Since 1996, war has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some four million people have died as a result of the armed conflict and over ten thousand children have been used as child soldiers. Today, the country is in fragile transition, with over ten armed groups still operating in the Eastern region. All parties have recruited and used child soldiers in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.
In 2004, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the DRC to be the subject of the Court's first investigation. Under the Court's jurisdiction is the recruitment and use of child soldiers as a war crime. The ICC remains the only competent and impartial Court that can bring justice to the thousands of children whose rights were violated and childhood taken away from them.
Through the voices of child soldiers, "A Duty To Protect" explores the complexity of the war, the issues confronted by girl soldiers including rape and sexual exploitation and the importance of the International Criminal Court to end the rampant impunity reigning in Eastern DRC. The video gives specific recommendations to strengthen the work of the ICC and calls for the international community's engagement to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Swiss Foundation Gives Money to Support Reintegrated Girl Soldiers
The President of a Swiss foundation was so moved by the testimony of the girl soldiers he met at AJEDI-Ka's offices in Uvira, he agreed to provide them with grants to support income generating activities. A grant of $400 will go to two of the girls featured in WITNESS and AJEDI-Ka's "A Duty to Protect," as well as to a third girl who AJEDI-Ka/PES has been working to reintegrate.
Bukeni Waruzi, director of AJEDI-Ka/PES, is distributing these funds to the girls and will provide a week long training on fund management. Two of the girls are showing symptoms of psychological trauma following their experiences of sexual violence, rape and conflict. In addition, they are "married" to commanders and one has just given birth to a baby boy. One of the girls, January, has yet to be located after her return to the military camps. Waruzi will attempt to locate her in the coming weeks.
AJEDI-Ka/PES is currently focusing on the needs of child soldiers with HIV/AIDS and is conducting follow up with two girls who he demobilized and who tested positive for HIV/AIDS. The organization is also continuing its national screenings of "On the Frontlines," the first video produced in partnership with WITNESS which calls for an end to voluntary recruitment of children. One of the boys who features in this original video will accompany them on several of the screenings in local villages.