[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

BURUNDI (TIER 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Burundi is a source country for children trafficked for the purposes of child soldiering, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation. The rebel faction National Liberation Force (FNL) remained the only armed group not to have fully implemented a ceasefire agreement with the government, and it continued to unlawfully recruit and exploit children as fighters, manual laborers, and logistical support throughout the majority of the reporting period; the FNL appeared to cease child recruitment in early 2009 after the commencement of the formal demobilization process. Generally, child soldiers and other children were identified, separated from the adults at the demobilization camps and pre-assembly areas, and returned to their homes early to mid-2009. FNL rebels reportedly forced rural populations to perform uncompensated labor, such as transporting supplies or weapons, during the reporting period. Some Burundian children are also trafficked within the country for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. While there is little evidence of large-scale child prostitution, “benevolent” older females offer vulnerable younger girls room and board within their homes, and eventually push them into prostitution to pay for living expenses; extended family members reportedly also financially profit from the commercial sexual exploitation of young relatives residing with them. Male tourists from Oman and the United Arab Emirates exploit Burundian girls in prostitution; parents reported six cases of such liaisons to the police during the reporting period. Burundian girls are also trafficked to Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda for commercial sexual exploitation. Human trafficking of Burundian adults and children with albinism to Tanzania for the forcible removal of body parts may occur; so-called Tanzanian traditional healers seek various body parts of persons with albinism for traditional medical concoctions commonly purchased to heal illness, foster economic advancement, or hurt enemies.

The Government of Burundi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting human trafficking offenses and punishing trafficking offenders over the last year; therefore, Burundi is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Burundi: Utilize the anti-trafficking provisions of the newly passed criminal code amendments to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; establish an official process for law enforcement and social welfare officials to interview potential trafficking victims and refer them for assistance; take steps to remove children trafficked into prostitution and domestic servitude and provide them with protective services; launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign; and provide training on human trafficking to new police and border guards.

The government’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were limited during the reporting period. Article 241 of the Burundian Constitution prohibits slavery and its criminal code outlaws forced labor and kidnapping. During the November 2008 legislative session, the National Assembly approved amendments to the criminal code that, among other things, prohibit human trafficking and prescribe sentences of five to ten years’ imprisonment; the amendments do not, however, provide a clear definition of human trafficking. The draft amendments were subsequently considered by Burundi’s Senate, and signed into law by the president in April 2009. The revised criminal code, however, prescribes no explicit penalties for forced labor or slavery, and penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for kidnapping. Sex trafficking crimes can be punished using statutes on brothel-keeping and pimping, which prescribe penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment. The existing penalties are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses. Nevertheless, there were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for trafficking under these statutes during the reporting period. The National Police’s Brigade for the Protection of Women and Children provided counseling for girls detained for engaging in prostitution before releasing them to their parents. Additionally, after receiving citizen complaints, it investigated house-based brothels where children were allegedly exploited; there was no known punishment of brothel operators during the reporting period. Victims’ families lodged three cases of forced prostitution with police in 2008; the investigations are pending.

The government provided minimal assistance to trafficking victims during the reporting period. Fighting between the government and the FNL intensified in April 2008, making negotiations for the release of child soldiers increasingly urgent yet difficult. The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration played a prominent role in the negotiations. As a result, 220 child soldiers were identified at the Randa “dissident” camp in May 2008 and released to officials from the United Nations, the African Union, and the Government of Burundi. With UNICEF funding, the Commission’s staff provided medical check-ups for children suffering from physical and psychological trauma and conducted searches for their families; the former child soldiers were reunited with their families in June and July after parents signed a discharge form. The government attempted to follow up on the status of demobilized children, but was hindered by a lack of resources to operate outside of Bujumbura, where the majority of these demobilized child soldiers now reside. The government did not, however, undertake programming to care for or rehabilitate female children associated with the FNL. There are currently no children at Randa or Buramata “dissident” camps for rebel elements seeking demobilization, but the existence of children in Rubira, the FNL assembly area, was reported during 2008.

The government did not, however, provide protective services to victims of any other category of human trafficking during the reporting period, or show evidence of implementing procedures to identify such victims of trafficking or refer them to organizations that provide protective services. The government did not encourage victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenders, nor did it ensure that victims were not inappropriately incarcerated or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The government’s efforts to prevent trafficking remained lackluster. A poor understanding of human trafficking among government officials, particularly the police, continued to be an impediment to effective intervention. In June 2008, the government sent officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and the National Crime Bureau to Dar es Salaam for a meeting of regional security and judicial officials to draft a Regional Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa. The Ministry of Labor conducted no child labor inspections or investigations in 2008. During the year, the Ministry of National Security and Human Rights, in conjunction with the National DDR Commission and with production assistance from an international NGO, sponsored radio spots that aired four times each week to educate citizens about topics such as human trafficking and violence against women. The government did not undertake efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The pre-deployment training for four battalions of Burundian peacekeepers participating in the African Union’s Mission to Somalia, provided by two foreign governments, included a curriculum that created awareness and discouraged acts of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Burundi has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.