United Republic of Tanzania

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 36.3 million (19.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 27,000 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182; ACRWC

The Defence Forces Regulations prohibit under-18s from recruitment into the armed forces. However, few births were registered and recruits' ages were difficult to verify. Some Burundian refugee children were recruited into Burundian armed political groups.


Tanzania hosted a refugee population of close to one million. Almost 480,000 refugees were receiving UNHCR assistance in December 2003, including 330,000 Burundians and 150,000 Congolese. A further 470,000 refugees who arrived from Burundi before 1994 did not receive UNHCR assistance. Anti-refugee sentiment ran high as demands on local resources grew. Violent crime and arms trafficking were blamed on refugees, who were perceived as benefiting from services not enjoyed by local communities.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Defence Forces Regulations prohibit under-18s from recruitment into the armed forces.1 The voluntary recruitment age for the armed forces, as specified by Defence Forces Regulations, is 18 years for entrants direct from secondary schools, and 20 to 23 years for higher education graduates. The government reported that there were no child soldiers within the armed forces.2 However, few births were registered – estimated at one in 30 in rural Tanzania – despite a requirement that parents register their children when enrolling them in primary school.3 A compulsory National Service Scheme was reactivated in 1999 for all secondary school graduates, most of them aged over 18, with increased emphasis on vocational training.4

Recruitment by armed political groups

Security incidents in refugee communities and recruitment of refugee youths followed political and military trends in Burundi, and the lack of "meaningful activities" in refugee camps in Tanzania influenced some children to join armed groups.5 In November 2001 UNICEF reported the abduction of 107 Burundian children from camps in Tanzania by Hutu rebels conducting an armed campaign in Burundi. It was feared that the children were being used in the conflict area as child soldiers, messengers or domestic labour.6

In 2003 the UN Secretary-General noted that, despite bans on the use of child soldiers in the Arusha Accords of 2000 and the ceasefire agreement of 2002, Burundi's armed opposition groups were recruiting children from refugee camps in western Tanzania.7 Burundian rebels were reported to have conducted training and recruitment in the camps.8 In 2004 recruitment of refugee children was said to continue.9

The Tanzanian government recognized the need to educate refugee children, to prevent them "becoming the cause of unrest in their countries of origin".10 UNHCR and UNICEF ran a program to prevent child recruitments by armed groups.11

Other developments

In 2003 Tanzania ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which requires safeguards to ensure under-18s are not recruited, including by verification of birth certificates.

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 Initial report of Tanzania to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.14/Rev.1, 25 September 2000, http://www.ohchr.org. However, the same report notes elsewhere that "Voluntary enlistment in armed forces is set at 15 years. Defence Force Regulations restrict children under 15 years to be employed in the army".

2 Letter to Child Soldiers Coalition from the Minister for Defence and National Service, 25 March 2004.

3 BBC, reporting UNICEF report, "African children 'missing out'", 16 June 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk; initial report of Tanzania to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

4 The East African, "Revive the Youth Army", 17 August 1999.

5 Jean-Francois Durieux, "Preserving the civilian character of refugee camps: Lessons from the Kigoma refugee programme in Tanzania", Track Two, Vol. 9 No. 3, November 2000, Centre for Conflict Resolution, http://ccrweb.ccr.uct.ac.za.

6 AP, "UNICEF – Hutu rebels abduct 107 Burundi children from refugee camps in Tanzania", 13 November 2001, http://www.unhcr.ch.

7 Report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, UN Doc. A/58/546S/2003/1053, 10 November 2003, http://www.un.org/documents.

8 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 2004, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/c1470.htm.

9 NGO communication to Child Soldiers Coalition, 25 March 2004.

10 AFP, "Tanzania appeals for support for education of child refugees", 20 June 2003, http://www.unhcr.ch.

11 Report of UNHCR, Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa, UN Doc. A/57/324, 20 August 2002, http://www.un.org/documents.


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