Since 2015, several human rights groups in Burundi have been ringing alarm bells about the trafficking of women and girls to Arab Gulf countries. A phenomenon that mainly affects girls, most of whom are still minor. CNDD-FDD, the ruling party in Burundi, is singled out as an accomplice in the organization of this traffic.
By Landry Niyonzima
It’s known. The so-called employment opportunity for young Burundian girls in the Arab Gulf countries is a real trade in people that leads to another form of slavery in the 21st century. Companies or individuals from Oman and Saudi Arabia network with traffickers based in Burundi, individuals or companies involved in this despicable business.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Mr. Jacques Nshimirimana, President of the Federation of Associations engaged in the field of childhood (FENADEB), at least 4,000 girls have been “sold” in the Gulf Arab countries since 2015. The victims are mainly women, domestic workers who leave Burundi and are sent to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and even Lebanon.
“This trafficking in human beings is for the purposes of prostitution, pornography and organ trafficking , “ says Prime Mbarubukeye, President of OLCT (National Observatory for the Fight against Transnational Crime-where is your brother). “In addition to economic and sexual exploitation, deportees undergo organ harvesting such as kidney, heart, liver sold very expensive,” accuses Jacques Nshimirimana of FENADEB.
The main reasons for this traffic from Burundi include the socio-political crisis, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, illiteracy, infidelity, gender-based violence, land conflicts and research. unrestrained wealth.
The victims testify …
Aïcha N. from Gitega
Last October I went to greet a friend at the Nairobi airport. He came from Burundi and was to join his family in England. The plane slowed down a bit and I killed my time by going for a coffee at the airport. A woman, about 30 years old, veiled, approaches me and salutes me in Kirundi, my mother tongue. Then she sits next to me.
Mute like a carp at first, she sighs deeply before starting the discussion. “Did you come to pick up someone? “ Mechanically, I answer in the affirmative. “God is great, you will help me find a bus to Bujumbura, ” she begs. And she begins to tell his long journey. “I’m from Oman,” she said. You can not imagine the ordeal I experienced there. “
Party in 2017, Aicha N. hoped for a better tomorrow. She was married and lived in Gitega in the Magarama district. One day, a “good Samaritan” comes to his home and tells him that there is a country where “dollars are gathered on trees. “
A week later, she was taking the bus to Bujumbura looking for travel documents. Leaving behind her three children and her husband, Aïcha N went by bus to Nairobi pretending to be a pagnes saleswoman who was going to buy supplies in Uganda.
In Kampala, she continues, another group of girls, aged between 17 and 33, was waiting for me. “We took the bus to Nairobi where we will fly to the Arab countries of the Gulf. A new adventure begins. “
Disillusionment in Oman
The first thing I was stripped away was my phone and my travel documents. “We were like beasts in the market and Arabs followed each other to choose the ones they thought fit for the job,”she recalls.
Prisoner in a big house, Aisha, like the other trafficked Burundian women, was not allowed to go out. “I worked as a cleaning lady. I cooked and cleaned up a three-story house. In return, I received only a meager salary of about $ 100. Most of my salary was paid to the agency that had recruited me. “ In case of illness, the patient is given to the Agency without any other form of trial.
Nadia K. from Bwiza to Bujumbura
She has just turned 23 years old. She swears by all the devils that she will never return to these countries. When she left like the other girls looking for a better tomorrow, she had just finished technical school in Bujumbura. Since her family did not have the financial means to pay for the university, “a woman from my neighborhood put me in touch with someone who could take me to Saudi Arabia,” she says. In May 2017, she packed up for Nairobi where she will fly to Saudi Arabia.
“When I arrived, someone came to buy me. I worked as a slave. I was not entitled to rest, “ says Nadia K., eyes half closed. “On arrival, you sign a contract with the Agency and then” the buyer “confiscates your travel documents. You will not even have the right to communicate with relatives, friends or relatives. It’s like being a prisoner, “ adds Nadia K.
“For refusing the sexual touching of my bosses (there are days when my employer came with his friends), I spent several days without eating,” says Nadia K.
According to Ali Niyonkuru, General Manager of Royal Services, this company is working in the standards. We have a sister company based in Saudi Arabia, he says. Local Burundian nationals take care of the well-being of our recruits, “he adds. In addition, he says, the company is working closely with the Burundi ambassador to Saudi Arabia to ensure that the rights of these recruits are respected.
Testimonies from several provinces of Burundi corroborate the involvement of CNDD-FDD ruling party structures in recruiting girls and women for jobs in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Registration, medical examinations and training were organized in the provincial party headquarters.
It should also be stressed that Burundian state bodies lend a hand to traffickers of girls. Traffickers said they had paid large sums to the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and the Air and Border Police (PAFE) to be able to work in peace. Thus the PAFE grants facilities to the traffickers of Burundian women and girls because their passports are issued in a bundled manner and in record time.
A trafficker even said “he had paid 6 million Burundian francs to the National Intelligence Service, attached to the Presidency of the Republic, in order to launch the trafficking of women and girls in Burundi. For every girl delivered to Oman, he would pay $ 400 to a SNR executive and 20,000 to 30,000 Burundian francs for each passport issued by PAFE. These revelations are reflected in a report by one of Burundi’s most dynamic civil society organizations, the Forum for Conscience and Development (FOCODE).
Thus, for every girl who passes through the Bujumbura International Airport, traffickers who do not have the support of the SNR would also pay between 20,000 to 30,000 Burundian francs to security officials. Moreover, at Bujumbura International Airport, some traffickers would accompany “their daughters” sometimes to the tarmac.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, trafficking in human beings represents a market worth $ 32 billion a year. And in the context of the trafficking of women and girls in Burundi, for every Burundian delivered to Oman or Saudi Arabia, according to a witness who requested anonymity, the trafficker who manages to get the victim through Tanzania or Kenya, the two transit countries, receives between 1,500 and 3,000 US dollars.
“Traffickers of people in Saudi Arabia are networking with people who are recruiting in Bujumbura,” she says. “Even if I were offered all the gold in the world, I will never return to these countries. I also wonder how I was fooled to embark on this adventure, “she says, with tears in her eyes.
Nairobi, at Hadji: the bridge between Burundi and the Gulf countries
Before Aïcha finishes the story of his misadventures, the plane lands. The friend I had come to greet at the airport arrived at the exit. I thought I was out of the woods. But Aïcha follows me and begs me to take her to town. We settle in the car and I start for the city center in search of a bus to Bujumbura.
On the River Road, I make a small detour to avoid traffic jams. Panicking, Aicha screams, “No, thank you! Do not bring me back there. “ But where, I say to him? She pointed to a small hotel and said, Kwa Hadji (at Hadji’s). Taken aback, I ask her if she lived in the city of Nairobi.
“Any Burundian left for the Arab countries of the Gulf and having transited in Nairobi certainly stayed at Hadji” she answers me.
At Hadji is a very small hotel in the center of Nairobi on the road to Karioko. Candidates for the trip to the Arab countries of the Gulf must stay there for as long as they find papers. “When I left,” said Aïcha, “we were about 20 girls, eight of whom were already there before the arrival of our team . “
At Hadji, she adds, one learns basic education about body cleanliness and some housework. We are told about our new life and sometimes some “benefactors” are considered as sessions of the sexes. We live there for about two weeks. Once the papers are obtained, we fly for a new life in the Arab countries.
CNDD-FDD in the crosshairs
Several sources confirm the involvement of ruling party structures, the CNDD-FDD, in recruiting these girls who leave for the Arab Gulf countries. Indeed, recruitment companies closely linked to the CNDD-FDD party have been legally registered with the API (Agency for the Promotion of Investments). It’s an open secret. “Salah Alder Feeri Burundi” and “Royal Services” which are in fact one and the same company, with the same shareholders and the same social object, organize this trafficking of women and girls from Burundi to the Arab countries of the Gulf.