict on April 29 to express our profound concerns about the sufferings of our children in the conflict zone of eastern DRC, especially in relation to the sexual violence against our children, the attacks on our schools and the absence of education for almost an entire generation of Congolese young people.
We are facing many difficulties. Over the years of war, our children have been displaced, often many times and for many years. As displaced people, we have no money to pay for their studies. Thousands of children have been separated from their families as a result of the unrelenting conflicts. Our schools have been pillaged or burned down. They have been transformed into places of recruitment and training for armed groups. Where schools remain, there is constant insecurity. Our children are targeted by combatants. Consequently, our children no longer study and are forced to wander the streets.
What will their future hold? What will become of the Congo if a generation of its children have grown up with no nurture or education?
Many of our children have been forcibly recruited by armed groups and have been involved in combat for many years. Those who return have been completely traumatised by all that they have seen and experienced. Reintegration programmes are either inadequate or non-existent. Often, they cannot return to school; instead they are either recruited again by the same armed group or by another armed group. And so it continues.
During the last series of attacks by the FDLR in the Kivus and by the LRA in Haut-Uele, hundreds of children were forcibly recruited. They witnessed the rape of their mothers and the macabre killings of their fathers, brothers and sisters by machete.
Our children themselves have been subjected to indescribable violence. Most recently, during an FDLR attack in Luofo on April 17, 2009, three boys and two girls aged between two and six years old were burned alive in their homes.
Young girls have suffered horrific acts of sexual violence at the hands of rebels and Congolese army soldiers. On March 16, a soldier from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) raped a 10 year-old girl in the village of Bwanga, for example. Towards the end of February, more than 12 women and girls were abducted by the FDLR in Remeka. They were raped for many hours, and those who resisted were slaughtered. There are also many difficulties involving children born of rape and their care. They suffer discrimination, and are often abandoned and rejected by their families and communities.
During both the last FDLR attacks and the fighting between the FARDC-RDF coalition and the FDLR, tens of schools were burned down or pillaged, especially in the Ufumandu area, in Walikale territory, and in the South Lubero region of North Kivu. Many other schools were forced to close their doors because of the intense fighting in the region.
We deplore the guilty silence that has prevailed until now among our leaders and the international community. All of these crimes, whose perpetrators are often well-known, take place in a context of total impunity.
We regret that Bosco Ntaganda, who is sought by the International Criminal Court for recruiting and enrolling children in military service, still remains free and unpunished. It is an insult to the Congolese population that Bosco should be appointed to a high-ranking position in the FARDC. Likewise for Jean Pierre Biyoyo, who currently holds a senior position in our army, even though he was tried and sentenced by the Bukavu military court in South Kivu for the recruitment of children as soldiers.
Many other abuses have been committed against our progeny, and many of their social, economic and educational rights have been violated. During the fighting, schools have been pillaged and burned down; our children no longer have access to school due to the insecurity.
For these reasons, we urge you to:
- Extend the monitoring and reporting system (which currently only addresses child soldiers) to include monitoring and reporting sexual violence against children and violence affecting education.
- Develop a national plan for children in armed conflicts that incorporates measures on sexual violence and violence affecting education.
- Use severe sanctions that include concrete action against individuals and parties responsible for violence against children in armed conflicts.
- Encourage the Congolese government, child protection agencies and international donors to prioritise the demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers, including girls associated with armed groups. This involves supporting community programmes that provide long-term assistance and support for former child soldiers.
- Support the appointment of an independent special advisor on human rights in eastern Congo at a high level, in order to focus attention on the protection of civilians, including the protection of children in danger.
We remain confident and certain that our cry of alarm and our outrage will not fall on deaf ears. Enough is enough. We are desperate and we don't know which saint to turn to.
We ask you to act as soon as possible to stop the destruction of a whole generation of our young people. We are counting on them to reform our country.
- Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT) - Sud Kivu
- Action de Promotion et d'Assistance pour l'Amélioration du Niveau des Vies des Populations (APANIVIP)
- Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l'Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA)
- Action pour la promotion et la défense des droits des personnes défavorisées (APRODEPED)
- Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD)
- . Arche pour Enfants en Détresse (ARED)
- . Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO)-Sud Kivu
- . Association des Donneurs du Sang (ADOSARU)
- . Association des Jeunes Amis de Kacheche (AJAKAR)
- . Association des Mamans pour la Promotion des Veuves et Enfants Orphelins de Rutshuru (AMAPROVERU)
- . Association des Parents des Elèves Protestants (APEP)
- . Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO)
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - Goma commune
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - Goma ville
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - Masisi
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - North Kivu
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - Rutshuru
- . Association Nationale des Parents d'Elèves du Congo (ANAPECO) - Walikale
- . Avocats pour les Droits des Femmes et des Enfants défavorisés (ADEF)
- . Blessed Aid
- . CAMPS/CELPA
- . CCPJ
- . Centre d'Appui pour le Développement Rural Communautaire (CADERCO)
- . Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO)
- . Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche en Education de Base pour le Développement Intégré (CEREBA)
- . Centre d'Intervention et de Promotion Sociale Participative (CIPSOPA)
- . Centre Olame
- . CIDHOP
- . CIDI-Nord Kivu
- . Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo (COJESKI)-Nord Kivu
- . Fédération des Producteurs Agricoles du Congo (FOPAC)
- . Fondation Mère et Enfant
- . GILDI
- . Hommes Solidaires pour le Développement (HSD)
- . Human Dignity in the World (HDW)
- . Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et Paix (ICJP)
- . ISDR Grands Lacs Kiwanja
- . Centre de promotion socio-sanitaire (CEPROSSAN)
- . Ligue pour la Solidarité Congolaise (LSC)
- . ODM
- . PAMI
- . Pax Christi Goma
- . PCPDE
- . Père Notre Patrimoine (PENOPA)
- . PRODES
- . Promotion de la Démocratie et Protection des Droits Humains (PDH)
- . Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF)
- . PSTD
- . Regard Rural Sans Frontière (RRSF)/Sud-Kivu
- . Réseau des Associations des Droits de l'Homme du Sud Kivu (RADHOSKI)
- . Réseau Provincial des ONG de Droits de l'Homme (REPRODHOC)-Nord Kivu
- . Syndicat d'Alliance Paysanne (SAP)
- . Société Civile Sud-Kivu
- . Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Integral (SOFEPADI)
- . Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVS)
- . Synergie Pour l'Education dans le Nord Kivu
- . Village des Cobayes (VICO)
- . Voix des Sans Voix ni Liberté (VOVOLIB)