13 April 2009 The United Nations human rights envoy tasked with protecting the rights of children in armed conflict is set to arrive tomorrow in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for talks to ensure greater protection for children amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis engulfing the country’s east.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, seeks to assess first-hand the situation of children in the vast African nation and will focus on the plight of child soldiers, sexual violence and other crimes against children, and the special needs of internally displaced and refugee children.
She will meet with the Government, civil society groups, children affected by conflict and others in the aftermath of the peace agreement signed last month between the DRC and the main Tutsi rebel militia known as the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP) and other armed groups.
That pact brings to an end the violent conflict which had uprooted some 250,000 people since last year in the DRC’s strife-torn east.
Ms. Coomaraswamy’s week-long visit will include stops in the capital, Kinshasa, the District of Ituri and the volatile eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.
Since January, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, has demobilized nearly 1,000 children associated with various armed groups in North Kivu.
The separation of children from armed forces and groups is one of MONUC’s priorities, within the framework of its support to the process of the accelerated integration of armed groups into the DRC’s armed forces (FARDC).
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