By: Joseph H. Cavallaro- Vision GRAM-International
May 26, 2015 – In recent weeks, several hundred Congolese children have escaped from armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though the freeing of children from armed groups is always a cause for celebration, there are still an estimated 30,000 children fighting with armed groups in the DR Congo.
The armed rebel group that uses many of these child soldiers is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). They are remnants of the original FDLR that is responsible for the Rwandan Genocide in which 800,000 Tutsi civilians were killed. The FDLR fled Rwanda and took refuge in the eastern DR Congo after they were forced out of the country in 1994.
The FLDR survives to this day by kidnapping children, including many girls, and using them as fighters. However, some progress has been made by the latest Congolese military offensive, in which the UN peacekeeping mission has no role this time around. Felix Prosper Basse, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO), recently expressed his concern for the children being forced to fight with the FDLR. He stressed the fact the children should be in school and living normal lives.
Vision GRAM – International reiterates the opinion of Mr. Basse in stressing that children should never be used as soldiers, and that armed groups should release their captive children immediately. Hopefully the latest Congolese military offensive will free more children from the grasp of the FDLR.