Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Burundi

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 4 March 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Burundi, 4 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a97128a.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

In 2006, war-torn Burundi had reason to hope that it could finally end decades of mutual atrocities between its Hutu majority and Tutsi minority as the last rebel group signed up to a peace agreement and transitional justice mechanisms were being developed to help the country process its tortured history.

The population of Burundi is 85 per cent Hutu, 14 per cent Tutsi and 1 per cent Twa. Although Tutsi pastoralists generally enjoyed privilege in pre-colonial times, colonialism and political manipulation following the country's independence in 1962 sharpened ethnic differences, and these eclipsed other social divides. Successive Tutsi military regimes oversaw several massacres of Hutu, notably in 1972, when between 100,000 and 200,000 Hutu were killed and 300,000 forced to flee the country. The assassination of a newly elected Hutu president in 1993 sparked an uprising that resulted in 100,000 Tutsi deaths; the Tutsi-dominated army killed tens of thousands of Hutu in retribution. Fighting continued throughout the decade, exacerbated by the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. Throughout, the small Twa minority of forest dwellers suffered at the hands of both Hutu and Tutsi fighters.

The 2000 Arusha Accords created a transitional government. By 2003, one of two hold-out Hutu militias had signed up to the peace agreement, and UN peacekeepers arrived in 2004. In 2005, Burundians voted overwhelmingly to approve a new power-sharing constitution with ethnic quotas for representation in government, administration and the military. In August 2005 elections, Pierre Nkurunziza and his Hutu-dominated party, a former rebel faction that allegedly committed massive human rights abuses, took control of every branch of government. The election campaign saw intra-Hutu rivalries overshadow the Hutu-Tutsi divide. In April 2006, the government deemed the situation in Burundi safe enough to lift a midnight-to-dawn curfew that had been in place since 1993. Amid halting progress on political reform, tempered by continued reports of government torture and other human rights abuses, the last hold-out Hutu militia signed a peace agreement in September 2006. Despite a limited amnesty granted to these rebels, the government and UN are moving forward with creation of a special war crimes court and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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