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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 33 / 125





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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

her husband, three others had had children as a result of voluntary relationships (though while still minors) and 10 declared that they had been raped. Respondents were drawn from the four provinces which have been most affected by conflict in Burundi, namely: Bubanza, Ruyigi, Kayanza and Bujumbura Municipality.

2 Research findings

2.1 What forms of violence were suffered by the respondents? War provides a cover for all sorts of atrocities. People were plunged into despair and fatalism, which diminished their capacity for resistance and for organising, and pushed to one side all the usual social values and norms. There were several forms of violence that were visited on the population at large during the war, and girls

suffered from these along with everyone else.

For example, people lost family

members, many children were orphaned, there were growing numbers of child- headed households, people were attacked by armed militia groups, displaced either within the country or to other countries, family property was destroyed, and so on.

However, in addition to these, there were several other forms of violence which were peculiarly the fate of girls. Some of these had existed in Burundi since before the war, but had increased in volume during the crisis. The particular forms of violence for which girls were singled out can be grouped into four categories:

2.1.1 Forced enrolment into armed groups Although the majority of combatants in the armed movements were men, girls and women were also quite numerous. Boys and girls were literally enrolled by force, as well as by playing on their naivety and their weak capacity for judgement. Forced recruitment took place mainly at night, using lies and manipulation, rebels selected certain persons (mainly youth) to abduct and take away with them. Another context during which abductions took place was when rebels ambushed buses and cars on the roads. Sometimes rebels who were responsible for recruitment came and terrorised families into sending their children to join the rebellion. There were even abductions from schools or on the way to school. As far as manipulation and lies were concerned, children were told that life in the rebellion was good, that they would live better there than with their own families, and that they would be paid a salary like the soldiers in the government army.

The violence suffered by these children, once they had been enrolled, was without limit, and they had many physical and psychological scars to show for it, as respondents testified. Amongst other privations, we can cite: excessively harsh training for their age, enforced by flogging; forced labour; torture; running for long distances; death threats; unjust sanctions for the smallest fault; stationing at

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