Democratic Republic of Congo

Optional Protocol:
Ratified November 2001
Compulsory recruitment age:
No conscription in law
Voluntary recruitment age:
Democratic Republic of Congo

Armed conflict in the DRC involving the national army and a range of Congolese and foreign armed groups has continued mostly in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu since the war officially ended in 2002. All fighting forces have unlawfully recruited boys and girls and have used them in hostilities including, although not only, as fighters.

Tens of thousands of children have been released from the armed forces and from armed groups including during the integration of armed groups into the national army. However, many under-18s were absorbed into the army during integration processes and, while child recruitment levels by the army are lower than in previous years, effective mechanisms to prevent underage recruitment are still lacking.

In the context of on-going insecurity children remain at risk of recruitment: an intensification of the conflict in late 2011- early 2012 resulted in new waves of child recruitment and use by armed groups in eastern DRC. There are also renewed allegations of support by Rwanda to some of these groups.

The International Criminal Court’s conviction, in March 2012, of Thomas Lubanga – found guilty of the war crime of enlisting and conscripting under-15s and using them in hostilities – was an important step towards ending impunity for such crimes. However, at national level, the Congolese authorities have consistently failed to effectively investigate and bring to justice those suspected of recruiting and using children in hostilities.

On 4 October 2012, the government of the DRC and the United Nations officially committed to ending the recruitment and use of children by Congolese armed forces and security services by signing an Action Plan.

Our current work in the DRC aims to:

  • Promote the effective implementation of OPAC by advocating with the government and the UN to put in place effective and durable prevention measures.
  • Support national NGOs working on child soldier prevention at provincial and community levels to carry out advocacy with administrative, military and judicial authorities, and engage with armed forces, armed groups and affected communities.
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