June 19, 2006
Another item to share that hasn’t received coverage in the press. Human Rights Watch has reported in A Long Way from Home that the Burundi government is detaining former child soldiers associated with the rebel National Liberation Forces. HRW previously reported on Rwandan children being detained as well.
Dozens of former FNL child soldiers are being held in prisons, jails, and a detention center without any clarity of their legal status or knowledge of when they might be returned to their families.
The human rights group has documented that the children in the prisons are kept in overcrowded cells and are not being properly feed. They are also housed with convicted adult criminals or seasoned combatants. This is in violation of national and international law.
“The lack of a consistent government policy for former FNL child soldiers has compounded their suffering. Government ministries must coordinate their policies to ensure equal treatment, assistance and rehabilitation to these children,” said Alison Des Forges, senior Africa advisor at Human Rights Watch.
Burundi is one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries in Africa and in the world with a GDP per capita of US $106 for last year and 68% of the population below the poverty level. The country’s economy is sustained by Western foreign aid.
Burundi has ended a civil was in recent years where Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader of the Hutu National Council was elected unopposed as president in 2005.
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