Source AP ©

Congo warlord continues to recruit children

A warlord in eastern Congo is continuing to recruit child soldiers in violation of international law, United Nations officials said.

The U.N. "has confirmed that children are being recruited by different armed groups, especially by the rebel forces of warlord Laurent Nkunda," said Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Congo.

The number of children that have been forcibly recruited is not yet known, Bonnardeaux said Wednesday.

Since last week, Nkunda's men "have raided 10 secondary schools and four primary schools where they took the children by force in order to make them join their ranks," said Nephtali Nkizinkiko, a deputy in the national assembly.

Nkunda's rebels clashed with Congo's army last month in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, causing thousands of villagers to flee their homes.

According to Nkizinkiko, girls are taken to serve as sexual slaves. Boys are traditionally used as fighters. Those that try to escape are often re-recruited by rival armed groups based in the volatile east, said Bonnardeaux.

Congo's Nord-Kivu province has been the scene of repeated clashes since late last year - first after Nkunda resisted integrating his forces into the regular army and then as army brigades mounted operations against local armed groups.

A peace deal brought multiparty elections last year and the mineral-rich Congo installed its first democratically elected leader in more than four decades in January. The new government has struggled to gain control of militias loyal to former warlords even as their leaders have joined the government.

Congo's President Joseph Kabila was in Goma on Wednesday and Thursday, a city in eastern Congo, where he met with military commanders. It was not immediately clear what the purpose of the meeting was.