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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                             

Republic of Rwanda

Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners are coffee and tea. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and eroded the country's ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels, although poverty levels are higher now. GDP has rebounded and inflation has been curbed. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Rwanda.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Street Children, A Waiting Disaster

Richard Oundo, The New Times, Kigali, January 8, 2007

This article has been archived by World Street Children News and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 15 July 2011]

[accessed 1 January 2017]

Kigali is peaceful today because the street children are still children. Today they are begging, practically requesting their donors to willingly handover the loose change in their possession. When the sense of frustration develops, they may use ‘reasonable force’ so to say in police speak. We all know the consequences of this action, when someone coerces you into parting with what is legally yours.

Rwanda: Street Children May Be a Future Menace

Ambrose Gahene, The New Times, Kigali, 23 May 2007

[accessed 1 January 2017]

Many factors contribute to the emergence of street children. The major factor is that these are children born as a result of prostitution, where the mother does not know the legitimate father of the child.  When the child grows to about five years and fails to be provided with the necessary love from parents, the kid will resort to living on street verandas or under sewage trenches. Other children find their way into the streets as a result of mistreatment from parents. These types are always furious and merciless to other street kids because they have been subjected to a brutal life. To them, everybody they meet is likened to their harsh parents.  Some other children are sent to the streets to beg for money by their parents.

The Question of Street Kids in Rwanda

The International Child and Youth Care Network CYC-NET, 26 April 2005

[accessed 15 July 2011]

PERCEPTION VERSUS FACTS - The typical depiction of street children by the media invariably connects them with physical deprivation, inadequate nutrition and hygiene and, the skirting of the law. It also portrays children as being vulnerable to adult (particularly male) exploitation and to environmental hazards.

These and other negative traits are supposedly evidenced by the street child's poor health, inadequate clothing and alienation that percolates down to feelings of personal insecurity, resulting to emotional disabilities and destructive behaviour. All this reflects the fact that these children spend much of their time away from adult support. Yet, empirical evidence is quite different. Any street child earns, on average, as much as the adults in their vicinity and often up to one and a half times the minimum wage of most of these adults. For example, in Gaborone, Botswana, where a maid usually earns $20 for eight hours of work, few street children would spend 15 minutes to clean a car for less than $5. Their income, therefore, is generally sufficient to meet the cost of decent and nutrition meals.

Indeed, for many, food is far less plentiful at home, if available at all. For this reason, too, a good outfit is usually not beyond their means, although they often ignore middle-class views of decency in preference for worn-out clothes, or, if engaged in begging, then they wear tattered clothing and wash only weekly, to increase their earning potential.

In the same vein, research regularly shows that most street children are predominantly healthy and that when they are ill, they are usually looked after by a relative. Thus, many of them resort to self medication purchased from traditional drug sellers or over-the counter, which is a phenomenon common in the under developed world. .


*** ARCHIVES ***

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or download PDF at

[accessed 18 March 2015]


UNLAWFUL DETENTION AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES - Throughout the year, hundreds of men, women, and children—many of them street children, commercial sex workers, or street hawkers—were detained unlawfully, without charge or trial, in very poor conditions in an unrecognized detention center commonly known as Kwa Kabuga, in the Gikondo area of Kigali. Many were beaten by police, or by other detainees in the presence of police.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 20 December 2010]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - There are an estimated 7,000 street children in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, and in provincial capitals who work as porters and garbage collectors or sell small items such as cigarettes and candy.  Such children are at significant risk of commercial sexual exploitation, such as the exchange of sex for services (e.g. food or protection).  A study by the Ministry of Labor and UNICEF estimated that 2,140 children are engaged in prostitution in urban areas.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

CHILDREN – According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the net primary school enrolment/attendance ratio was 75 percent. Of the children who entered the first grade, 47 percent reached the fifth grade, and the secondary school attendance ratio was 5 percent

There were approximately six thousand street children throughout the country. Local authorities rounded up street children and placed them in foster homes or government-run facilities. The Gitagata Center housed approximately 400 children, the majority of whom were rounded up by authorities in 2003. The government supported a "childcare institution" in each of the 12 provinces that served as safe houses for street children, providing shelter and basic needs.

Number of Street Children in Kayonza On the Decline

Stephen Rwembeho, The New Times, Kigali, Sept. 28, 2010

[partially accessed 15 July 2011 - access restricted]

[accessed 1 January 2017]

Talking to The New Times, yesterday, the coordinator of SACCA, Valentine Mukamuyenzi, explained that the NGO has developed a successful programme of rehabilitating and taking the children back to school.   She disclosed that over 200 former street children have so far been rehabilitated. "We prepare them to pass the entrance exams for various grades. We help pay their registration fees, uniforms, scholastic materials, feed them and accommodate them," she said.

"Of course some children still reappear on the streets, but on average the challenge was reduced. Former street kids are now doing well in school," he said.

"I lived like an animal. Ate in rubbish pits and slept in the open. I was in a state of hopelessness I never thought of the future for I never had the present. But now the sky will be the limit on my way to being a doctor," he said

Residents Decry Increased Theft at Nyabugogo Bridge

Lillian Nakayima, The New Times, Kigali, 15 March 2009

[partially accessed 15 July 2011 - access restricted]

"They start with pick pocketing after which they resort to off loading cars" Gakuba narrates.   He adds that women have been robbed of money, jewellery, mobile phones and other things. At times it turns into a battle when people try to resist being robbed.   "This gang is well equipped with razor blades and knives. People no longer resist because they prefer their lives to material things," he says.   Nyabugogo dwellers report seeing these street children with drugs, this has alarmed the residents' security. According to them, these thugs are between the ages of thirteen and twenty.

Tougher Approach Needed for Street Children School

The New Times, Kigali, 12 June 2008

[partially accessed 15 July 2011 - access restricted]

[accessed 1 January 2017]

School of Champions, a newly established rehabilitation and vocational training facility for former street children situated in Rwamagana, is already experiencing problems.

Understandably, the challenges the school is faced with in just a space of two weeks are related to indiscipline. It is not even a month after starting and the adapted kids are capable of finding their way out to look for drugs.  A journalist who caught up with the lads and inquired into their short experience was largely greeted by lamentation. They complained bitterly of being underfed, confessing their wish to return to the foster homes.  The school administration refutes the children's allegations of inadequate food, pointing to their complicated past life as a gripping negative influence they will take time to be separated from.  The director of the school also observed that with the children still able to access drugs, crying for more food is expected.

Sealing the entrances and exits to control unwanted movement of children and commodities is a thing the administration may want to consider. The school may also take a less defensive position and delve into the alleged matters of insufficient food quantities.

Rwanda: 300 Street Kids Attend "Ingando"]

Godfrey Ntagungira, The New Times, Kigali, 11 May 2008

[partially accessed 15 July 2011 - access restricted]

[accessed 1 January 2017]

The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion in the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday picked up 330 kids from Kigali streets and enrolled them on a two-week rehabilitation solidarity camp (ingando).

"At the end of the solidarity camp, the ministry will identify those who can be taken back to primary or technical schools and others will get the opportunity join catch-up classes for a while before sitting for primary leaving examinations," she noted.

Rwanda: ICT to Attract Street Children to Schools

James Buyinza, The New Times, Kacyiru, 12 November 2007

[accessed 1 January 2017]

Mujawamariya said that the ministry plans to put up many computer kiosks in all primary schools located in Kigali slum areas, where the number of street children is high to enable them exploit the opportunity they had missed.

The computer packages for these children will include personal hygiene, sensitisation of masses about the dangers of HIV/Aids and prevention, ways of controlling malaria and games.

Rwanda: From Street Child to Professional Marketer and Music Instructor

Florence Mutesi, The New Times, Kigali, 19 October 2007

[accessed 1 January 2017]

CAN YOU TELL ME HOW YOU ENDED UP ON THE STREET? - I left home in 1993, I was 12-years-old, in primary 5. I left with my brother who was ten. We stayed on the street for 4 years. What drove us to the street was mistreatment at home.  Things were ok for us before, our stepmother treated us well, but then things suddenly changed negatively. She started denying us food, falsely accusing us of doing bad things, and we could be beaten without reason.  In the morning, we could have breakfast when dad was there, but at lunch time not eating was a sure deal because in most cases, dad was not there. Supper depended on the presence of dad.  For a while we could only eat if our dad was there. In most cases dad did not know what was happening to us Dad was also a church person, thus absent most of the time. We suffered a lot.  I could not cope with my mum, as a result I sought somewhere I could find love and peace, and the only option was the street, where I could stay with fellow children. My brother and I made a decision at once and left home to live on the street.

Rwanda: Mrs Kagame Launches Campaign Against Child Abuse

Edwin Musoni, The New Times, Kigali, 15 August 2007

[accessed 1 January 2017]

Deputy Commissioner General of Police Mary Gahonzire called for help for street children, saying; "We have a second generation on the streets; street children have given birth to other children who are also on the streets now and are giving birth at a tender age. We need to protect these children.

Local photographer returning to Rwanda

Audrey Stanton, The Register Herald, March 24, 2007

[accessed 15 July 2011]

[accessed 1 January 2017]

The pictures he has taken during his last two visits to Rwanda tell two stories simultaneously: one of hardship and pain, and yet another of hope.  His subjects there are the children who sleep on heaps of garbage and spend their days on the street. Many of them are the orphans left behind after extremist militia groups killed some 800,000 people in a three-month period in 1994.

Help Widows As You Discourage Begging

Immaculate Chaka, The New Times, Kigali, January 12, 2007

[accessed 2 January 2017]

Most of the widows in Rwanda live a desperate life. Poverty is not only in terms of money but also basic needs like housing, food, education and clothing’s extra.  It is due to poverty that most widows send their children to beg on streets or leave their families and go to stay on the streets as street children.

Mukandahiro Anastasia told The New times that some time back she was depending to the pottery, were she could get some little money to feed the family but since the buying of the swamps were they used to collect clay from, buying soap and other basic needs became a great deal to handle.

Street Children - Turn Not a Blind Eye

Stephen Buckingham, The New Times, Kigali, October 29, 2006

[accessed 2 January 2017]

Kigali has changed a great deal in the ensuing years, but some things never change. There are fewer street boys in the centre of town, but they have dispersed to the various shopping centres outside. Kisimenti is a favourite pitch for many of them and you cannot go to Ndoli’s, the bank or the pharmacies there without hearing ‘cent francs pour manger’. There, by your side is the street boy, ‘booty bag’ or bottle of glue in hand, asking for money which he certainly will not spend on food.

Rwanda: Street Children Get Skills

James Tasamba, The New Times, Kigali, October 20, 2006

[accessed 2 January 2017]

About forty former street children picked from Ruhengeri town received certificates and tools on Wednesday October 18, after completing training in different technical activities.  The children completed training in tailoring, carpentry, welding, and motor mechanics courtesy of caritas Ruhengeri dioceses.

Street Children to Get Training Centre

Paul Ntambara, The New Times, Kigali, July 20, 2006

[accessed 2 January 2017]

Street children will soon have an opportunity to gain vital training skills to enable them earn a living once a school called ‘Centre for Champions’ is completed.

‘We decided to call this centre one for champions because we are positive thinkers. We want it to be a centre for excellence. We want these street children to discover their purpose in life through this centre, pursue it, achieve it and excel in it,’ Rutayisire said.

Kids detained illegally

Reuters, Kigali, 2006-05-15

[accessed 16 July 2011]

The HRW said that since 2005, city officials in Kigali had been rounding up children and youths living on the street and holding them - as "vagrants" under colonial-era laws - in a former warehouse.  Detainees spend weeks or months there with inadequate food, water and medical care, and are forced to sleep on the floor, reported HRW in a paper entitled "Swept away: street children illegally detained in Kigali".  Those held are rarely charged.

Swept away: street children illegally detained in Kigali [PDF]

Human Rights Watch, May 2006 -- This 13-page background briefing paper documents life at a detention center in Kigali based on the testimony of children

[accessed 16 July 2011]

SUMMARY - The authorities of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, work hard to present the city in the best possible light, knowing that many international visitors see little beyond the city limits.  As part of this effort, in 1997 the authorities began to regularly sweep the city to clear streets and public spaces of what they regard as undesirable persons, such as street children, beggars, street vendors and sex workers. In the early years street children were sent to reception centers far from the capital, but for at least the last year children have been held at an unofficial detention center located in a neighborhood of Kigali called Gikondo. Although only a short distance from the luxury hotels that cater to international visitors, the center, like the children and other persons it confines, is not seen by foreign guests.

Held at the Gikondo center in overcrowded buildings, the hundreds of detainees suffer from lack of adequate food, water, and medical care. Children are subject to abuse from adults detained in the same buildings. Police officers claimed that detainees should spend no more than three days at the center, but some, including children, have been held there for weeks or months. One thirteen-year-old boy died there on April 16, 2006, suffering from severe malnutrition; on the same day a young woman detainee, also reportedly malnourished, suffered a miscarriage and was hospitalized.

Authorities hold the detainees as “vagrants” under colonial-era regulations but rarely charge them formally, bring them to court, or afford them the due process rights guaranteed under the Rwandan constitution and international conventions by which Rwanda is bound.

The detention in particular of children in miserable conditions violates provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child, to which Rwanda is a party, as well as the Rwandan law on the Rights and Protection of the Child Against Violence.

Sexual Harassment: A young woman s tale

Nasra Bishumba, News from Africa, December 2003

[accessed 16 July 2011]

[partially accessed 2 January 2017]

Sometimes they (other street kids) force us to do dirty sexual things that they have watched in blue movies. And because they are stronger, there is nothing that you can do. It s hard to tell anybody. It s shaming and after all, nobody will believe you she said

Somebody can easily surface from nowhere and rape you or beat you up and carry away your blanket. Even those we help in their daily chores like sweeping their shops sometimes refuse to pay us because they know nobody will believe us when we report the cases, she said sadly.

Peace Body Supports 1,160 Street Kids

Eleneus Akanga, The New Times, Kigali, December 30, 2005

[accessed 2 January 2017]

The Foundation for Peace, Sports and Culture (SCPF) that operates in the Great Lakes region has sent to school 1,160 former street children and vulnerable kids. SCPF has fully sponsored 40 of the children, according to Dr. Louis Munyakazi, the foundation president who was addressing a press conference on their activities and road map held at the foundation’s main offices in Kigali.

Orphans of the Genocide

Albert P'Rayan,, Kigali, February 1, 2002

[accessed 16 July 2011]

"I'm quite used to my street life. During the daytime I spend my time in the market. I help people carry their vegetable bags and get some money and at nights I sleep in front of any shop on the street. It is hard. The street is not a secure place for girls like me. We're hungry, we have no shelter, anybody can abuse us however they like. Nobody says anything."

Lasting Wounds: Consequences of Genocide and War for Rwanda's Children

Human Rights Watch Report, March 2003 -- Vol. 15, No. 5 (A)

[accessed 16 July 2011]

VII. CHILDREN ON THE STREETS - Few street children had had more than three years primary education. Many were separated from their parents during or in the aftermath of the genocide and had lived in centers for unaccompanied minors. Family problems including abuse, alcoholism, or stepparents who chased them out of the house fearing they would claim property destined for their half-siblings were also important factors driving children to the streets. Others simply attempted to escape the extreme poverty in which they lived on the hills, hoping to find work in town.

LIFE ON THE STREETS - A 2002 survey by Johns Hopkins University on sexual activity among street children [in Kigali, Rwanda] underscored that street children are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. More than half of the boys interviewed and more than three quarters of the girls, including 35 percent of those under ten, admitted they were sexually active. Sixty-three percent of the boys said they had forced a girl to have sex with them. Ninety-three percent of the girls reported having been raped.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST STREET GIRLS - While less numerous than street boys, girls living on the streets experience most of the same problems as boys and, in addition, are frequently subjected to sexual violence. A local NGO recently reported that 80 percent of street girls have been victims of rape, while another study puts the figure as high as 93 percent. One study found that girls who turn to the streets are generally younger than street boys. Street girls are often invisible because they do not travel around in gangs as boys do, staying generally on their own or in small groups.

Information about Street Children - Rwanda [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for Francophone Africa on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 2-5 June 2004, Senegal

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 16 July 2011]

A study by UNICEF Kigali in 2002 suggested that there were around 7,000 street children in Rwanda, of whom 3,000 were concentrated in Kigali. 42% of them were reported as sleeping on the streets, with 50% of them aged between 15 and 18. Accidental separation from their family was a relatively common cause, with 25-35% suggesting that they had simply ‘lost’ their mother and father. 

UNICEF, Government Launch Sensitization Drive On Street Children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Nairobi , 5 November 2001

[accessed 10 March 2015]

The UN agency reported in a document on the sensitization program, that authorities and the public consider street children as "delinquents, thieves, deviants, and evil people who must be fought by all means and not protected". Mindful of their social marginalisation, UNICEF added, the children Are "distrustful of people and are not always easy to approach".

Rwanda to Set up Vocational Training Project for Street Children

Xinhua News Agency, Nairobi, 2001.07.27

[accessed 16 July 2011]

Children will be taught handcrafts, like construction, woodwork, catering, plumbing and so on.  She said the already trained children will be sent back to their localities to provide useful services to the people.

Street Children

Youth With a Mission YWAM Rwanda

[accessed 16 July 2011]

Although no official statistics have been collated, it is estimated by various NGO’s that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 children who live on the streets in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Most of these do not actually sleep on the streets at nighttime, because there is a high risk that they will be killed, or beaten. Many live in underground big pipes, or share a small mud hut with some older street children.

Murambi Centre For Street Children – Ginkongoro

War Child

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 16 July 2011]

Forty street children from Ginkongoro district, Rwanda have spent the last three years living on the streets, having lost their parents. Michel (14 years old) and Boniface (18 years old) believe both parents to be dead

Street children rounded up in Rwanda

BBC World Service, 17 January 1998

[accessed 16 July 2011]

Authorities in the southern Rwandan town of Butare have rounded up more than nine hundred people, most of them street children.

Rwanda struggles with street children

Robert Walker, BBC, Kigali, 3 February, 2004

[accessed 16 July 2011]

Rwandan authorities have come under fire for forcibly rounding up hundreds of street children in the capital, Kigali, ahead of an African leaders summit.

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