20 Children Killed in DRC Violence: UNICEF

22/05/2012 – About 20 children have lost their lives in the violence that has struck the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While a statement by a UN agency has not revealed culpability for the deaths, a number of rebel groups are active in the region.

A statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirms that twenty children are thought to have been killed in the latest brutal bout of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The killings took place in the eastern part of the country in the South and North Kivu provinces, long embroiled in political and ethnic violence. Nine of the children were slain in the 27-person massacre at Kamananga. Six of the children and two pregnant women were killed in a separate massacre of 32 civilians killed in Lumendje, South Kivu.

The statement did not name individuals or groups responsible for the violence. At present, there are several armed groups operating in the region. These groups include recently mutineed forces loyal to Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers.

According to an interview between the North Kivu province civil society coordinator Omar Kavotaand the AFP, a rivalry between Rwandan Hutu rebels and Mai Mai militia in the region is behind the deaths of 100 people. Among the Hutu rebels, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, are those responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, which left some 800,000 people dead in about 100 days.

The Congolese army has redoubled its fight against rebel groups earlier this year, and rebels have pushed back with more attacks against civilians, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

All persons have the responsibility to ensure that children are not made direct victims of the hostilities, as agreed to in national child protection laws, African Union laws and United Nations human rights treaties.

“UNICEF condemns acts of violence that target children and calls on all parties to respect the rights of women and children,” said the statement by Barbara Bentein, UNICEF Representative in the DRC.

Among the recent dead is also an employee for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Goma, North Kivu. The gunning down of staff member Rocky Makabuza was condemned yesterday by Antonio Guterres, UNHCR chief.

Not only has the violence led to an unnecessary loss of life, but its got thousands of people on the move, disrupting their everyday lives and jeapardizing their security.

As many as 12,000 people or more are internally displaced in the DRC’s North Kivu province, reports the Voice of America news. Another 7,000 people are refugees in Uganda, while 9,000 have fled to Rwanda. Ntaganda and his forces are thought to be hiding out in Virunga National Park, which borders the two countries.