As reported over the past five years, the DRC is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. In 2016, several armed groups continued to abduct and forcibly recruit Congolese men, women, and children as combatants and in support roles, such as guards, porters, cleaners, cooks, messengers, spies, and tax collectors at mining sites; women and girls were forced to marry or serve as sex slaves for members of some armed groups. As reported in 2015, some children were also forced to commit crimes for their captors, such as looting and extortion. In 2016, an international organization reported 184 confirmed cases of children who were forcibly recruited and used by armed groups, while 1,662 children were separated or escaped from armed groups. In 2016, abductions for recruitment by the Lord’s Resistance Army increased slightly, and 16 Burundian child soldiers and one Rwandan child soldier, some recruited from refugee camps, transited the DRC to fight in armed groups in Burundi. Child soldiers who were separated from armed groups and reintegrated into society remain vulnerable to re-recruitment, as adequate rehabilitation services did not exist for children suffering severe psychological trauma, stigmatization may interfere with community reintegration, and armed groups continue to recruit children.
For a second consecutive year, international observers reported there were no cases of child recruitment by the FARDC in 2016. However, there were multiple reports of the FARDC’s broad collaboration with and provision of arms, ammunition, and funding to proxy militias that recruit and use children, including various Mai Mai groups. In particular, an international organization reported ongoing collaboration between the FARDC and Mai Mai Guidon, also known as Nduma Defense of Congo Renove (NDC-R) —to coordinate battlefield tactics and capture of territory from a foreign illegal armed group with ammunition and support from senior Congolese army officials—which recruited and used at least 27 children during the reporting period.
Some men, women, and children working in artisanal mines in eastern DRC are subjected to forced labor, including debt bondage, by mining bosses, other miners, family members, government officials, and armed groups. Some children are subjected to forced labor in the illegal mining of diamonds, copper, gold, cobalt, tungsten ore, tantalum ore, and tin, as well as the smuggling of minerals. In January 2016, an international organization reported widespread abuse, including forced labor, of some children in artisanal cobalt mines in southern DRC; some children reported extremely long working hours and physical abuse by security guards employed by the state mining company. Children are also vulnerable to forced labor in small-scale agriculture, domestic work, street begging, vending, and portering. Some street children are suspected to be forced to participate in illicit drug transactions and exploited in sex trafficking. An NGO reported some families send their children to Kinshasa, after being promised educational opportunities for the children; however, upon arrival, the children are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Children from the Republic of the Congo may transit through the DRC en route to Angola or South Africa, where they may be subjected to domestic servitude. Some Congolese women and girls subjected to forced marriage are highly vulnerable to domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Congolese women and children migrate to other countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, where some are exploited in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or forced labor in agriculture and diamond mines. Some women may be fraudulently recruited and forced into domestic servitude abroad through false promises of education or employment opportunities. Some Angolans who enter the DRC illegally to work in Bas Congo province are vulnerable to forced labor.