CONGO: Children's rights in the UN Special Procedures' reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.





Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
(A/HRC/19/58/Add.3 )
Country visit: 24 September to 3 October 2011
Report published: 20 January 2012

Assistance programs: There are several generous assistance programmes that also play a positive role in society, such as the programmes that provide support for children in school. However, the aim of these programmes is not to provide reparation for harm suffered by individuals where there have been serious violations of human rights. They are intended for all Congolese citizens without distinction. (Paragraph 49)

Enforced disappearances: On arrival, the refugees were generally welcomed by reassuring announcements made by a representative of the authorities. The families were then separated, the men taken to the premises of the river port police station. The women and children were allowed to leave the port zone. When the families then enquired about their relatives who had been detained, they were generally told that they were undergoing routine inquiries, as the authorities wanted to avoid any ―Ninja militia members entering along with the refugees. Some witness statements also mention the systematic body-searching of the men for any signs that they had carried weapons. (Paragraph 71)

One such statement concerning a disappearance was given by an eyewitness: ―I am the father of child XX. He was 25 years old when it happened. On 14 May [1999], after we left our village YY, we made our way to Gobila Beach with the help of UNHCR. We went there because we had heard that it was possible to return to the capital. When we arrived at ATC Beach, police officers separated us, the women to one side and the men to the other. Then they took us to a small room. They removed our shirts and looked to see whether we had any marks from carrying weapons. The young men were put in one corner, and that is when my son was taken. We tried to find out what was happening, but the police told us that it was just routine, they were questioning the children and would release them the next day, but since that day I have never found my boy. (...) We stayed there until 6 p.m. Waiting for our son to be released, but in vain. Some of the officers shouted insults at us: ̳Go away, you Ba-Congo‘, and that‘s when we had to leave. I haven‘t seen my son since then. (Paragraph 73)


Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
James Anaya
(A/HRC/18/35/Add.5 )
Country visit: 2 November to 12 November 2010
Report published: 11 July 2011

Education: Levels of indigenous school enrolment are low and indigenous children rarely complete primary school. A study funded by UNICEF found that 65 per cent of indigenous teenagers aged 12-15 years did not have access to education, compared to 39 per cent of the general population.6 The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights noted in 2007 that only 2.9 per cent of school children were indigenous, much lower than the estimated 10 per cent of the school-age population that is indigenous. (Paragraph 21)

Remote settlements, exclusion and conditions of extreme poverty impede indigenous children’s access to education. Schools are sometimes located far from indigenous villages, requiring indigenous students to travel long distances to get to school. Even though primary education is officially free,8 due to the lack of sufficient teachers in remote areas, indigenous families are often expected to contribute to teachers’ wages, and often cannot afford to buy basic supplies such as pens, books, chalk, slates, or even adequate clothing to enable their children to attend schools. In addition, enrolment fees are often required for post-primary education, which constitutes a severe block to indigenous access to higher levels of education. There are also reports of outright discrimination in schools against indigenous children by other students and teachers. (Paragraph 22)

Other important factors that impede indigenous education are the school curriculum and calendar. The Special Rapporteur learned that indigenous children rarely have access to education in their own language or about their own culture. Also, schools rarely adapt to the seasonal patterns of hunting and gathering of indigenous peoples. For example, during the important periods of honey or caterpillar gathering, on which many indigenous people rely for their survival, indigenous children are unable to accompany their families into the forests for weeks at a time without missing school and falling behind in school work. Furthermore, given that indigenous families often depend on each family member to gather food for their survival, sending children to school often means a choice between education and subsistence. (Paragraph 23)

However, the Special Rapporteur did learn about programs that adapt education to the needs of indigenous communities, including certain church schools or privately initiated programmes like the ORA9 schools, a joint initiative of UNICEF and local organizations. Taking the indigenous calendar into account in designing curriculum, ORA schools use a non-formal teaching method based on the ways of life of indigenous peoples. Both indigenous languages and French are used in the three-year integration phase, which prepares indigenous students for integration into mainstream schools. Eighteen pilot ORA schools have been set up in the departments of Likouala and Sangha, through which 1,600 indigenous students have gained access to basic education. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur about the incorporation of a line item in the 2011 budget to evaluate the ORA system with a view to its inclusion in the national educational system. (Paragraph 24)

The Special Rapporteur also learned about an education program in Sibiti that trains indigenous youth in basic engineering skills, which according to reports, is adapted to the needs of the local people in several respects, including providing training in indigenous languages. (Paragraph 25)

Title Four of the law addresses education and guarantees discrimination-free access to education (art. 17). The State commits to implementing educational programs that are appropriate to the specific needs and lifestyles of indigenous peoples (art. 19). Furthermore, article 18 forbids any form of instruction or information that disparages the cultural identities, traditions, history or aspirations of indigenous people. Article 21 makes clear that the State must take special measures to ensure that indigenous children benefit from financial assistance at all levels within the educational system. (Paragraph 45)

The plan also establishes significant targets and goals that would directly improve the lives of indigenous peoples. Priority area 1 encompasses education, including improving access of school-age indigenous children to good-quality primary education. The goals of the second area, which focuses on health, include improved access for indigenous persons to good-quality health and nutrition services, preventive HIV/AIDS care, potable water, and sanitation and hygiene services. The third thematic area, which deals with citizenship and legal protection, seeks to ensure that all indigenous infants and their parents acquire civil identity documents and that laws are reinforced to protect indigenous peoples and reduce discrimination and impunity. The fourth priority area, concerning cultural identity and access to lands and resources, targets negative national attitudes towards the cultures of indigenous peoples and aims to increase their participation in conservation and sustainable development activities, as well as improve their access to revenue-generating programmes designed to reduce extreme poverty. The final two thematic areas are dedicated to building the capacity of indigenous advocacy organizations. (Paragraph 50)

Health services: Indigenous people expressed frustration at their poor health conditions and limited access to health services. The Special Rapporteur heard repeatedly from community members that they are often only welcomed at hospitals if they show that they have financial means. Even where free medical services are provided (children are entitled to free medical services under the new child protection law), payment for prescription drugs and obstetric services is almost always required. This reality is compounded by the absence of a public health infrastructure in indigenous villages; indigenous people must seek treatment at health facilities located in Bantu villages with Bantu personnel, where they are often subjected to discrimination or unequal treatment by health-care professionals or other patients. (Paragraph 26)

The lack of financial resources to access government health services heightens reliance on traditional remedies to address illness. Indigenous knowledge of traditional medicine and therapeutic plants is renowned and has been the source of trade with Bantu villagers. However, traditional medicine appears to be powerless against certain modern illness to which indigenous peoples are now exposed. Reports indicate, for example, that yaws, hernias and appendicitis have become fatal conditions for these populations, also, maternal and infant death rates remain very high. (Paragraph 27)

Also guaranteed is access on a non-discriminatory basis to health care and all other social services (art. 22). The law stipulates that the centres delivering these services must be adapted to indigenous peoples’ needs in the areas in which they live (art. 23.1); it provides for the participation of indigenous health-care workers in integrated primary health-care services, and the organization by the State of vaccination programmes and reproductive health-awareness campaigns (art. 23.2). The law further provides for the specific health needs of indigenous women and children to be taken into account (art. 23.3). (Paragraph 46)

While the Government has taken important steps to improve indigenous health, it should strengthen efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples have equal access to primary health care and that the basic health needs of indigenous communities are met, especially in remote areas. Further efforts should be made by the Ministry of Health, in consultation with UNICEF and WHO, to improve the delivery of health services to indigenous peoples in a culturally appropriate manner, with attention to the special health needs of indigenous women and children. Every effort should be

made to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation in the formation of health policy and delivery of services. The Government should ensure and strengthen support for health-care initiatives by indigenous communities and organizations as a matter of priority. All medical professionals should be provided with comprehensive, culturally appropriate medical training, and health services in the language of the community should always be available. (Paragraph 75)

Civil status: Access to all social services, which is often contingent on civil status – as is the case with primary school enrolment –, is difficult due to the low birth registration rate among indigenous people. Since birth registrations are ordinarily conducted in the main population centres of each department, which are often long distances from indigenous communities, many indigenous children do not have a birth or civil status certificate. Discrimination also plays a role in this lack of documentation, as, according to reports, indigenous peoples are often asked to pay for certification, despite it being officially free of charge. The Special Rapporteur notes the initiative of the Ministry of the Interior to address this issue through the adoption of a special procedure to register indigenous babies and ensure that they are given birth certificates. (Paragraph 28)



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