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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 37 / 125





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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

zones, and were then either demobilised or integrated into the regular army. During the demobilisation process, girls and boys who had reached majority stayed in the assembly camps while waiting to be demobilised, while minors were registered to be demobilised in the UNICEF child soldiers’ reintegration programme. Very few girls were reintegrated under this project, since out of more than 3000 child soldiers who were reintegrated in the whole of the country, only 48 were girls. This is a surprisingly low figure, given studies from elsewhere suggesting that globally, an average of 40% of child soldiers are girls (Save the Children 2005). In the adult categories, figures from CNDDR (the National Commission for Demobilisation, Reinsertion and Reintegration) show that up till September, 2006 only 494 women had been demobilised, compared to 17,192 men. The question which might be asked is whether this is a result of there being very few women and girls in the armed movements, or whether women and girls have been overlooked by the demobilisation system. Further research is needed to establish what proportion of the armed movements were girls and women.

As has been indicated in the preceding chapter, the main international instrument governing the demobilisation of child soldiers is the Cape Town Principles, drawn up in 1997, which defines ‘combatant’ as a person who has been part of an armed movement in any capacity. Girls who are abducted into militias and who serve as camp followers are explicitly included in this definition. In the Burundian case therefore, such girls should, in principle, have been eligible for the benefits of demobilisation. However, in practice the Cape Town definition has not been well understood or implemented in Burundi. Rebel commanders, who were tasked in the peace agreements with identifying minors for demobilisation, were generally not aware that camp followers were to be included. In addition, they often hid girls away, conscious of the shame that was attached to their behaviour towards the girls. This is borne out by the fact that, of the 48 girls who were formally demobilised, not one had a child, i.e. one can presume that for the most part they had been in the militias as fighters.

In addition, what sometimes happened was that, when the rebel forces placed military posts in the midst of populations (in displaced camps, for example), boys would be forced to assist the soldiers by carrying arms, cooking and so on, and were therefore in constant contact with the soldiers. This of course constituted abuse. The abuse faced by girls, on the other hand, was of a different nature, generally sexual, and one of the results of this was that girls were often not physically present when the time came for the rebel posts to pack up.

Our respondents confirmed that very few girls in the armed movements, even among girl fighters, went through the formal demobilisation system. Some had not been informed about the demobilisation process, and so went directly to their

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