Background Briefing

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Children in the Randa Welcome Center


The twenty-five children currently detained at Randa spend their days sitting around with adult detainees. They receive no education, despite the government’s commitment to free and compulsory primary education.20 They appear to have ample room for sleeping and are allowed to spend most of the day outside where they may exercise at will, although there is little organized recreation. Detainees are housed in unfurnished barracks but each has a mattress and mosquito net. Children sleep in separate quarters from adults. They are fed twice a day but receive little medical attention.21 A seventeen-year-old boy who was forcibly recruited when he was fifteen told a Human Rights Watch researcher:

I have a lot of problems with my ears, and I can’t always hear what people are saying. I have a noise in my head all the time. I was in combat with the FNL and I carried a weapon and shot it during operations. I was in the attacks in Ruyira and Gatumba. I saw other people get killed. I was also hit by some pieces of a grenade.22


All twenty-five children currently at Randa admit to having been FNL combatants.23 One sixteen-year-old boy, for example, was recruited by the FNL in 2004 and deserted late in 2005 after seeing three other FNL combatants, one a fourteen-year-old boy, killed by the Burundian government forces during an attack.24 He told a Human Rights Watch researcher that he felt he had nowhere to go and was tired of combat so he surrendered to government soldiers at Musenyi, Bubanza Province. He said, “The soldiers told me that I was smart to come there and smart to stop fighting because they would have found me.” 25 He was held for months at Musenyi and then at another military position at Mudubugu, spending about eighteen hours each day in a military lockup.26


None of the twenty-five children at Randa face criminal charges and all anticipate being demobilized with some benefits, such as money, tools, or training.27


[20] “Burundi: Free schooling starts with huge logistical problems,” IRIN, September 19, 2005, [online]

[21] Human Rights Watch interviews with child soldiers, and observations during field visits, Randa welcome center, May 5 and 10, 2006.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with child soldier, Randa welcome center, May 10, 2006.

[23] Ibid.; additional information provided by ONUB human rights monitors who also visited the site.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview, Randa welcome center, May 10, 2006.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Human Rights Watch interviews with child soldiers, Randa welcome center, May 5 and 10, 2006.

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