Rwanda defends claims of ties to DRC woes

Oct. 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM
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KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Rwanda defended its track record against claims made by a U.N. peacekeeping group it was tolerant of child soldiers recruited to fight in the DRC's wars.

U.S. State Department said last week it decided against issuing a waiver to Rwanda from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 because of its support for the March 23 Movement, a rebel group suspected or conscripting child soldiers.

Dee Brillenburg Wurth, director of child protection at the U.N. peacekeeping group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was quoted Tuesday by Voice of America as saying Rwanda was tied to child soldiers fighting in M23 ranks.

"[Recovered children] told us they had this system in place, like a pyramid scheme; $5 for every child that was recruited," she said. Wurth said about 20 percent of the children interviewed were from Rwanda.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied the allegations.

"Rwanda does not tolerate children being enrolled in any way near armed groups, not in our own army," he was quoted as saying.

The United Nations is supporting the DRC military in its fight against M23. Simmering conflict has displaced more than 100,000 people in a country where a humanitarian crisis has impacted the lives of an estimated 2.6 million people.

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