Kinshasa, 10 June 2013 – The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, are concerned by reports indicating that at least 53 children are at risk of being re-recruited by the M23 rebel group in Nyiragongo Territory, North Kivu Province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"I strongly condemn the recruitment and use of children as well as other grave child rights violations committed by the M23 and other armed groups," said Roger Meece, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"I ask the M23 and other armed groups to immediately stop abusing children and I want to remind their leaders that they will be personally held accountable for any violations against children including the recruitment, re-recruitment or use of children in their ranks," added Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
The 53 children were part of a group of at least 70 who were recruited by the M23 in Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories. They escaped from the rebel group during clashes between Bosco Ntanganda and Sultani Makenga's factions in February 2013. Since then, 17 have reportedly fled the area while the remaining 53 are still in hiding in several locations.
These children are not only at risk of being re-recruited by the M23, but could also face serious security threats. MONUSCO continues to receive worrying reports that members of the M23 are meeting local chiefs and requesting them to identify and handover combatants who have deserted from the group.
MONUSCO is doing its utmost to access these children to ensure their protection and reunite them with their families.
Mr. Meece and Ms. Zerrougui reiterate their joint commitment to ensure the full protection of children affected by the armed conflict in the east of the country in collaboration with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN and NGO partners.