Burundi: Former child soldiers reunited with their families
06-02-2004 News Release 04/13
On 4 February two 16-year-olds, Alexis and Gerard (not their real names), were reunited with their families in rural Burundi after being used as child soldiers in violation of international humanitarian law.
Alexis had fled his village in Burundi with his family in 1993 for a refugee camp in Tanzania. In 2001 he was recruited there by members of an armed group who brought him along with them to fight in eastern Congo. As for Gerard, he was kidnapped by members of an armed group in January 2003 on his way back home from school in his native village in Burundi and also taken to fight in eastern Congo.
In late 2003 both Alexis and Gerard were disarmed and placed in transit centres in eastern Congo together with several other former child soldiers. They were subsequently visited by ICRC delegates who traced their families and managed to put them back in touch with them by means of Red Cross messages. Both the children and their families expressed their desire to be reunited.
On 4 February ICRC delegates accompanied the two children across the border and brought them back to their villages, where friends and relatives had gathered to greet them and they were finally reunited with their families. On the same day two other boys who had served as soldiers in Congo for several years were also reunited with their families in two other villages in Burundi.
This is the first time since fighting broke out in Burundi in 1993 that the ICRC has reunited former Burundian child soldiers with their families. The ICRC will continue to do its utmost to help bring demobilized child soldiers back together with their families in Burundi.
For further information, please contact:
Andrea Pontiroli, ICRC Bujumbura, tel. ++257 21 28 65 / 21 29 08 / 944 380