DRC Child Soldiers

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.

The 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.

Democratic Republic of Congo Child SoldiersThe 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.



 
 
 
 
 
 


DRC Child Soldiers

DRC Child Soldiers

DRC Child Soldiers

DRC Child Soldiers

 


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Democratic Republic of Congo Child Soldiers

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 like Kinshasa.

 
 


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