Several Goma residents told Human Rights Watch researchers that they had heard broadcasts by representatives of the RCD-Goma on the local radio station in mid-November 2000 and later, appealing to parents send their children into the armed forces. In an early December statement, the secretary-general of the United Nations mentioned radio broadcasts on November 15 and 16 by the head of RCD-Goma asking parents to allow their children to be recruited into the armed forces of the movement. He cited a similar call by the governor of North Kivu Province urging that children be enrolled for "local defense." 4 When U.N. officials raised the issue of these broadcasts with RCD-Goma authorities, they reportedly claimed that they did not mean children in the sense of those under eighteen years of age, but rather "children" in the metaphorical sense of children of the Congo.5 In this region of the Congo, unmarried young people over the age of eighteen can still be referred to as "children."
RCD-Goma officials were also apparently required to carry out recruitment for the movement in their home areas.6 According to local residents, authorities including traditional chiefs, administrators, and group, neighborhood, community, and village leaders were called to Kigali, Rwanda for a meeting in late 2000. There, a senior official of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the dominant political party in Rwanda, reportedly promised promotions to anyone who delivered large numbers of new recruits to the RCD-Goma's armed forces and threatened demotions or loss of their posts to any who failed in this task .7
Despite the incentive and the threat, not all local authorities complied with the order. According to residents of Masisi, some of the traditional chiefs from their area were in Goma in mid-December 2000 and were refusing to assist in the recruitment campaign. Thus, one resident claimed, "there is no one [i.e., no civilian authority] to keep order at the local level. It is the military who make the laws."8
As numerous testimonies make clear, many ordinary people oppose this recruitment campaign. A Goma resident told Human Rights Watch:
We know that there is no one who would go voluntarily. Now when they come to persuade us to let one of our sons go to the army, the first question the parents ask is where are the sons we already gave you? And who are you fighting against and why?9
Authorities have acknowledged and sought to justify the recruitment campaign. In an interview broadcast on January 24, 2001 on the RCD-Goma's Radio Goma, journalists asked Commander Obert Rwibasira of the RCD-Goma's G5 military division why the movement continued to enroll very young recruits. He replied that RCD-Goma needed a young and dynamic army.10 A student told Human Rights Watch: "The current recruitment campaign is public. They have announced it on the radio and everything. But we are concerned about forced recruitment. The justification they are giving for the drive is the generalized insecurity in rural areas, and lack of improvement on that front. There is lack of security even in the outskirts of Goma."11 According to some local residents, RCD-Goma claimed to need the recruits to build a national army to replace foreign troops, presumably meaning the Rwandans who are generally regarded with some hostility by Congolese and who are, in any case, supposed to be withdrawing from the Congo. The head of the Department of Foreign Affairs of RCD-Goma gave the same explanation to Human Rights Watch researchers.12
Some Goma residents suggested that RCD-Goma was also trying to replace troops lost in recent battles. One said: "The war is not succeeding; they need numbers at the front. They say it is being done voluntarily. But if you disagree you are considered hostile to the RCD and are the enemy."13 Another Goma resident commented: "The forced recruitment started [in early November 2000]. They didn't find enough youth to come forward voluntarily so they had to do it by force."14 A resident of Masisi commented:
They say everyone from fifteen to forty should be in the army. Why? we ask. We don't know what is the point of this war. They say they will take us one way or another. Until now there have been threats that if you don't come voluntarily, they will take you by force. No one goes voluntarily. 15
4 United Nations, Secretary-General, Fifth report on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (S/2000/1156, December 6, 2000, paragraph 73).
5 Identity withheld to protect author, written communication to Human Rights Watch, January 19, 2001.
6 Human Rights Watch interviews, Goma, December, 2000.
7 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.
8 Human Rights Watch interviews, Goma, December 19, 2000.
9 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.
10 Identity withheld to protect author, written communication to Human Rights Watch, January, 2001.
11 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.
12 Human Rights Watch interview with Joseph Mudumbi, Goma, December 19, 2000.
13 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.
14 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.
15 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.