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Children soldiers rescued from DR Congo militia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The world became a little less awful last week when 80 children were freed from forced servitude as child soldier in the DR Congo. According to the United Nations, the children ranged from eight to 17 years old. The children were rescued from an armed group in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and are in the process of being reunited with their families.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Of the 82 young people freed, 13 were girls The children had been recruited by force by the infamous Mai Mai Bakata-Katanga militia. That group's activities are largely in the province of Katanga, the UN peacekeeping mission said in a statement.

The youngsters were separated from the militia on August 11 and 15 thanks to the joint effort of local child protection agencies in the province, the peacekeeping force of MONUSCO said. The children had reportedly been recruited over the past six months.


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


MONUSCO head Martin Kobler 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."


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


The home province of President Joseph Kabila, Katanga is regularly roiled by secessionist forces dating back to 1960 when the mining province announced it was seceding from the rest of the nation. That action triggered a long series of wars and armed conflicts.


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


Tensions had increased in the region in recent months, with the 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.


Armed conflict erupted between army troops and the militia group in March, which child fighters, in the provincial capital of Lubumbashi, which left 23 dead.



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