On August 21 and 22, 2017, Watchlist hosted its civil society partner from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in New York. Simon Kangeta, the Executive Director of the Association des Jeunes pour la Développement Intégré-Kalundu (AJEDI-Ka), met with Watchlist staff and briefed New York-based diplomats on the current situation of children in Eastern DRC.

Given recent international focus on violence in the Kasai Province, the visit provided an important opportunity to draw attention to the situation in DRC’s South Kivu Province. In late June and early July 2017, fighting between Congolese Government forces and the Coalition Nationale du Peuple pour la Souveraine du Congo (CNPSC) resulted in the forced displacement of thousands of civilians.

Grave violations against children in the context of the fighting have been reported. An inter-cluster mission to the Kimbi area in July 2017 documented reports of rape and sexual violence by both parties, recruitment and use of children by the CNPSC, and the alleged occupation of at least one school by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC). Moreover, insecurity caused by the fighting resulted in restrictions on the movement of humanitarian actors, disrupting the delivery of much-needed assistance.

According to a recent humanitarian bulletin published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the DRC now has the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in all of Africa. Some 3.8 million people are displaced, mainly as a result of growing insecurity in a number of provinces. This crisis comes at the same time as funding for the humanitarian response in the DRC is at its all-time low in 10 years and the UN Security Council is considering budget cuts to MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

Kangeta also briefed diplomats on AJEDI-Ka’s activities on monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children. Watchlist has supported AJEDI-Ka’s work to monitor, report on, and respond to the grave violations in the Fizi and Uvira territories of South Kivu since 2005. Since 2014, AJEDI-Ka has focused specifically on ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). Through sustained engagement with these armed groups, AJEDI-Ka seeks to promote compliance with international norms for the protection of children and to negotiate the release of children from their ranks. As part of its current project with Watchlist, AJEDI-Ka, in collaboration with community-based protection committees and other members of the Uvira Sub-Working Group on Child Protection, is in the process of mapping ANSAs in South Kivu that recruit and use children.

AJEDI-Ka’s visit to New York set the tone for Watchlist’s advocacy on the DRC in the coming months. The UN Secretary-General’s country-specific report on the situation of children and armed conflict in the DRC is expected to be published in early 2018, and MONUSCO’s mandate will also be up for renewal around that time.

Read more about Watchlist’s work on DRC: https://watchlist.org/countries/d-r-congo/.