Assessment for Tutsis in Burundi
|Publisher||Minorities at Risk Project|
|Publication Date||31 December 2003|
|Cite as||Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Tutsis in Burundi, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a6331b.html [accessed 17 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Although the Tutsis in Burundi currently control the government and military, they may be at future risk as Buyoya gave up his power to a Hutu leader, Domitien Ndayizeye, on April 30, 2003, upholding the peace treaty of 2000. Even mainstream Tutsi fear that if the Hutu majority gains too much power, it will be disenfranchised or even face genocide as occurred in Rwanda in 1994. While only a political solution can bring lasting peace to Burundi, Hutus will likely have to overlook past grievances and reign in its militant factions for Tutsis to feel secure. Because majoritarian democracy in Burundi will mean the end of all Tutsi control, both sides will focus on some form of power-sharing if democracy is to take root.
The postcolonial history of Burundi, much like neighboring Rwanda, has been shaped by the relationship between its majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations. Although a minority in Burundi, the Tutsi have been dominant socio-politically and economically over the Hutu majority, at times leading to repression and genocide. With the second-largest population density in Sub-Saharan Africa, Burundian Tutsis are dispersed throughout the country (GROUPCON = 0), with most dependent on subsistence agriculture. Burundi's economic health depends heavily on the coffee crop, which accounts for 80% of foreign exchange earnings. It is also well documented that the Hutu-Tutsi distinction is largely one of class and not necessarily ethnicity (intermarriage between the groups remains high), as language, religion, and social customs are similar between the two groups (CULDIFX2 = 0; CULDIFX4 = 0; CULDIFX5 = 0).
In 1993, a Hutu--Melchior Ndadaye--was elected president, only to be assassinated four months later by Tutsi rebels. In the power struggle which followed (killing some 200,000 Burundians to date), the predominately Tutsi military regained power, and Pierre Buyoya retained the presidency in a bloodless coup in 1996. A peace agreement signed in Tanzania in August 2000 lessened the violence between the army and some Hutu insurgents and called for a three-year transition period during which democratic elections will be organized. Significantly however, key rebel groups on both the Hutu and Tutsi sides boycotted this peace process.
As an advantaged minority in Burundi (ATRISK3 = 1), the Tutsis have faced no political or economic discrimination in the country (POLDIS03 = 0; ECDIS03 = 0). The Tutsi have naturally also not faced the type of government repression reserved for their Hutu countrymen (REP0103 = 0), nor have they had occasion to protest or rebel against the government (PROT03= 0; REB03 = 0). While Tutsis do not face the same amount of incarceration nor repression as their Hutu counterparts a leader of the Tutsi group, Dr. Alphonse Rugambara, was arrested in 2001 for saying that President Buyoya had allowed rebel attacks (REP0301= 1). The government also shot into a crowd of Tutsi student demonstrators who had supported the July 2001 coup (REP1901= 1). Tutsi civilians outside of government however have had to face intergroup communal conflict from Hutu rebels, best described as sporadic attacks resulting in some fatalities (GCC198-00 = 3). Because they hold power, mostly conventional groups represent Tutsi interests, with militant groups reserved for young men in loosely organized Tutsi militias adamantly opposed to sharing power with the Hutu. Some conventional Tutsi parties include the mainstream Unity for National Progress (UPRONA), and the opposition PARENA (the Party for National Redress), ABASA (the Burundi African Alliance for the Salvation), and the PRP (the People's Reconciliation Party).
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