A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
the front; being forced to fight and kill; being used as a ‘human shield’10
2.1.2 Abduction by combatants Girls and women living in the areas which armed groups passed through were sometimes victims of abduction during the night. Once abducted, they would be forced to help the militias transport their booty as well as their arms. Some abductees were later freed again, while others accompanied the combatants to wherever they were holed up, and were obliged to stay there, in some cases for good and in others for some weeks or months. These girls and women were given several roles to play but they were also often victims of sexual violence. Once back home, they lived in shame: most do not admit to having been abducted because they fear being stigmatised, so they carry around with them the secret knowledge of all the privations they have suffered.
2.1.3 Sexual violence The most widespread form of violence against girls and women, which was amplified during the crisis, is sexual violence. In fact this was a constant, because it was more or less integral to each of the other forms of violence, which often led to sexual abuse. Whether it was in the course of attacks, in displaced camps, or in cases of abduction, sexual abuse was a common occurrence. But also, the overcrowding and lack of privacy in the camps, the fact of being orphaned, extreme poverty – these were factors that exposed girls to abuse of all kinds, because certain men knew how to benefit from this situation of vulnerability and lead them into sexually abusive relationships. Some girls were raped by strangers whom they had met by chance, while others were abused by friends or relatives. Others were simply obliged to turn to prostitution, or to be kept by more prosperous men, in order to survive. During the war, both government soldiers and combatants of the other armed movements circulated throughout all the provinces of Burundi, and this means that an indelible mark of violence - and sexual violence against women and girls in particular - has been left throughout the country.
2.1.4 Stigma and discrimination Stigma and discrimination is a form of violence which eats away at the life of victims of violence all through their lives. All manner of degrading names and stereotypes are used to describe these girls and their children. If girls who were victims of violence are now living in extreme difficulties, this is mainly a result of the attitudes shown towards them by their parents, brothers and sisters, the administration – in sum, the whole community. These attitudes are part and parcel of Burundian culture, history and society – they represent the way Burundian society sees and acts towards victims of violence.
A girl who has been raped, who joined armed movements by choice or by force,
0 The connotation of ‘human shield’ in this case is that the children were put in the front line, and were told that as they were short in stature, bullets would
not touch them and would pass over their heads. But in reality they were put in front to protect the adult soldiers, who would then not be the first to be hit if they were attacked. There are no figures for deaths of child soldiers, but bodies were on occasion displayed on national television.