Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
Statement on the Day of the African Child, 16th June 2009
IHRDA Calls on DRC to Ratify African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child – 2009
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), in celebrating the Day of the African Child, calls upon the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). IHRDA also urges the Government to strengthen its laws and policies and their enforcement so as to end the exploitation of children in artisanal mining.
The Day is being celebrated under the theme, ‘Africa Fit for Children: Call for Accelerated Action towards their Survival’. The theme was selected by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) in consonance with the ‘Call for Accelerated Action on the Implementation of the Plan of Action towards Africa Fit for Children’. The Call for Accelerated Action was endorsed by the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union (AU) in January 2008.
The Call for Accelerated Action and Plan of Action for Africa Fit for Children committed Member States of the AU, which includes the DRC, to protect children from all forms of abuse, including child labour, particularly the worst forms of labour. The Call for Accelerated Action observed that ‘Children’s rights are seldom accorded the same priority that society does for adults’ rights. Few children enjoy the rights that have been articulated in the ACERWC, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and do not have access to legal protection and remedial measures.’ The Call for Accelerated Action stated further that, ‘While the seriousness of these many injustices are widely recognised and while certain halting steps forward have been taken, the gap between policy and practice remains very considerable. Africa’s children deserve from their governments protection from threats to life and respect for their human dignity.’
Although the DRC Mining Code protects children from artisanal mining exploitation, in 2007, there were as many as 50,000 children working in artisanal mines in Southern Katanga, under harsh conditions for many hours a day for very little remuneration. They spend approximately twelve hours a day digging and bagging ore which they sell to négociants who serve as middlemen between the children and the trading houses. These négociants prefer children because they are cheap labour. A lot of children have lost their lives through accidents that occur in these mines.
As a Member State of the AU, the DRC is obliged to respect the objective of the AU to promote and promote human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments, in this case the ACRWC. In ensuring that children are better protected, the Executive Council of the AU urged all AU Member States to ratify the ACRWC by December 2008. This Plan of Action of Africa Fit for Children was launched in 2001, hence and the call for accelerated action on it.
IHRDA therefore calls on the Government of the DRC to take immediate steps to ratify the ACRWC and bring its domestic laws in conformity with the ACRWC. By ratifying the ACRWC, the DRC would make a stronger commitment to ending the prevalence of child labour in the mining industry. In performing its obligations under ACRWC, DRC would also ensure ‘to the maximum extent possible, the survival, protection and development of the child’ as stated in Article 5(2) of the ACRWC.