UNICEF demands unconditional release of 90 abducted school children in northeastern DRC

Monday, September 22, 2008

According to local authorities ninety children were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Dungu territory, Orientale Province on Wednesday, September 17, 2008.  During simultaneous attacks on the Kiliwa, Duru, and Nambia villages the LRA took fifty children from a primary school in Kiliwa and forty others from a secondary school in Duru.  The children are presumed to have been taken to nearby LRA bases in the forest.

“UNICEF demands the unconditional release of the abducted children,” stated Julien Harneis UNICEF eastern DRC’s Chief of Field Operations.  “These children were taken from their schools; UNICEF is very concerned that they will now be forced to fight or support fighting, putting their lives at risk.” 

In addition to the child abductions, a village chief and two Italian missionaries were taken, at least three civilians killed, health centers have been looted, and houses burnt.  In Kiliwa, the entire village except for the health center was burnt to the ground.  The population has fled and as of this morning has started arriving in Dungu town.

UNICEF is coordinating with humanitarian actors for an emergency response. 

UNICEF calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all children by the LRA and for all actors to ensure the protection of children and women.  UNICEF reminds all parties that the abduction and use of children in armed groups is a war crime and crime against humanity.   

UNICEF has mounted one of its largest emergency humanitarian operations in the world in the DRC.  UNICEF and its network of operational partners continues responding to the needs of internally displaced persons, returnees, and host communities with programs in health, nutrition, education, child protection, essential household items, and water, sanitation and hygiene. In order to respect the fundamental rights of Congolese children to survive and realize their potential, UNICEF advocates for sustainable peace and stability in the eastern DRC.