Instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been rife since a coup
in 1965 which installed Joseph-Désiré Mobutu as national leader. He fell
from office in 1997 at the hands of armies from Rwanda and Uganda however
the installation of Laurent Kabila as president marked the beginning of what
is called the Second Congo War, a war that involved nine African countries
and some twenty armed groups.
The basis of the war was that Rwanda and
Uganda wanted to control the perceived riches of the Democratic Republic of
Congo having installed Kabila as president only to find he wanted their
troops out of
the country fearing
they would in turn oust him and install a Tutsi subservient to Rwanda's
President Paul Kagame.
war itself, which was to outlast Kabila after he was
assassinated in 2001, lasted 4 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and 2 days and took the
lives of around 5,400,000 people, mostly through disease.
It was a war that still simmers today particularly in the east of the country.
During the conflict all sides recruited child soldiers to support their cause
using them as fighters, guards, look-outs, cooks and for personal use.
The war 'officially'
ended with the signing of the Sun City Agreement on 19th
April 2002 although the ongoing violence is discussed
elsewhere at this site. The actual number of child soldiers
operating in the Democratic Republic during this time is not
fully known, however some
idea of the scale of their use can be gleaned from the fact
that from 2003-2006 some 30,000 children were released from
various militia groups.
The use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo is no longer officially
sanctioned by the government's military, however it is known that hundreds are still being 'recruited' particularly in North Kivu
in the east of the country.
Many of those 'recruited' are actually abducted by the
Lord's Resistance Army and, in November 2008 alone, 154
children were reported to have been abducted by this group.
It is difficult for those in the west to fully comprehend
the trauma of being a child soldier having to experience
either killing or being killed during such a formative age,
and the challenges of rehabilitating children back into the
authority of a family when, just weeks or months earlier,
they held a gun in their hand and could kill or maim anyone
who stood in their way.
This video documentary shares the experiences of some young
child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the
work being undertaken with them to reintroduce themselves
back into their families and communities. Of course, many of
these children, including girls, have no homes return to
after the war claimed upward of five million lives.
Without family or extended family, they are destined either
to return to the fighting or become one of the country's
increasing number of forgotten street children eking out an
existence without a viable future on the streets of cities