Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 14:36 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Burundi

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Burundi, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 21 November 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.

The ongoing conflict between the Hutu-majority government in Burundi, led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, and the last active Hutu rebel group, the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL), was not entirely resolved in 2008. But on 9 January 2009 the rebels announced changes that meant they could become a legally recognized political party – a potential breakthrough.

Batwa are formally recognized in Burundi, unlike in neighbouring Rwanda, and representation in parliament and the senate for Hutu, Tutsi and Batwa is written into the Constitution. But the Batwa, who number only 30,000-40,000 (0.4-0.5 per cent of the population), have historically suffered a deep level of ongoing discrimination. Batwa communities have difficulty accessing health care; Batwa women and girls report being sexually harassed; and some remain in bonded labour, according to a 2008 MRG report.

There is very little disaggregated data on the Batwa community as the government has not conducted a general census. Anecdotal reports illustrate the needs of the Batwa community, particularly in the field of education. In 2005 an African Commission working group on indigenous peoples found that the Batwa's lack of access to land, and the contempt of other Burundians, 'seem to be the root causes of the high illiteracy rates within the Batwa communities'. This view is supported by Alfred Ahingejeje, a Batwa MP. In March 2008 he described the need for affirmative action:

'Generally speaking everyone in Burundi, the Hutu and Tutsi too, has needs in the area of education. But the Batwa have been forgotten for many years. This is why we ask for particular help ... the government says that there are no funds to lend to the Batwa in the domain of education ... the Batwa are forgotten, we haven't been able to do long studies.'

The government has however made some moves to actively collaborate with other organizations on behalf of the Batwa. In December 2008, according to UNIPROBA, a campaigning organization representing the Batwa, and the Burundian Senate in partnership with the AWEPA (Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa) organized a day of 'reflection' on the living conditions of the Batwa in Burundi. Recommendations included giving Batwa children free schooling and ensuring that they are admitted to secondary schools. The issue of the Batwa's land rights was also discussed, and it was recommended that Batwa with no land, or very little land, be given fertile land and ownership rights. The recommendations are clearly positive, although, as UNIPROBA make clear, it is essential that they be implemented.

Burundi has ratified the UNESCO Convention on Discrimination in Education, and Batwa communities and activists have reported that discrimination has decreased in schools. Batwa children can now sit with Hutu and Tutsi children in the classroom which was previously not possible.

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