Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups Now a Reality in Rutshuru, North Kivu

Jul 11, 2016

Children ex-soldiers learning gardening as part of the DDR Project in Walungu (2008), photo credit UNDP

Some 324 children, including 164 who were formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups, plus a further 164 vulnerable children, ended the 2016 school year in 20 schools and two academic catch-up centres in the chefferie of Bwisha in the territory of Rutshuru, 60km from the city of Goma.

In total, 1,000 children were identified as part of the joint project “Support for the stabilization of the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo through the reintegration of children formerly associated with the armed forces and armed groups and other vulnerable children in the territory of Rutshuru, Province of North Kivu” – CAAFAG (Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups)-Rutshuru.

The principle behind the identification of beneficiaries is simple: for every child associated with the armed forces or an armed group, the project also gives a place to one vulnerable child from the receiving community. Of the 1,000 children selected, 500 were associated with the armed forces and armed groups, and 500 were vulnerable children.

A group of 324 school-age children have been reintegrated into the normal primary and secondary education systems and over 672 have been granted professional training assured by the National Institute of Professional Preparation (Institut National de Préparation Professionnelle, INPP).

The students are offered different pathways, including car mechanics, carpentry, masonry, electrician training, hairdressing, design and dressmaking. These 672 children will also benefit from school meals for the entire duration of their training course.

There is a wide range of training programmes, and their length varies between three and six months (and more) depending on the student’s specialism.

Every school in the chefferie of Bwisha has received at least one child formerly associated with the armed forces and armed groups and one vulnerable child. However many children are enrolled at a school or an academic catch-up centre, the entire school is provided with school meals.

For the 2016 school year, which has just ended, a total of over 13,000 students from all the schools in the chefferie involved in the project have been provided with school meals.

The project, which is funded by the Japanese government, is not limited to children: it also ensures the socio-economic reintegration of 1,000 parents, tutors and host families.

This specific component, which falls under UNDP’s responsibility, is implemented through the agency’s innovative 3x6+ Approach. This starts by providing temporary employment through four labour-intensive work programmes designed to help the community, namely a bridge, a market in the city of Kiwandja, a community depot in Nyamilima and an agricultural route between Busanza and Bukoma.

The project is implemented jointly, through complementary results, by four United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WFP, UN Women and UNDP) and two national organizations (INPP and BRP, or Office of the Special Representative of the Head of State in Matters of Sexual Violence).

For these children, who have grown up alongside combatants and experienced sometimes traumatic events, this is the start of a new life and their future seems more certain. This was the case for Jeannot K, who was formerly associated with the armed group Mai-Mai FPD-Shetani: “It is a mercy to have survived in the forest and survived all kinds of attacks. We had lost our sense of humanity and were living like animals. Now, the CAAFAG project is giving me an opportunity to take control of my life and take part in the development of my chefferie. I have confidence in myself and I am going to learn a trade that will allow me to live with my family.”

As a reminder, the overall objective of the joint CAAFAG project is to contribute to the stabilization and return to security of the chefferie of Bwisha in the territory of Rutshuru, through the socio-economic reintegration of children linked to armed forces and armed groups and of other vulnerable members of the community.

A first joint monitoring mission on the implementation of this project took place on 23-24 June 2016 in Bwisha.

Its aim was to evaluate the level of implementation of interventions by all the stakeholders in the CAAFAG project. On 23 June in Rutshuru, a joint information workshop on the achievements of the project since its official launch on 22 March 2016 was held.

During this workshop, the four UN agencies and two state institutions spoke about the development of the project in front of a large audience comprising members of the chefferie of Bwisha, the administration of the territory, and civil society, including organizations for young people, women and minorities (pygmies).

Clarisse Museme

Article translated by Rebecca Neal

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