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According to numerous testimonies gathered by Human Rights Watch researchers, RCD-Goma has forcibly detained young men and boys to be soldiers in their armed forces and has done so in an arbitrary manner, according to no set procedure. Recruits have no say in whether or not they agree to join the armed forces of RCD-Goma, nor are they given any advance warning of conscription, any indication of how long they will be forced to serve, any idea of where they will be taken for training or for combat nor any indication of whom they will be required to fight against. Recruits, even those who support the government, may be ordered to fight against government forces made up of fellow countrymen and possibly family members. They may be forced to commit human rights violations and adults as well as children may be traumatized by their ordeal.

Many Goma residents told Human Rights Watch researchers that RCD-Goma soldiers frequently picked up young men and boys in night-time raids on their homes and on the roads, in markets, and at schools.16

Witnesses said that RPA soldiers helped RCD-Goma troops in this forced recruitment. These soldiers were identified as Rwandan because they spoke a Rwandan form of Kinyarwanda and because they differed somewhat in appearance from Congolese.17 Residents of Goma reported that the soldiers raided for men more often in neighborhoods known to be inhabited primarily by Rwandan Hutu, perhaps because they lacked a network of local connections to protect them. "The majority of people in the neighborhoods where they are recruiting are Hutu. Most they pick up haven't studied, aren't educated, and so can't defend themselves," one person commented.18

One young man related his narrow escape after soldiers tried to forcibly recruit him in the center of Goma in the middle of the day:

I was on my way to look for work in construction sites towards Himbi and had a stomach ache so I went home. I took the second road towards the president's house and when I arrived at "RVA 1" [Regie de Voies Aeriennes, in the center of town] I met two people dressed as civilians. They were Congolese. They approached me and asked where I was going. I said home because I was a little sick. They said they were in the middle of looking for soldiers. I said I wasn't capable of being a soldier. They said, we'll see.

About 300 meters further on we reached some soldiers. They took me, and searched me. I was beaten up, mistreated. There were about five others [civilians] sitting at the side of the road. They [the soldiers] said: "See them? They are going to be soldiers, like you."

They took my briefcase with my tools. I'm an electrician. I was left there for an hour without speaking. One of them then said I didn't look like a soldier and so he let me go. But he said that I mustn't tell anyone-if I did they would get me, they had seen my face.

The two civilians [recruiters] were about 200 meters away and they watched me when I left to see if I spoke to anyone. A little further away I passed a friend. When he got to them [the civilian recruiters] they tried to take him. He fled-the soldiers chased him. He knows the neighborhood and hid in a toilet. The soldiers didn't find him.19

Eyewitnesses in Goma report the frequent passage of trucks seen leaving Goma containing new recruits, mostly young men and boys. In some cases they say they have seen children they thought were in their early teens. One local resident said:

One day we saw them [soldiers] on the main road [in an area of Goma called Afia Bora in the Katindo neighborhood]. We fled. Soldiers get out and quickly tell people to get into the truck. They do it at around 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.-the day I saw them it was 7 a.m. People flee when they see the military trucks, especially young men.20

Another eyewitness also described recruits being taken away in trucks:

The children and adults have shorn heads but because of the size of the children, all you see is their heads and their hands waving and saying goodbye. Sometimes they are waving and saying goodbye and sometimes they are silent. Soldiers sit on the edge of the truck. They go out on the Sake Road, always in the same direction.21

An eighteen-year-old student who was picked up in a Goma market in the first week of December 2000 said:

I went out with my mother to the market at Virunga to get some things. It was about 5 p.m.. While we were shopping we saw a group of soldiers coming towards us. They told me to go with them. We knew they wanted to take me to go and train to fight. They took five of us-all young men-from the market. I didn't know the others.22

Another student described events one morning in early December:

This happened yesterday in my residential area of Katindu Droite. I was at home at 5:30 a.m. listening to the news when I heard gunfire. I looked outside and saw military dressed as civilians but they were armed. They had already taken some kids. Some were my age, some looked a lot younger. I'm nineteen; some of those they picked up looked like they were thirteen and fifteen, but there was also an elderly man in the group.23

In early December 2000 soldiers came to collect young men at the lakeside market of Kituku.24 People crossing Lake Kivu in motorized canoes to bring their produce to market turned back as they approached the shore when they saw soldiers waiting there. On subsequent market days, few men risked coming to the market, leaving women to carry on trade.25 Residents elsewhere reported the same development. "The markets in the interior don't function as they should now because of the fear of men being recruited," explained a woman who frequently travels from one market to another in and around Goma.26 The quantity and choice of produce was limited because of the absence of vendors.27

Escaping Recruitment

Because of the practice of forced recruitment, men and boys in some areas run away or hide if they see groups of soldiers. As one young man told Human Rights Watch, "On the first of December [2000] I was accompanying a friend home after he visited me. We saw a group of soldiers blocking the road. They already had two children. We ran for our lives."28 Another seventeen or eighteen-year-old student also managed to avoid being picked up on his way to school in Goma in early December. He described what happened:

Yesterday morning I left for school at about 7 a.m. When I arrived at the entrance of the museum, there were soldiers there. They wanted to catch us. We fled. There were ten of us, from different parts of the city. We all had our school uniforms on. When we arrived we saw that they had already caught a number of other school children and others. We ran away immediately. We hid for the day and returned to our homes in the evening.29

Other potential recruits go to even greater lengths to avoid being taken. In Nyarigonge zone, approximately twenty kilometers from Goma, for example, those who fear recruitment often choose to sleep outside rather than at home where they might be abducted during the night.30 Residents of Masisi also reported that men slept outside in the bush to avoid forcible recruitment.31

Local people have developed other strategies as well. The inhabitants of the Virunga and Majengo neighborhoods of Goma apparently reacted to the arrival of soldiers who were starting to pick people up on the evening of December 7, 2000 by shouting and banging drums. "They took some people but with the noise and so on they couldn't do as much as they wanted," said an eyewitness to the night-time swoop by RCD-Goma and RPA soldiers.32

Some young men who have been picked up were later freed because family or friends used their influence or made payments to have them released. One young recruit said he was taken at a market by nine soldiers, some from RCD-Goma, some from the Rwandan army:

Then another Congolese soldier who behaved like a commander came. He tried to plead for us but they ignored him and put us in a covered pickup truck. There were about twenty other young men in the pickup truck. It was dark and we were scared. We were driven somewhere; I don't know where. It took about ten minutes for us to get there. It was a big building, dark and without windows. As we arrived, others [like us] were being taken out.

The young man's mother went with other family members and found the Congolese soldier who had spoken for him when he was taken. They paid him the equivalent of approximately U.S. $12 and he arranged for the youth to be released.33

In another case a father "paid" RCD-Goma soldiers to release his twenty-year-old son after he had been picked up at night at his workplace in the North Mabanga neighborhood of Goma. The father was asked to supply a case of beer to obtain his son's release but managed to negotiate the price down to three bottles. He later also collected money from the neighborhood to obtain the release of about seven others taken with his son. "I had to do it immediately," said the father, "or else they would have been sent to Mushaki for training."34

Mistreatment of Recruits

According to many accounts, new recruits are beaten and ill-treated. One youth, fortunate to have escaped harsher treatment, described an initiation for recruits: soldiers dragged their hands down the recruits' faces from their foreheads over their eyes and down to their jaw, pulling the skin and eyelids down, digging their fingers in and applying pressure so that it hurt. Several other persons confirmed this practice by soldiers.35
In some cases, soldiers confiscate the identity papers of recruits, making it more risky for them to attempt to escape from training camps. Four young men who escaped from Mushaki camp were later caught. Because they had no identity papers they were detained and severely beaten; a commander finally intervened to send them home because of their injuries. They were even given a written order dated December 15, 2000 saying they could not be recruited again because of ill-health. 36

16 Human Rights Watch has also received as yet unconfirmed reports that RCD-Goma soldiers abducted women and girls, including girls under the age of eighteen.

17 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000. Some Congolese of Rwandan origin also speak Kinyarwanda but with a different accent.

18 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.

19 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 20, 2000.

20 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000.

21 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000. The road to Sake continues to Mushaki in Masisi, where there is a training camp for new recruits.

22 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000.

23 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.

24 Kituku market is in the Keshero neighborhood of Goma.

25 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000.

26 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.

27 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.

28 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.

29 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.

30 Human Rights Watch interviews, Goma, December 17 and 19, 2000.

31 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19, 2000.

32 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma December 8, 2000.

33 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000.

34 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 19,2000.

35 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 17, 2000.

36 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 18, 2000.

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