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North Kivu: FARDC maintain blocking positions against Nkunda's rebels

MONUC | Published on December 20, 2007

At its weekly press conference of 19 December 2007, MONUC announced that there

At its weekly press conference of 19 December 2007, MONUC announced that there "appears to be a progressive stabilisation" of the situation, as the FARDC have taken up blocking positions east, west and north of Laurent Nkunda's rebels in North Kivu province.

East of Rutshuru district and south of Masisi district, sporadic clashes took place involving the displacement of population towards areas occupied by MONUC forces.

MONUC continues its support to the FARDC, and has installed new mobile operating bases in Kanyabayonga, Rutshuru, Bunagana, Kibumba, Mugunga, Muja, Munigi, Ndosho, Rusayo, Kisangasi, Sake, Mushake, Masisi and Kilolirwe to protect these vulnerable populations, and to make it possible for the humanitarian organisations to provide the required assistance.

MONUC, moreover, reiterated its firm intention to keep open the trade route leading to Goma, while being ready to assist populations in danger, as well as supporting the Congolese democratic institutions in the search for peace.

MONUC also noted the continuation of the presence of hundreds of children on the frontline in North-Kivu.

"Hundreds of boys and girls continue to be sent to the frontline by the armed groups. Since the resumption of the engagements in August 2007, the monitoring and communication mechanism set up by Resolution 1612 (2005) of the UN Security Council reported child recruitment activities in North-Kivu," explained MONUC spokesman Kemal Saiki.

"According to several testimonies, once forcibly recruited, the children receive a military training and are sent to the frontline, in the middle of the clashes, whereas others are used for various logistical tasks or as sex slaves," added Mr. Saiki.

These children are particularly vulnerable to forced recruitment in schools by certain North Kivu armed groups. This means that schools are high risk places for recruitment, and may lead to the closure of schools.

Since 2004, more than 8,500 children had already joined their families after voluntarily leaving armed groups in North-Kivu. But several of them were again recruited. The current crisis compromises all the hard fought gains during the three last years of the child demobilization process in North-Kivu.

Furthermore, MONUC called for an immediate end to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts in the province. It also asked the armed groups to hand over all boy and girls in their ranks to the child protection agencies.

In conclusion, MONUC recalled that the Congolese national law and constitution prohibited the presence of children of less than 18 years within the army. Moreover, the International Criminal Court regards the recruitment and use of children of less than 15 years by armed forces and groups as a war crime, and can pursue all the actors of these crimes.

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