To date, little government effort and resources have been put into the reintegration of released children.
In particular, large numbers of girls are missing: in some areas, less than two per cent of the children passing through the DDR programme have been girls.(7) Amnesty International believes on the basis of its research that the majority of girls have been abandoned or misidentified as "dependants" of adult fighters.
No efforts have been made by the DRC government to trace, recover and assist these lost children.
METHODOLOGY AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This report is the outcome of research conducted by Amnesty International during 20, including through visits to regions of eastern DRC and the capital, Kinshasa.
In the course of research, Amnesty International delegates met with scores of children released from the armed forces and groups, their families, Congolese teachers, representatives of Congolese and international NGOs working on child protection, representatives of UN agencies including UNICEF and MONUC, the World Bank and the DRC government.
These human rights defenders, with limited resources and often under situations of physical threat, work on behalf of children and other victims of human rights abuse in the DRC with exceptional courage.
Amnesty International calls on the DRC government and international community to recognize and support the work of these defenders, and to provide them with greater protection.
By the end of June 2006, the government commission coordinating the DDR programme, the Commission nationale de désarmement, démobilisation et réinsertion (CONADER), reported that it had demobilised 19,054 children from the armed forces and groups(5).
At around the same time, CONADER announced that budget constraints were forcing it to suspend most of its demobilization activities in order to concentrate the remaining funds ($US 50 million) on reintegration.
As part of a national peace process and a political transition that began in June 2003, the DRC government, backed by $US 200 million of international finance, launched a country-wide programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) into civilian life of an estimated 150,000 government troops and armed group fighters, including an estimated 30,000 children.
At the same time, in a parallel programme, an estimated further 150,000 adult government soldiers and armed group fighters were to be integrated into a new, unified national army.(4) The implementation of both programmes was badly delayed by a lack of political and military will to engage in the process, as well as serious management and technical problems.