11 May 2018
Children on the frontline
Thousands of children in Kasaï have been associated with militias and experienced atrocities.
Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasaï region has inflicted a devastating toll on children since fighting flared in August 2016. Children are being used by militias in combat to fight and kill, and as human shields. UNICEF supports two centers in Kananga helping children formerly associated with militias to make the transition back to their families and communities.
[NAME CHANGED] “I fought three times on the battlefield […] Many girls died in front of my eyes” says Odia, 17, who now lives at the UNICEF-supported reintegration centre. “If I could start all over again, I would rather go search for uniforms in order to go to school.”
[NAME CHANGED] “My parents didn’t have the money to send me to school, so I was staying at the village all day. I joined the [militia] movement to be protected, because both the military and militia were arresting people” says Tshilembi, 15.
[NAME CHANGED] “I wanted to join the movement when I heard that some people were getting paid. I wanted to get a new and bigger house. My parents were not there at the time and I joined the movement. I was one among the first ones to fight” says Misenga, 13, who has lived for the past three-months at the center.
[NAME CHANGED] “War for me, is lack of peace. It is the lack of opportunity and leadership, creating poverty. If we had opportunities, people would not have been encouraged to join the movement against the state and fight all the state’s symbols” says Albertine, 16.
[NAME CHANGED] “I suffered so much when I was in jail. I had been arrested because I didn’t have a voting card. The military said “If you don’t have a voting card, then you are a militiaman!”. They took me away and put me in jail. I spent 8-months there” says Pierre, 17.
[NAME CHANGED] “The leaders are like my mothers, they give me confidence” says Kiabu, 15, speaking of the staff at the centre. Kiabu joined a militia after she was convinced to do so by her best friend. Now she would like to become a teacher, “so that the children [in my village] do not join the militia”.
[NAME CHANGED] “If I could start it all again I would change my behaviour. I feel blessed because I stayed alive” says Albert, 13.
As of March 2018, UNICEF has assisted 1,500 children formerly associated with militias.
Read more: UNICEF Child Alert: Kasaï — a children’s crisis.