Burundi rebels handover 238 child soldiers to Unicef - Emirates24|7

Burundi rebels handover 238 child soldiers to Unicef


A dissident faction of Burundian rebels freed 238 child soldiers, ending eight months of negotiations, the United Nations children's fund Unicef said on Wednesday.

The National Liberation Forces (FNL) breakaway faction handed over the children to a team of UN, African Union and government officials in its two camps north of the capital Bujumbura.

They were transferred to a demobilisation camp in Gitega in central Burundi, Unicef said in a statement.

The agency's envoy in Burundi, Francoise Gruloos, said it was "a wonderful moment, a wonderful feeling, giving back to the children their right to a childhood," when she saw the excited children leaving the camps in buses.

A key government demobilisation official said authorities would ensure the children return to school or vocational training.

Between 2004 and 2006, Unicef assisted the demobilisation of 3,013 child soldiers. Thousands of others are still in rebel ranks.

The tiny state is struggling to emerge from 14 years of civil fighting that have left an estimated 300,000 people dead, mainly civilians, and the economy in tatters.

Fighting recently resumed between government troops and FNL rebels, fuelling fears Burundi could be headed for another round of bloodshed.