UN envoy warns of dangers to children in eastern DR Congo

24 April 2009The United Nations envoy tasked with protecting the rights of children in armed conflict today warned of the dire security situation in some parts of strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told reporters in New York that during her week-long visit to the DRC earlier this month the security situation “seemed less tense and more programmes were evident with regards to children” than two years ago, especially in the North Kivu capital of Goma.However, in the Province Orientale town of Dungu, “a dire security situation exists,” with almost 1,000 children killed and some 300 abducted since last September by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan militia notorious for seizing children to use as soldiers and sex slaves.“Most of the schools [in the area have been] attacked and destroyed by the LRA,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy, underscoring the need to beef up security and to ensure that security personnel themselves do not commit grave violations. Minors make up almost half the victims of sexual violence and 64 per cent of the perpetrators are men in uniform, noted the Special Representative. “The issue of impunity was the central question on the minds of people in civil society and the children themselves and the need for justice mechanisms to work.”She emphasized that the reintegration of child soldiers into their families remained the focus of child protection teams in the area, noting that in the last month alone, some 1,300 child soldiers had been demobilized from the mainly Tutsi rebel militia, known as the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP), in North Kivu. But concerns remain that many children are passing through into the ranks of the newly integrated Congolese Forces (FARDC). “In fact when I arrived at the airport in Masisi, the Mai Mai [a rebel group] commanders wearing FARDC uniforms had bought with them four children as part of their troops and the child protection actors in our team actually separated them,” she said.Referring to the latest annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Coomaraswamy said, “we have also urged that the Security Council move towards setting up a system for setting sanctions against the 19 persistent violators who continue to recruit and use children.” The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council explicitly lists in its annexes 56 parties, both State and non-State, who have committed grave violations against children, including the 19 persistent violators who have been listed for more than 4 years. The report also documents grave violations against children in 20 countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, CAR, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand and Uganda. Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that the child protection community was waiting for a strong signal from the Council on its commitment to tackle the protection of children during armed conflict when it discusses the report on 29 April. read more

Demonstration staged in Matale over Rohingya crisis

Almost 300,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh, according to the UN, since renewed violence between state security forces and the minority group began more than two weeks ago. The Rohingya, frequently described as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, are a mostly Muslim ethnic group, who have lived in majority Buddhist Myanmar for centuries.There are currently around 1.1m residents in the Southeast Asian nation, which is home to more than 100 ethnic groups and approximately 55 million people. (Colombo Gazette)Pics by Ravindra Viraj Abeysiri Kyi, the nation’s state counsellor and de facto leader, claimed this week that the situation is being twisted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation”, as reported by the BBC.“We make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as, the right to, not just political but social and humanitarian defence,” she reportedly told Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone call on September 5. The disruption started on August 25 after Rohingya fighters attacked police posts in Rakhine, on Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) western coast, triggering a military crackdown. A demonstration was staged in Matale today over the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winning Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on the issue.The demonstrators held placards accusing Aung San Suu Kyi of using her Nobel Peace Prize as a “licence to kill” people. read more