Burundi top UN official appeals for help in reintegrating former child soldiers

28 May 2009The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on children and armed conflict has called for urgent support of hundreds of former child soldiers recently released from a demobilization centre in Burundi and reunited with their families. The last 340 former child soldiers, formerly associated with the Forces Nationales pour la Liberation (FNL) rebel militia, who have left the Gitega Demobilization Centre, must receive long-term care to ensure a lasting reintegration into their communities, Radhika Coomaraswamy said in a press release issued yesterday.She also appealed for the discharge of another 44 children who remain with FNL dissidents in the Randa and Buramata assembly sites, urging the Government to finalize their separation without delay.“Child soldiers endure traumatizing experiences and their long-tern reintegration must remain a priority of the Government,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.She called on the Government and the donor community to develop and support long-term reintegration activities for all the children formerly associated with armed groups, noting that a delay in providing socio-economic support could derail the process.“The promise of peace and tangible support will help them to rebuild their lives,” added Ms. Coomaraswamy.The Security Council has repeatedly voiced its concerns over delays in implementing the 2006 Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement signed between the Government and the FNL, ending a brutal civil war lasting four decades between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.In December, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) until the end of this year to help restore peace in the small Central African country, where the ethnic conflict has killed hundreds of thousands.

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