Child Frontiers recently conducted a study for War Child UK on the push and pull factors influencing children to join armed groups ‘voluntarily’ in Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new report, 'Tug of War: Children in Armed Groups in DRC', presents the findings of research conducted with 150 children and 80 adults in five sites in North and South Kivu via the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) centres.
There is a tendency in the literature and in policy debates to discuss children joining armed groups almost exclusively in terms of forced recruitment. Yet, some are joining voluntarily. This research aimed to understand this, exploring questions including: How does it happen? Why does it happen? Are there children more prone to making this choice? Is it accurate to call it a choice?
The study found that during times when the ongoing conflict is considered low-level, virtually all children who join an armed group in the Kivus do so voluntarily. However, even if not coerced, children’s joining appears to be less about desire and more about a choice made within a limited set of options. The research revealed there is no single reason that explains why children join armed groups but that their participation is driven by a series of factors that push and pull children towards armed groups in different settings and circumstances.
The reports can be accessed here: English French