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Children paying high price of DR Congo fighting: UN

28 july 2013, 16:34
0
The United Nations warned Friday it had "worrying" evidence that a growing number of children are being killed or injured in the renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, AFP reports.

As many as 2,000 are being used as child soldiers in the conflict in the volatile east of the country, where government troops are battling rebels from the M23 group, UNICEF representative Barbara Bentein said.

Up to 2,000 children are taking part in the fighting, estimates the UN.

"The resumption of conflict between the national army and armed groups in North Kivu province is a direct risk to children in and around the areas where fighting is taking place," said Barbara Bentein.

"UNICEF has received reports of children killed or injured as a direct result of the current clashes.

"The available information points to a worrying situation where children are increasingly among the victims."

Bentein called on all sides to respect international law and free those children who have been forced to fight.

"The recruitment and use of children under 18 years of age in armed forces and groups is a crime under Congolese and international law.

"Those responsible must be identified, arrested and prosecuted in the shortest possible time.

"We urge all parties involved in the conflict to release minors in their ranks," said Bentein.

Fighting between the armies of the DR Congo and the M23 began again on July 14 following a two-month truce, close to the city of Goma in North Kivu.

These latest clashes caused at least 5,000 people to flee their homes, mostly children.

The M23 is an armed group launched by Tutsi former soldiers who mutinied from the Congolese army in April 2012. It occupied Goma for 10 days in November before withdrawing under international pressure.

In addition, an Islamic rebel group ADF-Nalu which is opposed to the Ugandan state, resumed hostilities in July in the north of the region causing some 65,000 further people to flee their homes.

Since January 2013, UNICEF and its partners have "supported the demobilisation and reintegration of 1,700 children" in the country.

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