U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Burundi

Burundi (Tier 2)

Burundi is a source country for children trafficked for the purposes of child soldiering and forced labor. The country is emerging from a 12-year civil war in which government and rebel forces used approximately 7,000 children in a variety of capacities, including as cooks, porters, spies, sex slaves, and combatants. In contrast with past years, there were no reports over the last year that the Burundian security services used children as soldiers or sex slaves, although there were infrequent reports that some soldiers continued to force children to perform menial tasks. The one rebel faction that remains outside the peace process, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, continued to recruit children from the four provinces in which it operates and used them as child soldiers in Burundi's ongoing internal civil conflict. Burundian children may be trafficked internally, as well as to neighboring countries, for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Burundi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. To improve its anti-trafficking efforts, the government should take steps to bring to justice those who continue to forcibly conscript and utilize child soldiers, and investigate the nature of child commercial sexual exploitation within the country. Government forces should immediately cease using children to perform any sort of military function or menial tasks and swiftly punish soldiers who do so.


The government's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2005 focused on sensitizing public officials against the use of child soldiers; there were no investigations or prosecutions of trafficking cases. Burundi has no law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons, but laws against kidnapping, slavery, smuggling, and prostitution outlaw most forms of trafficking. In 2005, the National Structure for Child Soldiers (SNES) provided training on child soldier demobilization and reintegration to newly elected local government officials and over 750 new military officers from former rebel groups. The military also received training on respecting human rights from the UN Mission in Burundi and human rights organizations. During the year, the Ministry of Defense instructed military officers to punish soldiers found to be forcing children and other civilians to perform menial tasks; punishments meted out included the performance of extra duties, docking of pay, and confinement to quarters or the brig for up to one week. The Ministry of Defense confirmed that soldiers with such discipline problems would be among the first to leave during "downsizing" of the security services over the next year.


Ongoing combat between government security services and PALIPEHUTU-FNL limited the government's ability to demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers; however, the government provided significant assistance to child soldiers in regions under its control. The government and the six former rebel groups that are part of the Burundian peace process, together with the World Bank, UNICEF, the UN Mission in Burundi, and local and international NGOs, demobilized an additional 108 children during the reporting period, bringing the total of demobilized children to 3,028 since December 2004. The government, with financial and technical assistance from these partners, provided 18 months of family-based medical, psycho-social, educational, and other material support to 3,013 demobilized child soldiers. In addition, more than 1,300 of these children were provided with vocational skills training, including carpentry, auto mechanics, animal husbandry, and farming techniques, as possessing viable productive skills deters children from rejoining rebel groups. Other demobilized children were given loans to open small shops or build houses.


During the reporting period, the SNES, working with its international partners, significantly expanded its public awareness programming to combat the recruitment and use of child soldiers. While the first year of these campaigns provided the public with a broad overview of the child soldier issue, their focus was refined in 2005 to center on the prevention of re-recruitment of children by rebels; HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness raising among former child soldiers; and helping former child soldiers adjust to civilian life. The SNES employed 133 full-time trainers who conducted at least three seminars a week in each province on these topics. The government also ran media campaigns on public and private radio stations. At the local level, the SNES continued to use trained civil society organizations, churches, and local associations to advocate in their communes against the recruitment of child soldiers and conduct public seminars on children's rights and the reintegration of former child soldiers into local communities.


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