(Part of the Lost Childhood series)
(Children of Refugees in the Congo)
As the rebel group M23 marched into Goma, in the eastern part of the Congo, they bore weapons more sophisticated than most Congolese soldiers. Rwanda, and Uganda to an extent, have been funding these barbaric rebels and supplying weaponry such as night vision goggles and 120mm mortars. And for this reason the Democratic Republic of Congo's government has declared the M23 rebels are nothing more than "mercenaries".
For the children of Goma, a city of nearly 1 million people, the approach of the M23 rebels was a sign of terror. It has been recorded that the rebels have in the past and currently engage in the deployment of child soldiers. These young combatants are often forced into battle against their will. And those who do not fight are often killed by the forces that brought them into the war in the first place.
So far the United States has imposed sanctions upon the M23 rebels for the use of child soldiers. This measure is odd in the light of Obama's decision to relax sanctions on the government of the Congo itself. Meaning that while the United States is going to be sending goods and providing aid to a government that fled Goma like dogs with their tails between their legs. So it is hard to imagine that any aid provided would somehow not make its way into rebel hands.
Meanwhile both the United States and the United Kingdom both offer aid to Rwanda and have lucrative trade deals with their ally in the region. It is now questionable whether or not this very aid provided to Rwanda is simply being funneled into M23 rebels' hands. And if the aid is being diverted into a proxy war with the Congolese government then any sanction imposed upon the Congo will further aid the rebels.
As for the children trapped in the path of the M23 rebels the horrors of war still await. An untold number of children will be forced to flee as the rebels attack their villages. Others could face the terror of being forced to fight for the rebels. But most could simply grow up in refugee camps facing starvation, disease, and the lack of what could be considered a normal childhood.
All of this could be prevented however. UN peacekeepers could be given a mandate to engage and stop the march of the M23 rebels across the eastern part of the Congo. Currently the UN peacekeepers (MONUSCO) can not and do not fight back against rebel attacks. Instead of defending the international airport in Goma, the UN stood down. Their actions helped the rebels in their war against the Congolese government.
If the UN does not change its approach to defending even the most basic of human rights we could be watching Rwanda play out its genocide on foreign soil.