On 20 November, 2012, rebels from the M23 armed group took control of the eastern DRC city of Goma, triggering a widespread humanitarian crisis and putting children at an increased risk of human rights violations. Grave violations against children have already been documented on the ground since the M23 emerged in April 2012. According to a UN Report, in that time frame, at least 264 civilians, including 83 children, were arbitrarily executed by armed groups in more than 75 attacks on villages in eastern DRC. With such an abysmal track record, it comes as little surprise that violations are continuing to occur with the recent occupation. The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC) released a statement two days after the rebels entered Goma citing that children had been reportedly killed and injured in the cross-fire as well as deliberately target, and have allegedly been recruited as soldiers.
On the same day the rebels entered Goma, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2076 (2012) which increased pressure on the M23 by announcing the Council’s intention to impose sanctions on two rebel commanders and to consider additional targeted measures on the group’s leadership and external supporters. This move came a week after the DRC Sanctions Committee imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on M23 leader Sultani Makenga, for his involvement in serious violations of international law, specifically sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers. Other individuals associated to the M23 are already on the UN sanctions list on the same grounds. This includes Bosco Ntaganda, who has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes including rape and using and recruiting child soldiers.
On 30, November, a regionally brokered agreement between the M23 rebels and the DRC government, mediated by Uganda, resulted in the rebels withdrawing to the outskirts of Goma. However, the rebels continue to threaten Goma and demand government negotiations. The situation remains volatile and children in and around Goma remain highly vulnerable to recruitment and use by armed groups, as well as other grave violations.