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Democratic Republic of Congo: Child Soldiers

Volume 686: debated on Thursday 2 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the Amnesty International report, Children at War: Creating hope for their future; and what practical help they are giving through their development programme to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of children under arms in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[HL7794]

We welcome the Amnesty International report on children associated with armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the attention it draws to this important issue. Some progress has taken place since the Amnesty International report was compiled. Out of an estimated 30,000 children associated with armed forces, 19,054 had been demobilised when Amnesty International compiled its data (31 June 06). The figure is now 27,346 (30 September 2006). Demobilisation is ongoing, although at a very slow rate. Amnesty is right to demand more from the Congolese Government. We continue to push for the total demobilisation of all child soldiers.

The UK has given £15 million over five years to the World Bank-led multi-country demobilisation and reintegration programme (MDRP), covering DRC and neighbouring countries. We have also given £3 million to the 2006 International Committee of the Red Cross appeal for DRC, which includes programmes for protection and reintegration of children.

The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process in DRC is far from finished, and we agree with Amnesty International that there is much more work to be done to complete the complicated and sensitive task of fully reintegrating children. This is particularly so for girls linked with armed groups. We are talking to the World Bank about how to ensure that the DRC's national DDR body—CONADER—and international and national implementing organisations that specialise in this area continue to receive appropriate support.

Amnesty's report calls for the removal of school fees in DRC to ensure that opportunities for education are available to all, including vulnerable groups such as demobilised children. DfID is currently discussing a major project with the World Bank to increase access to primary education in DRC by helping to reduce these fees.