They both attended a meeting at FNAC in which they shared their experiences with other assistants. Valeria Mendez de Vigo, Coalition spokesman, introduced the context on child soldiers : location, numbers, degree of international commitment, Coalition's role, etc., followed by Nicole, who with the help of interpreters, presented the programme she promotes in Uvira "Transit and Recognition Centre" together with the JRS. Destin closed the encounter with his experience as ex soldier boy. You can click here for his testimony.
Until February 19, when Nicole and Dustin end their tour, they will travel to Vitoria, San Sebastian, Santander, León and Toledo where they will demand the end of the use of child soldiers.
NICOLE NUYTS, JRS project director
JRS Demobilization and Reintegration of Child Soldiers Project, Uvira, DRC
Nationality: Belgian, 53 years old
Nicole has worked in Eastern Africa for nine years. She began working in Uganda assisting abandoned street children between the ages of zero and four. Six years later in October 2005, she began working for JRS Burundi managing a project for conflict-displaced persons. Last year, she established the child soldier project in Uvira in Congo D.R. The objective of the project is to assist more than 200 child soldiers in demobilizing and reintegrating into their communities of origin. The project offers hope of a better future to these children and helps generate a climate of peace and reconciliation in the region.
DESTIN MALIYAMUNGA (former child soldier)
Nationality: Congolese, 17 years old.
Destin lived with his family in a small village in South Kivu province. At age 14 he was forcibly recruited by Mai Mai rebels who regularly came to his village to take children from local families.
For two years he lived in a forest as a child soldier. On occasions he was involved in armed combat. During this time he had no contact with his family. In 2006, he became aware of organizations that assist child soldiers to regain their freedom and provide vocational training. He later contacted a staff member of a local NGO with which JRS Works. One day, together with four friends, he decided to escape. The same local NGO staff member later referred him to the JRS. At the moment he is in the reintegration phase of the Project learning to be a mechanic.
Uvira, Demobilization and Reintegration of Child Soldiers
Alter 5 years of war and almost 3 million dead, the Congo Democratic Republic tries to recover peace. One of the problems it faces is the boys and girls kidnapped or used by the different armed groups in the conflict, some of which are still active in the eastern area of the country. Different organizations of civil society are making efforts to demobilize and re insert these children in their places of origin and their homes. This is not easy due to the atrocities seen and done by these children. Psychological aid and an adequate family surrounding are vital for re insertion to be carried out successfully.
From 2001 the Congo D.R. government and the majority of armed groups have been officially involved in the demobilization of child soldiers. Success has been limited due to continuous conflicts, mostly in the eastern part of the country. 900 boys and girls had been demobilized by the government in February 2004 and 1.000 by the armed groups with the help of NGOs. According to CDR Child Soldier Coalition, 4.255 children, including 121 girls had been demobilized in March 2004 by the armed groups in Bukavu, Goma, Kindu, Bunia, Kalemie, Kassai and Kinshasa. However, recruitment is still a constant threat..
The National Disarmament, Demobilization and Re insertion, DDR, was finally adopted in February 2004. This initiative, coordinated by the National Commission for Demobilization and Re insertion, works to retrieve arms from the soldiers and to demobilize them so they can return to civil life. The programme directed to ex Congolese soldiers, men or women, who have participated in armed conflicts between October 1996 and May 2003, currently there are around 20.000 estimated. The programme also identifies as vulnerable groups, boys and girls under 18 who were recruited as soldiers by the armed groups.
Uvira, situated in the west of Congo D.R., is one of the areas where the majority of soldier boys and girls come from. Almost all of them were recruited by the Mai Mai, native guerrilla groups, and the RCD-ML (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie- Mouvement de Libération). The Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS, supported by Entreculturas, works for the needs of these children in their demobilization, accompanying them during the whole of the social reintegration process, raising awareness of the problem in the families and communities and preventing recruitment.