It was with great joy that on the 10th of August the RET celebrated the opening of its Centre of Transit and Orientation in the City of Uvira in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Centre is an essential part of the RET’s project for adolescents associated with armed groups in DRC. It is made possible by the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Luxembourg and the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.
Since the elections held in 2006 DRC is struggling to reconstruct itself peacefully. The North and South Kivu provinces are still victims of instability and suffer greatly from the presence of militias. Poverty, lack of access to education, cultural beliefs and limited economic resources predispose children and adolescents to conscription into militia groups. Sexual violence is still commonly used as a tactic of war. DRC will not be able to build a better future should its youth learn to be soldiers instead of citizens.
For the RET the issue must be faced by acting both against recruitment and towards demobilisation. Youth vulnerable to recruitment have to be protected through reinforced skills. Similarly, adolescents released from armed forces and groups have to be provided with a reliable alternative upon their return.
Ex-combatants will go through the Centre of Transit and Orientation, which will serve as a safe haven where they will receive psychosocial support, counselling, primary medical care and enjoy recreational and cultural activities. They will then be guided towards apprenticeship programmes and/or schooling. The project makes particular efforts to target girl soldiers too and includes specialised staff to address gender issues. Adolescent girls and young women benefiting from the project are informed about their livelihood choices. Adolescent boys are involved in this process to ensure that they do not prevent women’s active participation.
During this day of inauguration, celebration and hope, the RET enjoyed the presence of the Territory Administrator, a representative of MONUSCO and the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Official. In his speech the Administrator welcomed the RET by declaring: “We greet you determined to be able to accompany you in this programme. I see here the Chiefs of the Education Sub-division, I see the members of our Security Council, I see the parents and our joy is great to be involved in such a large programme…”.
The RET is therefore very positive, but also understands that great efforts lay ahead. As one of our beneficiaries said in the poems read during the ceremony: “I see today how I lag behind as my peers have finished their studies and work in offices. They are helping their parents and nations. My life is completely disoriented, my friends who loved me and followed me, do not anymore.” Helping DRC’s young people take their future into their own hands is a tremendous challenge, but the RET’s team and its partners are committed to facing it.