News / Africa

Rwanda Demobilizes Some Child Soldiers

Former child soldiers begin reintegration process at Mutobo camp, Oct. 7, 2013. (Photo: Margaret Besheer for VOA)
Former child soldiers begin reintegration process at Mutobo camp, Oct. 7, 2013. (Photo: Margaret Besheer for VOA)
Margaret Besheer
Over the past 16 years, Rwanda has demobilized some 3,000 child soldiers. Yet as these efforts continue, the United Nations claims that Kigali has been helping a Congolese rebel group, the M23, recruit children in Rwanda to send to fight in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
When Nizeyimani was a toddler, his parents left post-genocide Rwanda for the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. They died there when he was four years old. When he was 12, he was abducted in the refugee camp where he lived by soldiers from the Rwandan Hutu group, the FDLR, and taken to live in the bush with the rebels. He says life was very difficult, and those who tried to escape were caught and killed.
A relative eventually helped him to make his way to the U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, which works with the government of Rwanda to help disarm its nationals who are combatants in the eastern DRC.
Former FDLR fighters are first sent to the Mutobo demobilization camp where ex-fighters -- both men and boys -- stay for three months. This is where Nizeyimani began the process of reintegrating into Rwandan society. Former child soldiers are then sent to a rehabilitation center, where they receive counseling and medical screening and resume basic school studies while efforts are made to find their relatives.
Mutobo Demobilization Camp in Rwanda, Oct. 7, 2013. (Photo: Margaret Besheer for VOA)
Mutobo Demobilization Camp in Rwanda, Oct. 7, 2013. (Photo: Margaret Besheer for VOA)
Yet while Rwanda is working to help its own children come home, the head of MONUSCO's child protection section in Kinshasa, Dee Brillenburg Wurth, claims it is deliberately and systematically recruiting others to fight for the M23. Some of the children that have been recruited are as young as 11 years old. While MONUSCO cannot work outside of Congo, Brillenburg Wurth said they have anecdotal evidence that Rwanda is actively recruiting children.
“We know from children -- and this corroborated by other children and by adults -- that children are being recruited for example, we had an example of a football coach, of a police officer. At the beginning they told us they had this system in place, like a pyramid scheme; $5 for every child that was recruited,” explained Brillenburg Wurth.
She says that out of 122 children interviewed, 37 were Rwandan. Some were recruited in their country, others in Congo. Some thought they were being recruited by the Rwandan army, while others did not even know they were in the DRC.
“Many of them were abducted… this is very, very common with any armed group... You go and loot or you need to carry your arms from A to B, you just take kids from the villages and they don't let them go back. Most of the children, in fact nearly all of them, started their life as a M23 child carrying stuff from the Rwandan border,” continued Brillenburg Wurth
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo vehemently denied that Rwanda recruits children.
“Our track record in terms of military is very clear: Rwanda does not tolerate children being enrolled in any way near armed groups, not in our own army,” stated Mushikiwabo.
She said that once the crisis in the eastern Congo is resolved and armed groups are eliminated, the recruitment of child soldiers will end as well.
The United States has exerted its own pressure on Rwanda, recently blocking military aid to Kigali over its recruitment of child soldiers.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Nyabirungu from: Kigali
October 09, 2013 1:44 AM
Indeed it's unfortunate that pple charged with peacekeeping turn around to be drumming up drums of war in the region with wrong information! If Rwanda since around 1996 started what was called Kadogo Schools to demobilize child soldiers from its army and has been doing the same with children frm FDLR, how come that the same country is placed in the same basket with countries like Burma, Yemen, CAR etc? This is the highest order of diplomatic treason!
In Response

by: Dan from: Kigali
October 10, 2013 4:57 AM
For all of Margaret Besheer's time spent analyzing Eastern Congo, I would expect a much more balanced perspective of such deeply unfounded "claims." (Associating Rwanda today with Child Soldiers is an act of treason). She has little idea of what she's talking about. These claims are unfounded, lack credibility and stems from continued backroom propaganda to destabilize Rwanda. The UN higher ups have little by little spoon fed this propanda mandate to its VOA correspondents with an agenda to use Rwanda as a scape goat to their own inability to bring peace and stability despite a 1.5B annual budget in the region. In other news Mrs. Bresheer has thought that the intervention brigade would be a potential "game changer" to the region. Simply pathetic. And how will the UN skew whatever data they'll get from those tens of millions being spent on drones flying over the jungle. The UN has lost its credibility. The "root problem" of Eastern Congo is primarily Kabila, who lets it's own army rape and pillage its own citizens (Even 126 women at one time last November!). Time for a balanced opinion and stop associating Rwanda with Child Soldiers. Embarressment to the credibility of your own organization and an embarressment to yourself. Ask any professional expat living in Rwanda for an extended period of time and they'll explain how ridiculous these assumptions are. The government and army are highly disciplined and wouldn't risk the political back fall of being associated with child soldiers. People who truly know the situation in Eastern DRC will give far more balanced opinions than Mrs. Besheer whose likely sitting in a comfortable New York office skimming through skewed UN reports making gross assumptions about a situation she actually knows very, very, little about.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs