To mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers (Red Hand Day) on 12th February, I would like to speak to you about some children in the self-defense militias which abound in our province.
Kayemba is a boy the same age as me, who has been in a self-defense group since last year. For that year, he has been an active fighter among hundreds of others. In their new jobs, these children have been setting fire to huts, health centres and primary schools. They have also attacked Pygmy children and adults with arrows. Kayemba abandoned his primary school studies to protect his community. At 13 years old, Kayemba boasts about having killed two adults…
My heart is overflowing with anguish and full of anger to see two brother tribes – the Pygmys and the Bantus – pitting their children against each other to kill and kill each other. The recruitment and use of these children is the worst crime that can be perpetrated against them. However, in the Tanganyika Province, these crimes are still not punished. The future of this generation is in danger ! How many children have to be enrolled in militias for you to act ?
The heads of the militias take pleasure in recruiting and using children in their battles. They trample on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 38 stipulates that in the case of war, children especially should be protected. The Law on the Protection of Children also states that the enrollment and use of children in armed groups and the police is strictly forbidden.
I ask His Excellency The Governor of Tanganyika to use the authority of the State by enacting the laws of the Republic, without distinguishing between tribes, age, and socio-economic status. It is necessary to legally demand that all children enrolled in militias be liberated in our province, but also to give free primary education to avoid other children like Kayemba from rejoining the militias.
Translated from French by Lucy Oyelade