Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Fact Sheet
- Population: 51.2 million
- Government armed forces: 97,800
- Child soldiers: 30,000
- All parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to recruit child soldiers
- More than 3 million people have died since 1998
- The country remains fragmented under the control of different faction groups
- RCD-Goma - this faction group claims to recruit child soldiers because it protects the child themselves
- RCD-ML - This faction group is backed by the government of DRC. They recruit dozens of demobilized children in order to fight RCD-Goma in northern DRC
- Mai-Mai - this is a faction group that is consisted of 50 percent child soldiers. They are backed by the government of DRC in order to fight RCD-Goma in eastern DRC.
- Ituru conflict - conflict between ethnic groups in eastern DRC
- Democratic forces for the Liberation of Congo
- The DRC forces and most of the factions in the country committed to demobilization in 2001, but it is nearly impossible because of the continuing conflict
- Children who have been demobilized often return to the faction groups because of no other opportunities
Congo's Current Conflict
More than 3 million people have died since the since the beginning of the internal conflict in 1998. The small amount of available economic and natural resources has been responsible for the continuous human rights abuses and ravaging wars. Women and girls have continued to be subjected to rape and sexual harassment in the ranks of the rebel groups. In July 2003, a government of national unity came to power. This new government represented the former government, major armed groups, and civilians as a whole. Even with the presence of this government, the country remained fragmented under the management of different political forces.
The country remained fragment mainly because of the continuing Ituru conflict in the eastern region between different ethnic groups. Also, the Democratic forces for the Liberation of Congo continued its persecution and bloodshed in the northern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2006, the country held its first multi-party elections since 1960 only to find riots and burning of polling stations across the country. The Supreme Court’s confirmation of the results threw the country into even more shambles, as the factions supporting Jean-Pierre Bemba rioted throughout the streets.
Congo's Use of Child Soldiers
Although official demobilization of child soldiers in all levels of faction groups and government forces began in 2000, none of the participating groups were truly committed, resulting in the demobilization of less than 1 percent of the child soldiers. In many instances in eastern Congo, child soldiers consisted of more than 40 percent of the armed political groups. Adolphe Onusumba, the leader of of RCD-Goma, continues to claim that children join the faction group voluntarily because the opportunity provided for education and care which was not available on the streets. RCD-Goma has been notoriously known to send child soldiers without training into the front lines. Even though demobilization of all child soldiers was reported, the RCD-ML faction group continued to use children as guards, messengers, and spies. The faction group Mai Mai is most known for its use of child soldiers. More than 50% of the faction group consists of child soldiers, and in many cases, girls are raped and forced to be the wives of commanders. The government of DRC regularly executed captured child soldiers without any form of a trial. In one case, a 17-year old RCD-Goma soldier was detained and executed in public on the same day.
- "Democratic Republic of Congo." Child Soldiers Global Report 2004. 2004. 15 March 2007 <http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=767>.
- "Democratic Republic of Congo." Human Rights Watch. May 2001. 12 March 2007 <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/drc3/>.
- "Democratic Republic of Congo." Wikipedia. 1 April 2007. 3 April 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo>.
- Li, Kun. "DR Congo: Country in Crisis." UNICEF. 30 March 2005. 5 March 2007 <http://www.unicef.org/emerg/index_25818.html>.
- "The use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo." Human Rights Watch. 1999. 20 Feburary 2007 <http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/crp/congo.htm>.