Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Burundi

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Burundi, 11 March 2008, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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's population is 85 per cent Hutu, approximately 14 per cent Tutsi and roughly 1 per cent Batwa. After the end of widespread hostilities in Burundi and the constitutional referendum and presidential election of 2005, the country has maintained a cautious path towards reconstruction and political stabilization during 2007, with considerable outside aid and diplomatic pressure. President Pierre Nkurunziza's majority Hutu government and legislature has been the main political force since the 2005 polls – overturning the previous dominance by the Tutsi minority. The government is faced with the challenge of developing a genuinely pluralistic politics and functioning civil society after nearly 50 years of deepening ethnic violence. Despite a peace agreement between the government and the last remaining Hutu rebel front, the National Liberation Front (FNL), in September 2006, a minority breakaway wing of the FNL under the leadership of Agathon Rwasa, was still in conflict with government forces in late 2007, staging hit-and-run raids in and around Bujumbura.

Unlike neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi does recognize the distinct ethnicity of the Batwa. There are estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 Batwa living in the country. The 2005 constitution set aside three seats in the National Assembly and three seats in the Senate for Twa. Nonetheless this group are still mostly landless and are among the poorest people in what is a very poor country. In testimonies gathered by MRG in Burundi in 2007, Batwa complained of many difficulties relating to land rights, either through lack of title, discriminatory practices relating to allocation on the part of the authorities or failure to recognize historic rights to land. According to the Forest Peoples Programme, land laws in Burundi blatantly discriminate against Batwa, as they base customary land rights on 'actual and visible occupation of the land', while the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle tends to not visibly impact on territory. The new Land Commission in Burundi is tasked with sorting out the complex land issues which have arisen since the end of the conflict, and the return of many refugees. The Commission has one Batwa member, and it is hoped that it will tackle the question of the land rights of indigenous peoples. Aside from land issues, Batwa also complained to MRG about discrimination in social services, especially in health and education. In particular, the difficulty of educating Batwa children beyond primary level was highlighted. A survey undertaken by UNIPROBA – an organization representing the Burundian Batwa – found just seven Batwa students in university education in 2006.

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