Fighting street children phenomenon must respect children rights, says activist

Burundi police arrested over 150 people including children who come from other provinces in Bujumbura city center. The police plan to bring them back to their provinces of origin. Children’s rights activist says street children must be first sensitized to the importance of their return to their families.

Children in street situation in the capital Bujumbura

Children in street situation in the capital Bujumbura

Yesterday, Pierre Nkurikiye, Spokesman for the police told reporters the latter arrested 32 sex workers including a man in Bwiza area, 94 juvenile delinquents, 32 children in street situation and about 10 beggars in Bujumbura city center.

Nkurikiye says these apprehended people are part of those who disrupt security. He says, the police in collaboration with the administration plan to drive them back to their provinces of origin. “The police have already carried out a raid against these categories of people and returned them to their families. Unfortunately, they come back to Bujumbura shortly after,” said Nkurikiye. The spokesman for the police called on all the security partners, especially the administration to intervene. “We urge local authorities to redouble their efforts to ensure that those people cannot return to the capital after they have arrived in their provinces.

“Police have not succeeded because they have made a hasty decision”

The chairman of National Federation of Associations Engaged in Children’s Welfare (FENADEB), Jacques Nshimirimana, says children’s rights activists have never opposed the government’s plan to put an end to the growing street children phenomenon in Burundi. He said, they rather asked the government to analyze together the ways to carry out this plan without violating children’s rights. “Street children are victims of their parents’ fault, their own fault and others are victims of the 1993 civil war. These children must have the same rights as other internally displaced persons, “said FENADEB representative.

In Burundi, there are many IDP sites and none can force displaced persons to return to their provinces of origin because they are protected by the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs. “Among street people include former war children who are victims of the failure of social integration. In this case, the children are not at fault, “said Nshimirimana.

In February 2017, the Minister of Human Rights organized a two-day meeting with members of organizations working in the children’s field to jointly explore ways and means to end this phenomenon of delinquency and children in street situation.

Nshimirimana said the participants recommended that the fight against the street children phenomenon and delinquency must respect children’s rights. “We must educate these children so that they know that the street is not their place and sensitize their family members who will welcome them,” said Nshimirimana.

In December 2016, the police staged a raid throughout the country to implement the state policy to combat delinquency and phenomenon of children in street situation. The police raids are the result of a measure taken by the President of the Republic in September 2016, which gives various local administration officials a period of six months to ban street begging throughout the country.

Nshimirimana says he is concerned about the situation. For him, if these street children have left their families after committing serious crimes and are forced to return home, the police will have exposed them to danger.
“We found two bodies of children after the police had forced those children to return to their families,” Nshimirimana said. That is the reason why the Ministry of Human Rights subsequently decided to suspend these police raids against street children and delinquents throughout the country to better prepare awareness-raising campaigns.

Awareness raising activities are scheduled to begin before the end of August 2017, according to Nshimirimana. He said children’s rights activists and the Minister of Human Rights had convinced the government to build transit shelters for street children, beggars and delinquents until their families are ready to welcome them. For the president of FENADEB, the police have made a hasty decision by forcibly returning these children to their villages the reason why they haven’t succeeded.