Rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have reportedlystepped up efforts to recruit child soldiers, as fighting in NorthKivu continued Wednesday between the Congolese army and defectingsoldiers. Armed men entered at least one secondary school last week in theeastern DRC town of Kitchanga, intent on recruiting new fighters,officials at the National Endowment for Democracy learnedWednesday. At that school, the kids would have been no older than16 years old, said Josh Marks, who manages the organization sCentral Africa program. An Amnesty International statement also released Wednesday reportedthousands of residents have fled their homes due to the increasingviolence, which left at least three women dead since Saturday. |
Amnesty s DRC expert, Aachraf Sebbahi, said four boys and sevenyoung adults have sought refuge at the United Nation speacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO. They claimed that they were threatened by soldiers who wanted torecruit them, said Sebbahi. They were saying that they wouldhave to fight for Bosco. General Bosco Ntaganda is a former rebel leader accused of warcrimes. He and his soldiers had been integrated into theCongolese military as part of 2009 peace deal, but recent increasedpressure to arrest Ntaganda has allegedly sparked a mutiny amonghis supporters.
A MONUSCO spokesperson in Kinshasa confirmed on Wednesday thataround 10 children and young adults have sought protection withtheir office in Kitchanga. However, he would not confirm if thechildren were fleeing forced recruitment, saying MONUSCO needed tospeak further with the youth. According to Amnesty s Sebbahi, the tensions sparked by the threatof Ntaganda s arrest have led to an increase in child soldierrecruitment but she said Ntaganda s supporters are not the onlyones responsible. All the sources are saying that probably many more children havebeen forcibly recruited by these troops loyal to Bosco, but also byother armed groups, she added.
General Bosco Ntaganda, a Rwandan national, led an armed groupknown as the National Congress for the Defence of the People(CNDP). The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrantfor Ntaganda in 2006, accusing him of using child soldiers.
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