Protecting and assisting children affected by armed conflict and preventing abuses against them is a priority for the United States. We remain committed to ending the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) passed by the U.S. Congress in 2008 requires that we withhold a range of security assistance to governments who use or recruit child soldiers, as defined by the Act. We recognize the initial strides that the DRC government has made to address the issue in the context of reforming its armed forces. Such steps include: efforts to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, a known human rights abuser and child soldier recruiter, improving personnel systems that help identify and remove child soldiers from the ranks, and increasing access to UN and international humanitarian actors to inspect army barracks. We support the government’s ongoing collaboration with the UN to craft a mutually-agreeable joint UN Action Plan to end the unlawful use and recruitment of child soldiers.
However, we believe more needs to be done to increase the protection of children in the DRC, particularly given reports of an increase in the recruitment and use of child soldiers among rebel armed groups in the eastern part of the country. While recognizing the substantial effort undertaken to negotiate a joint UN Action Plan, we call on the government to sign and adopt such a plan to address the use and recruitment of child soldiers, and provide for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers into their local communities. Signing such a plan is a necessary step to sustain progress toward ending this abhorrent practice.
Recognizing the importance of such a plan, the U.S. government has decided to make the adoption of a joint UN Action Plan a precondition to the U.S. training a second Congolese light infantry battalion. This precondition is in addition to, and apart from, legal requirements to withhold Foreign Military Financing (FMF) under the provisions of both the Trafficking-in-Persons sanctions and the CSPA. By withholding this desired assistance until an Action Plan is signed, we wish to re-emphasize to the Government of the DRC that the Government of the United States takes this issue seriously. We urge them to take the first step in signing an Action Plan and then expeditiously begin its implementation.