The consequences of the 1994 genocide are echoed across the streets of Rwanda. The faces of thousands of street kids speak for the countless relatives the lost in this dark period. With no one to care for them they lack the luxury of enjoying a decent childhood. Survival is an instinct that has been long horned into their system, circumstances have changed but the struggle remains for the same thing; life.
The Rwandan government has recently come under fire for trying to sweep this problem under the carpet. In the year 2004 these kids were allegedly rounded up and held in transit centre outside the city. This was in preparation for a summit of the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad). It was assumed that the Rwandan Authorities did not want the incoming head of States to be privy to the problems that the country was dealing with. The age group of these children falls within the age gap of 5-25. All of whom have to do what they can to survive; theft seems to be the easiest way to for them to get a little money for food. This is not to say that they only look to steal money but anything they can and with their loot they turn to the streets to sell whatever they get their hands on. This in itself gives birth to a whole new cycle. This cycle that is business oriented features this children buying small products and reselling them to any interested parties. They choose to sell things such as candy and biscuits at bus terminuses or anywhere on the streets where throngs of people can be found gathered together. These goods are ideal because they are cheap and they can depend on people to buy them in abundance. Even with all the work they put in daily, their lives are little improved they still live around garbage dumps and often are in risk from having the little they have earned stolen from them by other street kids. It is a hard life to live and to add salt to injury many people view them as a nuisance. They live as though child freedom laws do not apply to them. They are referred to as Saligoman which when translated means nasty kids. They are prone to physical and sexual abuse on the streets where there is no one to protect them. They turn to substance abuse perhaps as a way of dealing with their trauma. Glue is the most accessible drug to them. This inhalant causes them to hallucinate thus putting them at risk as they are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviour without fully understanding the seriousness of their situation.
Sociologists have argued that the phenomena of street kids is a rather new one, they however have to be dealt with before things get out of hand. If a country as small as Rwanda can attest to a population of about 5000-10,000 street kids then the issue really is not how long they have been out there but why and how can they be helped. They carry the same characteristics no matter where in the world you find them. Garbage seems to attract them. This is because they get by on what people no longer want to be associated with. The garbage dumps in Rwanda have become the source of food and even shelter for these children.
They must no longer be ignored eventually they grow up and the country will have a bigger problem to deal with.
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