The Democratic Republic of Congo has vowed to bring to an end the recruitment of child soldiers within its borders.
The announcement came after the latest findings of the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report upgraded the country.
Congo narrowly avoided sanctions after moving up from the lowest ranking, Tier 3, to the Tier 2 Watch List.
The report said Congo has made giant strides in fighting human trafficking and ending the use of children as soldiers.
It added that not only has the country increased the number of its trafficking probes and prosecutions, but it has also taken steps to force militia commanders to renounce child recruitment.
It is common to find children within the ranks of militia groups in DRC, especially in the eastern part of the country. Some of the militia groups prey on local people and exploit mineral reserves.
Congo’s Minister of Human Rights, André Lite Asebea, said the government is implementing policies which will ensure zero tolerance for recruitment of child soldiers.
“The implementation of a directive within the armed forces aimed at eliminating the forced recruitment of children … is long overdue,” he told Reuters.
“The DRC has a zero-tolerance policy towards armed groups … perpetrating this kind of practice on our territory.”
Child recruitment stats
Last year, there were 601 cases of new child recruitment by militias in Congo, a UN mission in the DRC said.
UN data further suggests that close to 3,107 children were separated from or escaped armed groups in the past two years.
Juvenal Munubo, a member of the DRC’s National Assembly, believes the menace can be stopped only if judges become independent and prove able to hold complicit officials to account.
“The challenges still lie in … ensuring magistrates’ true independence, particularly from executive power,” he said.
“Several [trafficking] investigations have obviously been opened but the victims are still waiting for justice.”
This, he said, stems from the fact that, although the country’s laws criminalise all forms of sex trafficking, not all types of labour trafficking have been criminalised.
E A Alanore