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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid