YOUNG REPORTER – What is the impact of armed conflict on children in the north-east of the DRC? For Zawadi, Job and other children and adolescents in South-Irumu, the fear of armed groups is daily. On the way to school, everything can change dramatically. Enlistment, violence, rape… discover their experience, and pass on their call for peace
Understanding the impact of armed conflict on children
Armed conflicts in the province of Ituri, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), have already lasted for more than a decade. The war is not permanent, but the persistence of some armed groups injures the rights of children. The recruitment and use of children by armed groups and other grave violations of the rights of the child in armed conflict are still current affairs.
In this article, I share the lives of two adolescents with you: Zawadi, 15 years old, and Job, 16 years old, respectively in their second and fourth year of humanities studies. I met them in South-Irumu on the occasion of an awareness session in the region organized by the Child Protection Section of MONUSCO /Ituri, specifically in Bukiringi, a village situated around 90 km to the south of the city of Bunia, in the chiefdom of Walendu Bindi.
Growing up in fear
Zawadi and Job were never “children associated with an armed group”, which means that they were never part of the recruits of an armed group, whether as a combatant, an assistant, or otherwise. But the fact that there is an armed group active in the region, such as the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri (FRPI – Force de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri), has placed their daily lives in permanent danger.
“Not many of us go to school – the fear of being kidnapped by militiamen accompanies us at every instant,” declared Job in a shaking tone before the chief of the group of the entity, the head of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC – Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo), the head of MONUSCO (French: Mission de l’ONU pour la stabilisation en République Démocratique du Congo – English: United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and other children present at the session.
School and the rattling of bullets
Schools are the target of militiamen because the latter need to recruit new children into their ranks. Many children are taken either when they leave or enter school in order to be used in the armed group.
“There are days when you follow class very well. But the rattling of bullets here and there limits your hope of finishing a day of studies normally. We are often very afraid of what could suddenly happen,” Job adds.
The terrible anxiety of young girls
Young girls are subject to rape and sexual violence, which are commonplace in the region. Zawadi confides her concern to us: “We young girls are too often the victims of rape and sexual violence by the militiamen.” With sexual violence becoming too common, “unfortunately some young boys act like the militiamen,” the troubled young girl explains. With a sadness that one can read on her face, she highlights, “we are disgraced, we no longer have worth after being raped, it’s really horrible!”
While child marriage seems to be on the decline thanks to multiple awareness campaigns, rape and sexual violence have taken a new turn in this region of the country.
After the poignant testimony of Zawadi, other members of the local community confided in each other. Several young girls taken by the militiamen are sexually exploited, used as concubines by force. Thanks to efforts by UNICEF and MONUSCO, these children are separated from the FRPI armed group.
Zawadi takes the floor for young girls who were victim to the armed group
The marginalisation of young girls separated from the armed group in their community hurts Zawadi: “We treat them like the wives of militiamen, we accuse them of carrying their children, we tell them that they have been raped…” When they become adults, the boys no longer want to marry them.
Zawadi continues, “When the militiamen come to plunder, we young girls and women are raped. The government must do something to protect us. We cannot go into the fields with the fear of being victims.”
Faced with the impact of armed conflict on children, we call for peace
In South-Irumu, we have also had discussions with community leaders in the region, in order for them to contribute to the separation of children from the armed group. According to the FARDC, the involvement of community leaders is the only sustainable means for peace to prevail in the region, and for grave violations of the rights of the child to cease.
Job articulates, “Our childhoods no longer have sense. We finish our studies with difficulty or not at all as a result of our parents’ poverty. We die prematurely, in the armed group but also in the war. We the children of South-Irumu deserve better than this.”
In the name of children of the region, Job asks the authorities of the country and their partners “to act in a sustainable manner so that children can see their rights respected.”
Peace has no price! Let us make known the situation of children and youth in South-Irumu. Let us peacefully claim our rights.
More information about the impact of armed conflict on children in DRC
- UNICEF stands by its commitment to putting an end to serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflicts in DRC
- The Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict visiting the DRC !
- Together to end use of children in conflict
” Children not soldiers ”
Thanks to Sweden (SIDA), the USA (USAID), Canada (GAC) , Japan (JICA), the Netherlands, Belgium as well as UNICEF France, Amade, UNICEF Germany and previously CERF for their support to programmes assisting children released from armed groups and forces.Photo UNICEF DRC 2017 Ramazani
David a rejoint le Club d'Ecoute pour Enfants en 2012. Deux ans après, il en est devenu le porte-parole puis en 2015, le coordonnateur. La même année, David est devenu Enfant Reporter. Il présente également diverses émissions sur les droits de l'Enfant. "Parler des droits de l'Enfant via les médias, c'est ma préférence". David étudie le droit à Bunia et rêve de travailler à la défense des droits des plus vulnérables.
David joined the Children's Listening Club in 2012. Two years later, David became the spokesperson and in 2015 the coordinator. That same year, David became a child reporter. Since 2014, David has hosted various programmes on child rights. "I want to use the media to talk about child rights”. David studies law in Bunia and dreams of working to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. He says he will always work for children.
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