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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
No respite for Congo's child soldiers
DR Congo child soldiers
Child soldiers have been used as sex slaves and cannon fodder
Warring militias in the north-east Democratic Republic of Congo are not honouring promises to stop recruiting child soldiers to fight for them, say Amnesty International.

The human rights organisation says that the thousands of children have been forced to become soldiers in the army and in militias, and are often forced to kill and rapes.

In a report titled 'Democratic Republic of Congo: Children at War', the international rights group said that groups in Ituri province were still recruiting in a conflict that has killed 50,000 people.

Amnesty International wants those involved in the recruitment to be investigated and prosecuted.

It has also asked French peacekeepers who have been in the north-eastern town of Bunia, to remain there until a beefed up UN force is fully up and running.


Amnesty says that groups, including the national army, have forced child soldiers to kill, rape and engage in cannibalism and sex acts with corpses.

"I thought that if I joined the army I would be protected. One day a commander wanted me to become his wife, so I tried to escape," said 16-year old Natalia.

"They caught me, whipped me and raped me every night for many days. When I was just 14, I had a baby. I do not even know who his father is".

Child soldiers are deeply brutalised and traumatised by their experiences and many are haunted by the memories of the abuses they have witnessed or were forced to commit.

No return

"We were told to kill people by forcing them to stay in their homes while we burned them down, we even had to bury some alive," says 15-year old Kalami who served as a soldier for six years.

"One day, my friends and I were forced by our commanders to kill a family, to cut up their bodies and to eat them ... my life is lost, I have nothing to live for. At night, I can no longer sleep," he says.

Some of the children forcefully recruited into the fighting groups were abducted in the streets or taken from classrooms and refugee camps

Many cannot return home now because of the atrocities they were forced to get involved in.

"I was looked upon badly by the population....when I killed people I was nicknamed 'The Assassin' and the name became known," says 19-year old Albert.

" People started to say that 'The Assassin' has left the army and so now we are going to make him pay... it would be suicide for me to dare to go back there. They would kill me," he says.

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