The children of Kinshasa united for children’s rights during armed conflict

On Friday, July 3 2015, a workshop was held in Kinshasa on the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) for serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict.

The workshop was attended by 40 children from various children’s organisations—including the Young Reporters programme, the Scouts, World Vision, the Institut National des Arts et Spectacles (INAS) and other schools in Kinshasa—with a shared purpose and ideal: to finally bring an end to serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict.

Exactly 10 years ago, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict was adopted.

This mechanism lists six serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict:

1. Recruitment and use of children
2. Rape and sexual violence committed against children
3. Child abduction
4. Killing and mutilation of children
5. Attacks against schools or hospitals
6. Denial of access to humanitarian aid for children

The DRC is on the blacklist of countries in which there are serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict.

This workshop gave us children the opportunity to better understand the issue in order to advocate on behalf of those children whose rights have been subject to serious violations in the DRC, particularly in the eastern parts of the country.

However, in order to advocate on behalf of these children, we had to first become familiar with the rights in question, as well as with advocacy techniques. After all, we cannot defend our rights if we do not know we have them.

It is for this reason that the workshop opened with a definition of these rights and an introduction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

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Next, we addressed the issue of “serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict” by telling the story of a fictional child. Recruited and used at a very young age by an armed group in 2002, he meets an NGO officer who fights for his demobilisation. However, in the absence of mechanisms to support his actions, the NGO officer is no match for the powerful armed group.

In 2005, the monitoring and reporting mechanism for serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict is adopted.

Finally, the officer has a tool and gains legitimacy with the armed group, which feels compelled to release the children.

After being briefed about our rights and introduced to the CRC, we split into three workshops under one common theme: “the day.” The first group was asked to compose a song, the second to write a play and the third to develop an action plan.

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The action plan targeted the government, the community and children. Two messages emerged from the action plan. I, Carmel, read the first message and the second was read by Celena, a student from a secondary school in Kinshasa.

This was the first message:

We, the children of Kinshasa, would first like to commend the efforts made by the government and its partners to put an end to serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict, in particular the adoption of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism.

However, this issue is more relevant today than it has ever been. Given the recurrent conflicts in Eastern DRC, children continue to suffer many abuses, including the recruitment and use, sexual violence, abductions, killings, mutilation and more.

These abuses go against the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates in Article 38 that “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.”

Given the above, we ask

The Government to:
*Reinforce the mechanism for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of children
*Reinforce the protection and safety of children during armed conflict
*Provide support to children formerly associated with armed forces and groups in terms of health and education

The Community to:
*Welcome children formerly associated with armed forces and groups
*Avoid stigmatising these children

Children to:
*Denounce the perpetrators of children’s rights violations
*Endorse their rights and claim them during armed conflict

We hope that you will take our words into consideration so that our country may be taken off the infamous blacklist of countries in which serious violations of children’s rights during armed conflict exist.

Thank you.

2This was the second message:

We are all children. How can we be expected to laugh, go to school or be with our families when our sisters and brothers in the East are the victims of serious violations? Let us unite and say no to the recruitment of children by armed groups and forces and to the abduction of our brothers and sisters in the East.

I cannot do it alone, but with your help, together, we can.

Thank you.

I think that both messages are more than clear. We children refuse to accept the violation of our rights during armed conflict.

The workshop ended in a warm atmosphere and 10 of the 40 children who took part were selected to participate in the national workshop on this same issue in late July.

Keep an eye out on Ponabana so you don’t miss the article on the national workshop!

Photos: UNICEF RDC/2015/Serge Wingi

Kindly translated from French by Jennifer Smithson

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Carmel

Carmel a 15 ans et il est enfant reporter de Kinshasa. Cycliste et constructeur de robot, il aime le football et Cristiano Ronaldo. Sa devise? "Malgré les tempêtes, il faut aller de l'avant".

Carmel is 15 years old and is a child reporter from Kinshasa. Carmel is a cyclist, builds robots and likes football and Cristiano Ronaldo. His motto is: ‘Despite the storms, one must move on.’

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