In late 2000, RCD-Goma also recruited extensively for local defense units in North and South Kivu provinces. These groups, chosen among the young men and boys of a community, receive minimal military training and then are called upon to protect their communities against attack by such forces as Mai Mai and Interahamwe militia. They continue to live at home and apparently receive no salary, meaning they demand few resources from authorities of the rebel movement. They are, however, sometimes armed, giving them the power to extort money and goods from the local population.
An RCD-Goma military trainer said that RPA soldiers and officers oversaw the training for the local defense forces and that this recruitment often was followed by transfer into the regular military. He continued:
The RCD introduced the system of Local Defense to overcome the reluctance of the population to join its army voluntarily. Trainers were sent to villages. After a while, the RCD would come and round up the young men who were instructed in the use of arms and take them to far away battlefields.56
According to another source, parents in one community saw their children and young men go off to Kalemie, supposedly for local defense training. The children never came home.57
In Rwanda Local Defense Forces have existed for some time and may have provided the model for those established by RCD-Goma. The Rwandan Local Defense Forces include children as well as young men who receive military training, are given access to arms, and are supposed to defend their communities. Some of them, too, have been sent to wage war in Congo as part of the Rwandan Patriotic Army.58
56 Human Rights Watch interview, December, 2000.
57 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 7, 2000.
58 Human Rights Watch, "Rwanda: The Search for Security and Human Rights Abuses," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 1 (A), April 2000.