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UN: Thomas Lubanga's indictment is the beginning

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MONUC - March 6, 2007 12:40 PM

Radhika Coomaraswamy

The United Nations envoy on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy is on a six-day visit to DRC to discuss the issues of children associated with armed groups, sexual violence and impunity with the government authorities. In Kinshasa, on March 5, 2007, she spoke further about the aim of her visit before traveling to Ituri district and the Kivu provinces.

INTERVIEW

Could you explain for us the aim of your visit here to DRC?

I came here to raise certain concerns with regards to the government and civil society. These concerns were also raised by the United Nations Security Council working group.

These concern the issue of impunity for grave violations of children’s rights, as well as human rights violations and also the issue of child recruitment, child disarmament and child reintegration and thirdly the whole issue of sexual violence.

While we have raised all these issues with UN agencies as well as the government authorities, I am encouraged that there is a commitment on the part of both the government and UN agencies to address these issues.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence assured me that they and their government will treat this issue as a high priority

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence assured me that they and their government will treat this issue as a high priority.

How will you collaborate with the government to fight against the use of children in armed conflicts?

With regards to child recruitment, MONUC is assisting in the separation of children from adults in the demobilization process. I think UNDP and UNICEF as well as the World Bank will help in the reintegration of those children.

One of the militia leaders, Thomas Lubanga, is on trial in the ICC for enlisting children; are you confident that others responsible for similar crimes will be brought to justice?

Everything must have a beginning and Mr. Lubanga’s indictment is the beginning and if there are others who have committed such crimes, they will also face the ICC when the investigations produce enough evidence.

I would hope that the national and international law have their own process and momentum and they will hold these people accountable. We will urge the “auditor militaire”, prosecutors and judges to find them guilty.

What are the problems facing the reintegration of former children associated with armed forces and groups?

The issue of reintegration is perhaps the biggest issue facing the country. I now think the recruitment phase is over really. From other experiences around the world, we know this is very difficult, that children often don’t want to return home and when they return home, they often leave and get recruited, or they go to other countries and join other forces, or they become criminal gangs, there is a whole host of issues.
The issue of reintegration is perhaps the biggest issue facing the country

What we need is a two pronged approach. the first is to deal with the child, to deal with their phsyco-social needs, train them and give them education and life skills so that they can go out in the world.

It’s also important to build the community so that they can receive the children, so we would expect school systems to start being built, as well as sports, recreation and health facilities and the creation of youth groups, so that the children can reintegrate into the community easier.

We know that CONADER is facing financial problems; do you think that the funding will be made available so that CONADER will be able to continue its program?

I think CONADER will probably be able continue its programme. I think the international community is very concerned about this issue but I think they are thinking how to proceed from now. With regard to the long term view on reintegration, people are now having discussions around this issue and hopefully the next few months something will be finalised.


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