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One of the enduring tragedies of Burundi’s civil conflict is the continuing inability to fully disarm and reintegrate the nation’s child soldiers. The government of Burundi—through the National Structure on Child Soldiers— has been involved in a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program that has made significant progress in reducing the number of child soldiers. However, many former soldiers have not been fully reintegrated into society for various reasons. Many associated with the Forces Nationales pour la Libération, an opposition group, languish in prisons and jails without being properly charged and without being told when they might be returned to their families.
Human rights organizations have documented how those children live in overcrowded cells, eat just once a day and are accused of collaboration with armed political groups. Other former child soldiers are afraid to return to their families for fear of being rejected by their communities. Moreover, many who do return find that they are convenient scapegoats whenever a crime is committed. Many of these children are also profoundly traumatized and devoid of any vocational skills and even a rudimentary education.