Two decades and a half have passed since the firs commemoration of the International Day of the African Child and some 50 years since the independence of many African countries. The political crises, wars, conflicts, tensions have not ceased to upend the continent. Peace is far from being a reality; an unfortunate reality which makes respect for children’s rights a utopic ideal. In memory of those brave children of Soweto; the International Day of the African Child 2016 has been celebrated in the province of Ituri in DRC, as in the rest of the African continent.
A day on the rights of all children
We, the Child Reporters of Ituri, have carried out a series of activities besides the International Day of the African Child in collaboration with the Club d’Ecoute pour Enfants (the Listening Club for Children) and the Children’s Parliament, under the coordination of the ODH and the Office for Gender, Family and Children.
This year, the day has been celebrated under the theme “Conflicts and crises in Africa; let’s protect the rights of all children”. The 1612 Resolution of the United Nations has clarified the theme by making reference to the six children’s rights violations within armed conflicts.
This theme and the judicial agents concerned with children’s rights (CDE, LPPE, the African Charter on Children’s Rights and Well-being) have been the subject of our interactive conferences in diverse, local schools. Students and teachers have shown their satisfaction regarding these new ideas on children’s rights and duties.
An educational conference with child prisoners in the special village for children in the organised central prison of Bunia. We took the opportunity to give these children sheets, razor blades, soap, clothing, …offered by UNICEF and Monusco. To end the day, we organised a public game in the new district of Hoho with a dance and drama production, in addition to an awareness campaign on the theme of the International Day of the African Child.
All level involvement against against child recruitment
On June 16th, the proceedings began with the national anthem, after the arrival of his Excellence Mr Vice-Governor of the province of Ituri to the MONUSCO premises where children, women and students as well as different authorities, both state and non-state run, met to participate in the day’s activities.
Natasha spoke on the behalf of all the children of Ituri saying “…the continual fight and it is hard, we are saying no to recruiting children to join armed forces and groups, leave us out of your conflicts because our place is in families and at school…”. She made an appeal to all the authorities present to join in restoring peace in conflict zones and to promise protection to the children living in these zones.
For its part, UNICF through Doctor Mulaye Sangare, presented the work it has done through its cooperative programme with the government of DRC “0 children in armed forces and groups”. He clarified that: “Nothing but in 2015, we have recorded 331 children – 105 girls – who have left armed groups working in South-Irumu. And for the current year, until the month of June, we have succeeded in takin 91 children – 33 girls – out of these groups.” Then he called on all the humanitarian and state agents to contribute to putting an end to child recruitment in the armed groups of South-Irumu and Mambasa.
The vice-governor, His Excellence Mr Pacifique Ketha, recognised the suffering experienced by children living in these conflict zones and has underlined the efforts made by the government and its partners to put an end to the tragedies which unfortunately continue in certain territories of the Ituri province. He expressed their objectives: “We would like to reach a stage where there are 0 crimes, rapes and no recruitment in the Ituri province”. Hammering on the importance of children’s education, he congratulated the work of the different partners and more particularly the work which involved children’s participation. Without this pleading, we would be far from imagining the current results.
After these events, skits, poems and sketches were performed by the children from the Listening Club for Children and children from several schools. Then I directed/facilitated a question-answer game to find out the effects of the awareness campaigns that we had organised. This colourful day ended with a football match against the Listening Club for Children at the Children’s Parliament and with a musical concert organised with the logistic support of UNICEF, ODH and MONUSCO.
A plea for peace
If recruiting children was the subject of most of the interventions, this is because it concerns the most common violation committed in Ituri in comparison with the 5 other serious violations raised by the 1612 Resolution.
Child protection in zones of conflict, such as in the Ituri province, continues to be a challenge we are yet to overcome. The crisis of the Great North gradually drifts towards the Mambasa territory and Irumu; the populations move about en masse. Child protection is becoming an even greater priority.
The reasons for the increase in crises and conflicts in Ituri remains unknown to us, but we are asking political authorities to bring an end to these conflicts, in order to give the children of Ituri, but also to all Congolese children a greater chance to develop/blossom in an ideal environment.
Translated from French by Alexandria Harris
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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