July 2012 – Thirty-three child soldiers were released from a breakaway faction of the Forces Républicaines et Fédéralistes (FRF), an armed group active around Minembwe in the Eastern province of South Kivu, DRC. The children had been with the armed group for two to three months. The demobilization operation was made possible after a community-based organization (CBO) established a dialogue with the armed group, which had been recruiting children between the ages of 14 and 17 among its own Banyamulenge community (an ethnic Tutsi population living in Eastern DRC) for some time.

Prior to opening a dialogue with the armed group, the CBO received training on Security Council Resolution 1612 (SCR 1612) by one of Watchlist’s partners, a local NGO who acts as the SCR 1612 Focal Point in that region and works in close collaboration with MONUSCO and UNICEF. When the armed group eventually agreed to release the children, the CBO alerted our partner organization, which then organized a mission to the area together with MONUSCO and a representative from a transit center for former child soldiers in Bukavu, South Kivu. The joint efforts of these actors enabled 22 children (including 3 girls) to immediately re-join their families in the area. The armed group was operating in a remote location, which constituted a challenge for the removal of the remaining 11 children whose families did not live in the region or had not yet been traced. Nevertheless, with the logistical support of a MONUSCO helicopter, the remaining children were safely transferred to the transit centre in Bukavu, where they will received further psychosocial support and vocational training while waiting to be re-integrated in a family setting.

The successful joint operation demonstrates how strong collaboration between local civil society and the UN can create timely and effective impact for children affected by armed conflict. It also illustrates how SCR 1612 and its Monitoring Reporting Mechanism (MRM) can create a framework for rapid response on the ground.