Cablegate: Update of Worst Forms of Child Labor
DE RUEHJB #0806/01 3370708
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 030708Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA
TO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0718
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0015
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
UNCLAS BUJUMBURA 000806
DEPT FOR AF/C
DEPT FOR DOL/ILAB PLEASE PASS TO TINA MCCARTER
DEPT FOR DRL/IL PLEASE PASS TO TU DANG
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EIND ELAB ETRD PHUM SOCI BY
SUBJECT: UPDATE OF WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR
REF: STATE 149662
1. (U) Per Reftel, included is the update of worst forms of
child labor information for Burundi.
2. (U) Text of report follows:
The Government of Burundi (GOB) has evidenced concern about
child labor, but due to a critical lack of resources
exacerbated by more than twelve years of civil war, it is
hamstrung in its efforts to address the worst forms.
According to UNICEF, AIDS and the civil war that ended in
2006 left more than 800,000 orphans, including street
orphans. Though the GOB appears genuinely concerned about
the problem, the sheer numbers severely tax already-limited
government resources. Further, in 2007, political
in-fighting in Parliament prevented the government from
pursuing more aggressive legislation and enforcement to
address the problem of orphans and street children.
Burundi also faces the challenge of reintegrating former
child soldiers from the civil war. Between 2004 and 2007,
Burundi demobilized 3041 children from the armed forces,
but the government faces the challenge of educating and
finding jobs for these former child soldiers. However,
UNICEF numbers indicate that the GOB has worked
successfully with NGOs to provide skills and training to
some 20 percent of the former child soldiers.
Laws and Regulations Proscribing the Worst Forms of Child
The Burundian Labor Code states that children under the age
of 18 cannot be employed by "an enterprise," except for the
types of labor the Ministry of Labor determines to be
acceptable. Acceptable labor includes light work or
apprenticeships that do not damage children's health,
interfere with their normal development, or prejudice their
schooling. Children are prohibited from working at
The legal age for performing most types of non-dangerous
work is 18, but during the reporting year children under
the age 16 in rural areas regularly engaged in manual labor
in the daytime during the school year.
Under the law the country's minimum age for military
recruitment is 16, although the government states that no
one under the age of 18 is recruited and no soldiers under
18 are currently in uniform.
In 2005 Burundi created the Brigade for the Protection of
Women and Children within its National Police. The Brigade
uses existing law to protect children against forced
prostitution. The GOB and police are aware of the major
areas in the capital used for prostitution, but have not
begun a survey of the problem, and prevention of child
prostitution in these areas has yet to be fully realized.
Burundi has ratified several international conventions
relating to child labor, including the Convention Relative
to the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the
Rights and Well-Being of Children, and the Convention on
the Rights of the Child Concerning the Selling of Children,
Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. Burundi has
ratified Convention 182, but has not developed a list of
occupations considered to be the worst forms of child labor
existing in Burundi.
Regulations for Implementation and Enforcement of
Government agencies that enforce child labor laws have
multiple enforcement tools available to them, including
criminal penalties, civil fines and court orders. In
theory, these tools provide adequate deterrence to would-be
violators of child labor laws and punishment to offenders.
In practice, however, the laws are infrequently enforced.
Due in part to a lack of labor inspectors, the Ministry of
Labor enforced labor laws only when a complaint was
In 2007, the government acknowledged no cases of child
labor in the formal sector of the economy, and has
conducted no child labor investigations. In conjunction
with UNICEF, PADCO and other NGOs, the government has
provided training for Ministry of Labor officials in the
enforcement of child labor laws.
Social Programs Specifically Designed to Prevent the Worst
Forms of Child Labor
The GOB has few resources to allocate to social programs
designed to prevent or ameliorate the worst forms of child
labor. In large part, the government depends on private
organizations, such as churches, labor unions, human rights
organizations, and NGOs to provide necessary social
International organizations, several NGOs and labor unions
engaged in efforts to combat child labor; efforts included
a campaign to demobilize child soldiers. Additionally,
through its World Bank-funded Demobilization Department,
the GOB carries out follow-up programs with demobilized
former child soldiers. Working in partnership with PADCO,
the government provides vocational training, conflict
resolution training, and income-generating projects to
assist the reintegration of former child soldiers into
As in previous years, the Ministry of Defense instructed
its officers to punish soldiers who continue to use
children to perform menial tasks, such as carrying water
and firewood, cooking and cleaning. According to the
army's spokesperson, by 2006 soldiers found to abuse
children in this manner were among the first to be forced
from service as part of the
military's demobilization following the civil war. The
regular army no longer uses children to perform tasks, and
no specific incidents of reprisals against military or
security forces have been reported in 2007.
Comprehensive Policies Aimed at Elimination of the Worst
Forms of Child Labor
Burundi does not have a comprehensive policy or national
program aimed at addressing the worst forms of child
labor. The GOB does not incorporate child labor as a
specific issue to be addressed in poverty reduction,
education, development, or other social policies.
The government does, however, provide free public
education. In 2005, the president abolished all school
fees. While the initiative made schooling available to
hundreds of thousands of new students, it also led to an
educational emergency involving overcrowded classrooms and
teachers working multiple shifts. Education is compulsory
up to age 12; however, in practice this is not enforced.
Progress Toward Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor
Statistics in Burundi are difficult to obtain, and many
records were lost during the decade-long war. The most
recent UNICEF statistics on child labor cover 1999 - 2005,
and indicate that 25 percent of Burundi's children are
engaged in some form of labor. This statistic is
considered low by most observers. Beyond the capital of
Bujumbura, Burundi is overwhelmingly agrarian, and most
families are primarily engaged in subsistence agriculture.
Children in the rural areas work on small family farms or
help neighbors in various work-related activities,
generally without pay. Even the few paid activities in
rural areas, such as hand-made brick making, children are
rarely remunerated for their work. It is viewed by most as
"assistance," and the children willingly help in the work.
There are no reported examples of children working in
slavery or debt bondage. Even though they may work without
pay, they generally are not forced to work.
At home on rural farmsteads children will often work
alongside their parents or older relatives, but this is
generally seen as necessary to provide basic food and a
livelihood for their families.
The government acknowledges that some children have been
used in commercial sexual exploitation. It considers the
few known cases to be isolated and not an indication of
organized trafficking of children. The government views
these instances to be acts of despair brought on by extreme
poverty, and has made no arrests this year for child
commercial sexual trafficking.