Burundian children victims of external and internal slavery

While 16April is the International Day for the Abolition of Child Slavery, children in Burundi are still victims of both internal and external slavery.

Caritas Niyonkuru has now a small shop she manages to earn her living.

Caritas Niyonkuru, 21 years old and mother of one child was a victim of child slavery in 2015.While she was working as a nanny in one of Bujumbura’s neighborhoods, she heard that there is a network that sends employees to the Gulf countries. After she was convinced by her friend that this is a golden opportunity to get a lot of money, they engaged a process of searching for required documents to travel to Oman. “The center paid for our documents, our travel fees and promised that we will be paid around BIF one million per month”.

Mrs. Niyonkuru says they were a group of thirty young women all going to search for a job in Gulf countries. When they arrived there, they were picked at the airport by unknown men who showed their photos to get connected. “The disappointment began because I thought it was Burundians who were to welcome us”.

After they had arrived in Oman, Mrs. Niyonkuru was brought into a dark room where she was forced to sleep with a man. “I was in an isolated and dark room when a man came in. He wanted to sleep with me but I refused. There was a metal object and I threatened to kill him with it if he did not go out”.
Having seen that Mrs. Niyonkuru was not the right customer for sexual exploitation, her owner exchanged money with another person and she was later transferred to another family. “I was then asked to do domestic work day and night without a rest. I fainted four times due to the fatigue”.

Mrs. Niyonkuru says she worked for about seven months but was never given her monthly salary. She latter managed to escape and after the case was handled by the police she was deported to Burundi.
David Ninganza, child rights activist says Niyonkuru’s case is one among many cases of child slavery victims in Burundi. “In 2018, around 2000 persons were victims of external slavery and most of them are young girls who drop out of schools and those who are jobless”.

The child rights activist also says the local administration should get more involved in the fight against child slavery. “Most of the children who are victims of external slavery are given false identity cards by the local administration, this handicaps the fight against child slavery”.

Mr. Ninganza says they have hosted a number of children and young adults who are victims of human trafficking and slavery. He also says there is internal child slavery. “Children are sometimes given too much work compared to their age and physical ability. They are also physically or sexually abused,” he says adding that SOJEPAE center hosts children victims of child slavery before they are sent back to their families.

He calls on the government to get more involved to completely abolish child slavery.