Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Child Soldiers in Burundi

Burundi is one of the countries specifically targeted by UN Security Council Resolution 1612 banning the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The country's long history of internal conflict saw at one point as many as 19 different factions, most of them armed and militarily engaged. It has significantly pacified since national elections in 2005 even though one rebel group refuses to disarm/disband (FNL). Shelling onto Bujumbura, the capital, remains periodic and UN peacekeepers are deployed across the country.

As all armed factions used child soldiers throughout the war, including government forces with their infamous Tutsi paramilitary youth groups, the Gardiens de la Paix, these minors are now 'without a cause' and most definitely without gainful employment, education, etc. Armed criminality is widespread, making Kalashnikov-brandishing the most popular 'income generating activity' among poor kids with previous military experience.

I am heading to Burundi today to gather evidence about the new government's progress on implementing Resolution 1612. The country has ratified all major child protection treaties of the last twenty years, but has been among the least effective in implementing them.

More to follow once I'm in country.

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