The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been the stage of numerous conflicts in the past two decades. This phenomenon has caused massive displacement, the creation of illegal armed groups and claimed over 5 million lives. In this fragile environment, adolescents and youth are highly at risk of recruitment into local armed groups. RET has been involved in Eastern DRC, since 2012, with programmes aiming to reintegrate former adolescent combatants back into their communities, while preventing future recruitment. RET reaches this goal through a holistic approach focusing on psychosocial support, sound orientation, opening access to educational opportunities and marketable skills, while also raising the awareness and building the capacity of local institutions and actors.

  • 1.
    The Crisis in the DRC
  • 2.
    Its Impact on Young People
  • 3.
    How RET Protects Them

1. The Crisis in the DRC

During almost two decades, the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been the scene of numerous conflicts. These have caused mass displacements, the loss of an estimated 5 million lives since 1998 and the large-scale destruction of goods and infrastructure.

The Kivus, in particular the territories of Uvira, Fizi and Goma, have been at the centre of this tragedy. These massive displacements and the ensuing violence created a phenomenon of adolescent recruitment by illegal armed groups (often on a voluntary basis).

Despite an agreement between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations aiming to demobilize adolescents under 18 and put an end to recruitment, the region remains fragile. Interethnic tensions and the regular formation of armed groups to defend local populations from attacks make demobilization and reintegration difficult.

2. Its Impact on Young People

Adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17 are a cheap source of labour and easy to manipulate. For these reasons, they continue to be recruited by armed groups. This, as well as a difficult social and economic environment, make these youth extremely vulnerable and deeply affect their futures by sacrificing their education. The phenomenon of adolescent recruitment drives these young people to become obstacles to the development of their country, instead of the positive actors they have the potential to be.

3. How RET Protects Them

Since 2012, RET has contributed to the demobilization and reintegration of adolescents affiliated to armed groups in the territories of Uvira, Fizi and Goma.

In order to give meaning back to their lives and to allow them to become the responsible citizens they long to be, RET hosts demobilised youth in Centres for Transit and Orientation (CTO). There, they benefit from psychosocial and medical support, as well as orientation and opportunities to catch up in formal or professional education.

After passing through the CTO, the former combatants having chosen to pursue formal education are placed in partner educational structures; those wishing to follow a professional training receive the necessary support to enter income-generating activities.

For our action to be successful, we engage with all levels of the community. Local youth associations are created and their capacities are reinforced for them to become sustainable and trustworthy partners.

Parents also receive training on income-generating activities to fight poverty and prevent the re-recruitment of their children.

Community leaders, as well as all concerned members of the community, benefit from awareness-raising on the problem of recruitment, delivered by young people trained by RET.

We also organise group discussions with key politico-military and administrative actors to restore the state’s authority in the villages most affected by the conflict.

It is thus through a broad range of educational means that the recruitment of adolescent soldiers can be prevented and the youth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo protected.