Secretary-General calls on Burundi to make children a post-war priority

Secretary-General calls on Burundi to make children a post-war priority

Concerned about persistent rapes, killings, the detainment and military recruitment of children in Burundi, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on all parties to immediately work towards ending these crimes and prosecuting offenders, as the central African nation makes a transition from civil war to peace and democracy.

“I am particularly concerned at the considerable number of instances of sexual violence against very young girls and stress the urgency for the Burundian authorities to enact and enforce legislation against sexual violence, carry out thorough investigations and bring those guilty to justice,” Mr. Annan says in a report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in the country.

Mr. Annan urges that children’s rights remain at the forefront of the newly forged peace, which began in September with a Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement that ended 12 years of civil war.

“I urge all parties to take all necessary steps to proceed with negotiations towards a final peace agreement, stop recruiting children without any precondition and immediately undertake to and fully demobilize all children,” he says. “I also urge the Government to ensure that the justice mechanisms provide protection to witnesses and victims of human rights violations, especially in the case of children.”

The report, covering the period of August 2005 to September 2006, calls on the Burundian Government “to grant unfettered access, for child protection purposes, to all military, security and police detention centres and to cooperate with the United Nations country team and child protection partners,” and on donor countries to make long-term commitments and adopt more systematic approaches to child protection programmes.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, will shortly undertake a mission to Burundi to alert the Government, the UN system and authorities to the need to make the protection of children a post-transition priority.

The UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), with more than 5,000 uniformed personnel, is mandated to support and help to implement efforts undertaken by Burundians to restore lasting peace and bring about national reconciliation. Last month, the Security Council voted to set up the UN Integrated Office in Burundi to replace ONUB, which was established in 2004 and ends on 31 December.