Both Sides in Congo Still Using Child-Soldiers, Say Reports

Up to 20,000 Street Children in the Capital

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NEW YORK, JUNE 4, 2001 ( Human Rights Watch accused a Congolese rebel group of continuing to force-recruit child-soldiers, while a U.N. panel said the government is also using underage troops.

«Children are being abducted and sent to battle by the very soldiers who are supposed to protect them,» said Alison des Forges, senior adviser of Human Rights Watch´s African division.

In a report, the New York-based group revealed that Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD-Goma) «has repeatedly pledged to demobilize its child-soldiers, but has not fulfilled these promises.»

Moreover, some of the children who were demobilized have «found themselves in the street,» or have not been reintegrated into society, noted the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. The committee also said that children are still serving in the government´s armed forces and reportedly falsifying their ages in order to be recruited into the army.

A committee member said that if the Congolese government paid more attention to education, other problems would be solved. He noted that the budgetary allocation for education is only 1%.

Congo recently presented a report, introduced by Social Affairs Minister Embamba Boboto, in which she stated that the government´s efforts to implement child rights would have been more significant «had the war of aggression not created impediments.»

«The economic crisis and the armed conflicts from which the country is suffering are still taking a heavy toll on child victims, and categories of children requiring special protection are appearing,» the report stated.

Those categories include children who are living on the streets; being economically or sexually exploited; or functioning as soldiers. The report noted there are between 15,000 and 20,000 street children in the capital, Kinshasa, due mainly to poverty, the breakup of families, displacement caused by war, and the death of parents from AIDS.

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