Burundi: 964 children demobilised since January, official says
"They [the children] have already reintegrated into the community. They are with their families or in transit sites, in the city as well as in country side," Desirée Gatoto, who heads the national demobilisation programme, said.
She added that some of the children had enrolled in school. "The reports we have are that most of them are in technical schools because they prefer crafts. We are trying to convince them to join formal training institutions," she said.
She said the children had served in the country's armed forces, a pro-government militia group known as Jeunes gardiens de la paix and in two former rebel groups - the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) of Alain Mugabarabona and the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) faction led by Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiye.
These groups had altogether registered 3,000 child soldiers in their ranks, she added, but had so far only demobilised 964. She said families of the demobilised children were receiving 20,000 Burundian francs (about US $20) every month.
She said the programme was evaluating the achievements of the first phase of demobilisation and appealed to other former armed groups to demobilise children first.
"We have told all former rebel groups that the demobilisation of child soldiers is a priority," she said.
The larger CNDD-FDD faction, led by Pierre Nkurunziza, is one of the former armed groups that have signed ceasefire agreements with the transitional government but which has not yet demobilised its child soldiers.
Meanwhile, Gatoto said the demobilisation programme had failed to prevent continued recruitment of child soldiers.
"We have a serious problem, many former armed groups continue to recruit combatants and most of those recruited are under 17 years old. This is a main obstacle to the success of our programme," she said.
"We urge them to stop this and serious measures should be taken against armed groups that continue recruiting child soldiers," she added.
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