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Assessment for Hutus in Burundi

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Hutus in Burundi, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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.
Burundi Facts
Area:    27,830 sq. km.
Capital:    Bujumbura
Total Population:    5,970,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Despite the accomplishment of the 2000 peace treaty, intergroup communal conflict continues in Burundi, and Hutu rebel groups have not accepted its terms. Buyoya was sworn in as president of the government on November 1, 2001. In 2002, he acted further to implement the 2000 peace treaty by firing half of his cabinet and replacing them with Hutus. Furthermore, Buyoya upheld the peace agreement by leaving power, when Domitien Ndayizeye was sworn in on April 30, 2003 as a Hutu president. The condition of Hutus in Burundi remains tenuous due to continued violence and Tutsi fears that a Hutu-dominated government will lead to the type of large-scale genocide that occurred in neighboring Rwanda. Despite such obstacles, one should feel cautiously optimistic that at least most Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi have agreed that the only stable solution for their divided country lies in political negotiation; only time will tell if those opposed to peace will turn this sentiment around.

Analytic Summary

The postcolonial history of Burundi, much like neighboring Rwanda, has been shaped by the relationship between its majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations. Although an overwhelming majority in Burundi, the Hutu have been dominated socio-politically and economically by the dominant Tutsi minority, at times leading to repression and genocide. With the second-largest population density in Sub-Saharan Africa, Burundian Hutus are dispersed throughout the country (GROUPCON = 0), with most Hutus living on farms near areas of fertile volcanic soil in an agrarian economy. 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).

Contemporary analysis of the condition of Hutus in Burundi begins in 1993 when for the first time in its history, a Hutu--Melchior Ndadaye--was elected president, only to be assassinated four months later. 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. A peace agreement, signed in Tanzania in August 2000, lessened the violence, calling for a three-year transition period during which democratic elections were organized, and provided the Hutus with equal representation in the Army. Significantly however, key rebel groups on both the Hutu and Tutsi sides boycotted this peace process.

In the past, Hutus have faced exclusionary political discrimination (POLDIS00 = 3), which the peace accord may remedy after the transition government runs its course. In the economic sphere as well, Hutus have faced social exclusion where the Tutsis gain governmental favoritism for key positions (ECDIS00 = 3). In order to preserve its power, the Burundian government has often resorted to tactics of repression, such as group arrests, torture, and reprisal killings after soldiers were killed in combat with Hutu rebel groups (REP0103 = 3; REP0503 = 3; REP0801, REP0803= 1), and prior to the signing of the 2000 peace agreement, the Hutu insurgency could be aptly described as large-scale guerilla activity (REB99-00 = 6). There were no rebellions reported in 2001, but there was sporadic political banditry and terrorism resulting in the death of 12 Hutus who were allegedly part of the FDD in 2003 (REB02 and 03= 1). However, forced resettlement was discontinued as an official policy in 2001, although some Hutus remained displaced due to the government's previous policies (REP1203=0). Furthermore, no incidences of property confiscation nor of show trials were reported in 2001-2003 (REP1001-03= 0; REP0500=0). While no leaders or members were executed form 2001-2003, twelve members of the Hutu ethnicity were sentenced to death in 2002 for their involvement in the 1993 violence in Burundi (REP0601-03= 0).

Despite facing such discrimination, the Hutus have chosen both conventional and militant means to attain power. Conventional Hutu organizations include FRODEBU (Burundi Democratic Front), the opposition party that had power in 1993, the Parti pour le redressement national (PARENA), the National Recovery Party, and Solidarité jeunesse pour la défense des droits des minorités (SOJEDEM)--Youth Solidarity for the Defence of Minority Rights.


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