Democratic Republic of the Congo
Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
Section E. Rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Decree on the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, CONADER, (2003), provides:
A National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, CONADER, is created.
The CONADER comprises five Directorates, namely:
- the Directorate for Disarmament and Demobilization;
- the Directorate for the Reintegration of Ex-combatants;
- the Directorate for Finances and Personnel;
- the Directorate for Children Associated with the Armed Forces;
- the Directorate for Information and Sensibilization.
The Directorate for Children Associated with the Armed Forces is charged with:
- planification and identification;
- psychosocial support;
- conception and implementation of mechanisms of rehabilitation and/or family reintegration;
- identification of national and international partners in the sector.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Law on Child Protection (2009) states:
The State ensures the demobilization of children enlisted or used in armed forces and groups, as well as in the police, and their reintegration into their families or communities.
The State shall ensure the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in a difficult and/or exceptional situation.
The Law also states:
For the purpose of the present law, it is understood as:
1. child: every person under the age of 18;
5. child in an exceptional situation: a child in a situation of armed conflict[.]
In 2007, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Democratic Republic of the Congo stated:
52 The resources of the Government are supplemented by financial support from bilateral or multilateral cooperation[s] directed towards the implementation of specific projects. … Funding of US$ 1,047,489 was provided [by the World Bank] during the period 2002–2005 for the project “Support for abused children and children leaving armed forces and armed groups.”
56. Through Act No. 004/2001 of 20 July 2001 containing general provisions applying to non-profit entities and entit[i]es serving the public interest, the Government strengthened its cooperation with organizations of civil society involved in the development of policies and programmes. Their implementation requires public and private entit[i]es to work together with synergy. By way of illustration, in the domain of social and economic reintegration of children involved with armed forces and armed groups, the executing entit[i]es that are working as partners with the National Commission for Disarmament and Reintegration (Commission nationale de désarmement et réinsertion (CONADER)) belong exclusively to civil society.
68. [O]ther legal enactments that provide specific protection for persons under age 18 are:
(a) Decree-Law No. 066 of 9 June 2000, providing for demobilization and reintegration of vulnerable groups present within fighting forces, whose article 2 provides: “Vulnerable groups shall mean: child soldiers, girls or boys under age 18 (…)”;
96. The war, which had a very adverse effect on children’s rights, has ended through the conclusion and implementation of the Global and Comprehensive Agreement signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002, although there remain to this day some isolated pockets of armed conflict in the East of the country.
97. … Among the positive measures taken by the Government to maintain a lasting peace, the following should be noted:
- The demobilization of children in armed forces and armed groups;
201. The extreme poverty faced by families accounts for the massive enlistment of children in armed groups since the war of 1996. Having thus been prematurely put through the traumatizing experience of war, these children have been denied the enjoyment of their fundamental rights to education, health and integrated development. In order to extricate these children from that harmful environment in the future, the Government, with significant support from international cooperation, has exerted considerable efforts to remove from armed groups and forces all children involved in them in one way or another (soldiers, bearers, pages, household aides, etc.), whose number has been reckoned at over 30,000, including about 15 per cent girls.
203. The application of Decree-Law No. 066/2000 had been entrusted to the National Office for Demobilization and Reintegration (Bureau national pour la démobilisation et la réinsertion (BUNADER)), which was replaced by the National Commission for the Demobilization and Reintegration of Child Soldiers (Commission nationale pour la démobilisation et la réinsertion (CONADER)), created under Decree No. 03/042 of 18 December 2003 [on the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration)]. Accountable to the Ministries of National Defence, Demobilization and Veterans’ Affairs, Social Affairs and Solidarity and Humanitarian Affairs (article 39), CONADER is entrusted with coordination and follow-up of all actions pursued for the benefit of children involved in armed forces and groups. This activity is carried out in parallel with the reorganization of adults from the regular armed forces and from armed groups who are fit to continue in military service. The DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] Programme is supported by a trust fund managed by the World Bank.
204. On 30 April, 2006, 29,291 children certified in orientation centres were withdrawn from armed forces and groups; 15,220 are beneficiaries of a programme of social and economic reintegration being carried out on the ground by about 9 international NGOs and 35 national NGOs, which are also receiving support from UNICEF. Thus, the presence of children in some largely un-integrated military units is dwindling.
205. However, surveying the number of girls and ensuring their removal remains a fairly delicate issue. Many girls who were conscripted or who voluntarily enlisted now consider themselves the “wives” of soldiers and thus place themselves outside the DDR programme. Moreover, those who are completely free to leave the armed groups are reluctant to come forward and to seek aid from the DDR programme. Fear of social ostracism if they reveal their association with the armed forces, and a concern to preserve their dignity, lead them to prefer a discreet return to civilian life.
206. Also noteworthy is the implementation of the inter-regional programme to prevent involvement of children in armed conflicts and to provide for their reintegration, as part of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
207. With a view to facilitating their reception, a Community Programme to foster family reunification and socio-economic reintegration of children from armed forces and groups has been implemented in all of the country’s provinces. In summary, the national programme for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children comprises the following stages:
(a) A campaign for the release of children involved in armed forces and groups;
(b) Training functional partners in temporary reception and reintegration activities;
(c) National and local awareness-raising on the issue of children involved in armed forces and groups;
(d) Identification of children in the hands of armed forces and groups;
(e) Reception of children in transitional centres;
(f) Seeking out families and arranging family reunification;
(g) Social and economic reintegration activities.
208. However, the programme of economic reintegration of children is currently hampered by the lack of opportunities for children to improve their economic situation in general and by financial difficulties due to the lack of a long-term source of support. As a result, children run the risk of falling into delinquency and some are even tempted to enlist again in the regular armed forces or in armed groups that are still active in some parts of the country, such as the North (Equateur Province) or the East (Eastern, North-Kivu and South-Kivu Provinces). The Government intends to resolve this financial problem with the support it anticipates from its partners in order to give renewed impetus to the programme of social, vocational and economic reintegration of these children.
209. With regard to measures for psychological readjustment of children involved in armed forces, it should be noted that temporary resettlement in “peace villages” (structures d’encadrement transitoire (SET)) through which children transit before reunification with their families does not completely satisfy that need because the programme for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration provides for only a short stay (30 days at most) in those facilities, and the facilities in any event lack qualified psychologists. The consequences of this state of affairs are such that some children have difficulty in adjusting to family life and show behavioural problems that translate into acts of violence against those close to them.
210. The solution envisaged consists of giving international and national NGOs providing for the re-education of children in temporary centres and for their reunification with their families the means to do systematic follow-up work with children withdrawn from armed forces and groups and to provide psychological counselling for those who need it.
214. Paradoxically, the progress that has been made in suppressing conscription of children has made it more difficult to take stock of the children still present in various groups involved in the process of reorganization of the army. Fearing that they may be prosecuted for conscripting children, most commanding officers who decide to take part in the reorganization simply abandon the children who were still present in their ranks. That in turn deprives those children of the benefit of social and economic reintegration activities. This has been noted especially in Katanga, South Kivu and Equateur Provinces. It must needs be acknowledged as well that the persistence of zones of fighting increases the risk that children will be conscripted. That is so in Ituri and the Kivu provinces, where there have recently been reports of abduction of some thirty children, including girls.
In 2008, in its written replies to the issues raised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child with regard to its second periodic report, the Democratic Republic of the Congo stated:
With regard to the budget for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes (DDR), it should be pointed out that in their phases I and II (under BUNADER (Bureau national de démobilisation et de réinsertion – National Demobilization and Reinsertion Office) and CONADER (Commission Nationale de la Demobilization et Reinsertion
– National Commission for Demobilization and Reintegration)), which are now completed, budget appropriations for the DDR programme amounted to about US$ 208 million, including a US$ 108 million donation from the IDA/World Bank and US$ 100 million from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF). The funding was administered by the Committee for the administration of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration resources (CGFDR), established pursuant to Decree No. 03/043 of 18 December 2003. In its work on behalf of children, the DDR programme assisted 30,594 children released by the armed forces and armed groups through phases devoted to the search for families, family reunification and reintegration support.
Phase III, which is being carried out by the DDR implementation unit (UEPN-DDR), has received US$ 72 million in funding, including US$ 50 million from the World Bank and US$ 22 million from the African Development Bank (ADB).
Providing the necessary assistance for the physical and psychological rehabilitation as well as social reintegration of children who have left the armed forces or armed groups has been part of the DDR programme since its inception in 2001. Generally speaking, the process of psychological counselling and assistance in family and community reintegration is as follows:
(a) Children removed from the armed forces and armed groups whose families can be easily contacted are directly reunited with them as soon as they arrive at the “peace villages” (structures d’encadrement transitoire (SET));
(b) Children who must stay a little longer in the SETs receive a token “civilian life” kit containing clothing, shoes, bed linen and kitchen utensils. They are also given a medical examination. Counselling sessions are held with them throughout their stay at the centre … Other socio-cultural and sports activities are also organized.
At the same time, the search for families is started, followed, as appropriate, by mediation aimed at achieving reunification. If mediation fails or if the children are unable to find their biological family, they are placed with a “temporary foster family”, which is pre-selected by the DDR implementation unit in accordance with criteria set by the operating handbook on the prevention, withdrawal and care of children involved with armed forces and armed groups.