[QODLink]
Africa

82 child soldiers rescued in DR Congo: UN

The children, some as young as eight years old, were forcibly recruited by the Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga armed group.

Last Modified: 17 Aug 2013 02:29
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The UN says the recruitment of children could constitute a war crime [AFP]

More than 80 children, some as young as eight years old, have been rescued from an armed group in the 
Democratic Republic of Congo's southeast and are being reunited with their families, the UN said on Friday.

The 82 youngsters, including 13 girls, had been snatched by the Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga group who are active in the province of Katanga, the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) said in a statement.

The youngsters, aged eight to 17, were separated from the group on August 11 and 15, thanks to the joint efforts of local child protection agencies in the province, MONUSCO added. The children had been recruited over the past six months, it said.

Forty of the rescued children "were immediately reunited with their families, while the remaining are receiving interim care pending reunification," the statement read.

Martin Kobler, head of MONUSCO, said the UN was "extremely concerned" about ongoing reports of active recruitment by armed groups in eastern DR Congo.

"Children face unacceptable risks when they are recruited for military purposes," he said.

"The recruitment of children, particularly those under 15 years of age, could constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account."

Rising tensions

MONUSCO estimates that 163 children, including 22 girls, have been separated from Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga fighters since the beginning of the year.

Katanga, the home province of President Joseph Kabila, is regularly engulfed by secessionist unrest dating back to 1960 when the mining province announced it was seceding from the rest of the nation, triggering a long series
of wars and rebellions.

Katanga is the richest part of the country, with various mineral resources including copper, which is the mainstay of foreign exports.

Tensions have been rising in recent months, with the Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga complaining about what it sees as the unequal distribution of wealth between the poorer northern parts of the province and the richer southern areas, where foreign firms operate.

In March, clashes erupted between army troops and the Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga, including child fighters, in the provincial capital of Lubumbashi, leaving 23 dead.

338

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.