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In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) children make up the majority of combatants in the civil war and prolonged fighting between militia groups that has claimed over five million lives since 1997. In 2003, AJEDI-Ka, a DRC-based nonprofit organization that demobilizes and reintegrates child soldiers, partnered with WITNESS to produce several videos.
The videos (available below) feature voices of child soldiers and explore the complexity of the war, the issues confronted by female child soldiers such as rape and sexual exploitation, and the importance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to end the rampant impunity reigning in the eastern DRC. A Duty to Protect gives specific recommendations to strengthen the work of the ICC and calls for the international community’s engagement to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
On January 26, 2009, the ICC began its first trial — a landmark case against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Lubanga stood accused of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 to fight in his militia between 2002 and 2003 during the Congolese civil war. On March 14 2009, the International Criminal Court found Thomas Lubanga guilty of the war crime of using children in armed conflict.
Below are two short videos about the conflict and its consequences from Bukeni Waruzi, our Program Manager for Africa and the Middle East, and former executive director of AJEDI-Ka.
In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, children as young as six are routinely recruited by militias and taught to kill. It is estimated that 8- to 16-year-old-children make up 60% of combatants in the region.
A Duty to Protect tells the story of January and Mafille, two girls recruited into the military at ages ten and thirteen. Mafille is a demobilized soldier whose experience of violence and sexual exploitation caused her deep emotional scars. January is a young, soldier whose bravado veils her suffering, and whose character and perceptions personify the complexity of the conflict and the views of the local population.
This video also looks at the effects of the recruitment and use of child soldiers on their families and the broader community.
On the Frontlines was created by AJEDI-Ka and WITNESS to advocate for the cessation of the voluntary recruitment of child soldiers in Eastern DRC. The video features powerful footage, shot between 2003 and 2004, of children receiving military training in several militia camps in South Kivu along with compelling testimony from demobilized child soldiers.
At the time of filming, more than 10 militia groups operated in the region. All were reportedly using child soldiers. Over 35% of these children were recruited voluntarily, many motivated by a sense of patriotism or poverty. Parents and the community at large are also often involved in this voluntary recruitment of children. On the Frontlines has been screened throughout communities in Eastern DRC in an attempt to cease the voluntary recruitment of children from these communities.