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Child soldiers being recruited at record pace in Congo, says aid group

Child soldiers being recruited at record pace in Congo, says aid group

KINSHASA, Congo _ In the past week, children have been spotted marching in formation in war-wracked eastern Congo, as the recruitment of children by militia forces reaches critical levels, said a statement released by Save the Children on Monday.
"The situation for children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is catastrophic. Fighters from all sides are using children as frontline fodder," said Hussein Mursal, the Congo director for the international charity.
Fighting in lawless eastern Congo has escalated dramatically since August, as rival rebel groups clash over the forested territory. Boys and girls are being recruited in record numbers to act as soldiers, porters, spies and sex slaves, the London-based charity said.
Those who have managed to escape have told the aid organization they were held captive in small holes in the ground.
Schools have been targeted as "rich recruitment ground," the charity said.
Because the conflict continues to escalate, the charity, which has provided refuge to 800 child fighters this year, has not been able to return the children to their homes. It noted that "the risk of re-recruitment and physical danger from the war are so high."
An estimated 800,000 people have fled their homes this year in eastern Congo, a lawless forested region that shares a border with Rwanda. The area has been wracked by violence for years, despite the end of a five-year war in 2002.
The continued conflict is fueled, in part, by the region's proximity to Rwanda. Rebels accused of orchestrating Rwanda's 1994 genocide were expelled from the country and have operated from eastern Congo.
One of those groups, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, is among the most active recruiters of child soldiers, according to a recent United Nations report. Its commanders are accused of organizing the killing of 500,000 people during the Rwandan slaughter 13 years ago.
The charity has been actively negotiating with the rebels for the release of the children. Those who are released are housed by aid workers in a safe place, where they are provided counseling services.


Updated : 2021-06-25 05:46 GMT+08:00