As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in DRC, and traffickers exploit victims from DRC abroad. Some traffickers were individuals or family members who promised victims or victims’ families educational or employment opportunities but instead exploited trafficking victims by forcing them to work as domestic servants, street vendors, gang members, or prostitutes; most trafficking is internal and involves forced labor in artisanal mining sites, agriculture, domestic servitude, or child recruitment by armed groups or sex trafficking through forced prostitution. In February 2018, an international organization estimated that there were more than 150 different armed groups in the DRC. In 2018, 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, traffickers would force some children to commit crimes for them, such as looting and extortion and in 2018, traffickers forced children across the border into the Republic of the Congo where they were forced to commit theft. The Government of the Republic of the Congo identified 33 females, reportedly some were minors, from DRC and deported them for prostitution without screening. In 2018, armed groups in eastern DRC used women and children as soldiers and human shields with documented incidents of gang rape and sexual enslavement and there were 631 confirmed cases of new child recruitment by armed groups. At least 15 Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian children were separated from armed groups in DRC in 2018. 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, were stopped by government officials while reportedly transiting through the DRC to fight in armed groups in Burundi. Child soldiers 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. There were no confirmed cases of child soldier recruitment by the FARDC for the fourth consecutive year. An international organization verified the FARDC used children in support roles, including for sexual slavery and forced labor, in 2017 and 2018. Additionally, the FARDC continued to collaborate with proxy militias that recruited and used children in armed conflict. An international organization reported ongoing collaboration between the FARDC and NDC-R, which recruited at least 10 and used at least 38 children until November of 2018. Collaboration included the provision of ammunition and uniforms by FARDC officials, NDC-R’s free movement throughout their territory, and coordinating strategies and battlefield tactics against other armed groups. However, the NDC-R’s recruitment and use of child soldiers reportedly ceased after its leader signed a pledge renouncing future recruitment of children and requiring the release of children currently among their recruits. The FARDC also continued to broadly collaborate with the Bana Mura proxy militia, which used at least 64 children in sexual slavery during the reporting period.
Traffickers subject some men, women, and children working in artisanal mines in eastern DRC to forced labor, including debt bondage, by mining bosses, other miners, family members, government officials, and armed groups. Traffickers subject some children 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. 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. From January to August 2018, reports indicate at least 893 women and girls were victims of sexual and gender based violence, with primary perpetrators including armed groups followed by FARDC, police, and intelligence agents. Some traffickers force Congolese women and girls into forced marriages where they 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 traffickers exploit them in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or forced labor in agriculture and diamond mines. Some traffickers may fraudulently recruit women and force them into domestic work abroad through false promises of education or employment opportunities.