Rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have fitted twin babies with a bomb belt that was supposed to explode when bystanders came to help. Militia fighters had recently killed the other members of the family.
Bomb specialists freed the then several-month-old babies from the explosives. The severely malnourished sisters, who are now one year old, are staying in a shelter that is looking for an adoptive family.
This was reported by Congo representative Grant Leaity of the UN children’s rights organization Unicef at a press conference in Geneva. He recently met the twins at a local shelter.
The increasing use of improvised explosive devices is just one of many recent, wicked trends.
According to Leaity, fighters, probably from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), want to scare the local population so much that they will no longer resist the rebels. “The increasing use of improvised explosive devices is just one of many recent, wicked trends,” says Leaity.
With the example of the two babies, the Unicef representative in Congo wants to draw attention to the dire situation of millions of children in the Central African country. Eastern Congo is one of the most dangerous and unstable regions in the world. More than a hundred militias are fighting against each other and against the Congolese authorities, including for control over the mines and raw materials in the region. Congo regularly accuses neighboring countries Rwanda and Uganda of supporting militias.
“Violence against children in eastern Congo has reached unprecedented levels,” says Leaity. “There are few and perhaps no worse places in the world to be a child. The country has the highest number of UN-verified serious violations of children’s rights in armed conflicts in the world. Children are raped and murdered every day. They are kidnapped, recruited and used by armed groups”
There are few and perhaps no worse places in the world to be a child.
In the North Kivu region alone, where the baby sisters were found, 38,000 cases of sexual and gender-based abuse were registered in the first three months of this year. Leaity assumes it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the east of Congo, 2.8 million minor children and their families have fled the persistent terror of rebel movements, which are fighting among themselves for mineral resources.
These people fled the M23 rebel movement in Eastern Congo in March:
To scale up aid to displaced families in eastern Congo, UNICEF says it needs $400 million. According to Leaity, only a fraction of that amount has been raised by the international community since a June appeal. Unicef supports malnourished children in Eastern Congo, tries to offer as many residents as possible access to clean drinking water and provides children and their families with psychological help.
Ultimately, Congo only benefits from a political solution, says Leaity. “We call on the government of Congo, other African countries and the international community to work together to find a peaceful solution to this crisis, a solution that would allow millions of displaced families in eastern Congo to return to their homes .”
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