Children are particularly vulnerable during conflict – and nowhere in the world is this more true than in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the most devastating issues in this conflict is the frequent and ongoing abduction of children – some as young as nine – into armed groups.
All the armed groups in Congo are guilty of forcibly recruiting children into their ranks – including the Congolese army itself. Once abducted, the children are brutalized and forced to serve as soldiers, porters and, in the case of thousands of abducted girls, sex slaves. Children are programmed to lie about their age and abduction, and often kept compliant with a steady supply of drugs.
Since 2004 there has been an effort to demobilize many of these children. About 31,000 children have been demobilized from Congo’s battlefields since 1999, but at least 8,000 are still being used as combatants, porters and sex slaves.
The reintegration process is difficult – many of the children face ostracization from their families or society at large, many suffer from drug addiction – some have actually wound up returning to armed groups. It is estimated that around 3,500 children are still with armed groups in Congo.
Tell Secretary Clinton – No More Child Soldiers!
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Congo brought much needed attention to the conflict there. Call her at (202) 647-5291:
Resources on Child Soldiers