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ISS Seminar, Pretoria: Displaced, Recruited, and not Protected Children?
Date: 14 September 2012
Venue: , Institute for Security Studies, Veale Street, New Muckleneuk, Block C Seminar Room

Placing Children on the Response Agenda in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Presented by the Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, Pretoria Office

Recent humanitarian crises in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have once again exposed the cyclical nature of the conflict where children who are separated or displaced from their families and communities are at great risk of being recruited. At the same time in the current crisis, child soldiers are also most at risk of becoming displaced. In the eastern DRC displacement and child recruitment are deeply intertwined, and there appears to be a strong relation between the risk of recruitment during displacement, as well as a risk of displacement as an outcome of recruitment.

Generally in the DRC, significant progress has been achieved in the past nine years towards ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Tens of thousands of child soldiers have been released from the ranks of armed forces and groups, a child protection law was enacted in 2009 criminalising child soldier recruitment, and some programmes have addressed the recovery and reintegration needs of children returning from the ranks.

Despite these achievements, the situation for many current and former child soldiers remains substantially unchanged. Hundreds of children still remain within armed groups in the eastern DRC, which include the Mai Mai militia groups and the M23, with a June 2012 estimate of between 500-700 children being used by the Mai Mai militia groups. Recruitment is both by force and ‘voluntary` and involves girls and boys aged 12 to 17, although younger children are also recruited. Of concern is the large number of children being re-recruited by these groups, highlighting defiance of national and international law by armed group commanders.

The seminar will examine the current emerging security dynamics in the eastern DRC and the resultant impact on displaced children and child soldiers, as well as responses by various actors, for the connections between displacement and the use of children as soldiers remain poorly understood.

The seminar will provide insights into the challenges, if not addressed, that child soldiers will continue to face in the context of armed conflict and perpetual displacement. It takes into cognisance the fact that developing a better understanding of how insecurity, displacement and unrest impact the lives of children and their families is critical.

Under the evolving African legal normative and policy frameworks, what is or should be meaningful responses to displaced children and child soldiers in the eastern DRC? The seminar will also explore practical solutions that should ensure a safe and secure future for children in conflict-affected countries who suffer from abuse and violations, including displacement. The seminar is tailored to policymakers, practitioners and scholars interested in gaining and developing a strategic perspective, and will engage in exploratory discussions regarding potential responses to emerging legal and policy questions on responses to child soldiers and displacement in the eastern DRC.


  • Festus Aboagye, Senior Research Fellow, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS


  • Nelson Alusala, Arms Expert, UN Group of Experts on the DRC: Dynamics of the current crisis in the eastern DRC and its consequences for children and multilateral responses
  • Sandra A. Oder, Senior Researcher, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS: What can the eastern DRC learn from the region? The experience of displacement and Kony`s child soldiers in Uganda and implication of the Lubanga judgment and other policy responses to displacement and the situation of ‘child soldiers` in the eastern DRC

Please Note: All ISS Events occur under the ISS Rule, which means no attribution without specific permission, unless indicated otherwise.



Institute for Security Studies
Veale Street
New Muckleneuk
Block C Seminar Room

Khunju Peter
Tel: +27 12 346 9500
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