March 24, 2005
Bujumbura - The
Burundian government has demobilised 2,923 child soldiers in the
first 15 months of a peace process meant to end the country's civil
war, but more than 5 000 remain within government and rebel ranks,
officials said on Thursday.
Hicuburundi, the head of the government's demobilisation and
re-integration programme, said the four-year, UN-sponsored programme
was going well.
"These children are
those who went through demobilisation centres and have joined their
families after a series of classes since the demobilisation process
began," Hicuburundi said.
The programme was
waiting for more child soldiers to be identified. The 5 000 children
that officials believe remain are among more than 55 000 combatants
who are being demobilised following the country's 12-year civil war.
Only one, small rebel
group has not joined the power-sharing government, but talks are
expected to begin again soon with the National Liberation Forces.
Desire Gatoto, who
manages the civilian part of the child soldier programme, said the
work with child soldiers would continue, despite the remaining
fighting around the capital, Bujumbura.
systematically doing identification, and every child identified as
an ex-child combatant is automatically taken to the demobilisation
centre," Gatoto said. "It is very difficult to state the exact date
at which we will finish demobilising children."