More than 400,000 Burundians were refugees at the end of 2002, including at least 370,000 in Tanzania; an estimated 20,000 in Congo-Kinshasa; nearly 3,000 in Malawi; more than 2,000 in Rwanda; some 2,000 in South Africa; approximately 1,000 each in Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe; and more than 2,000 in a half-dozen other countries. An estimated 470,000 Burundians lived without official refugee status in western Tanzanian villages and settlements.

Approximately 400,000 or more Burundians were internally displaced at year's end, including some 300,000 living in camps. An estimated 1 million Burundians became newly uprooted during the year, although some had returned home before year's end.

More than 50,000 refugees repatriated to Burundi during the year, primarily from Tanzania.

Burundi hosted more than 40,000 refugees at the end of 2002, including nearly 40,000 from Congo-Kinshasa and more than 1,000 from Rwanda. Nearly 20,000 new refugees fled to Burundi during 2002, primarily from Congo-Kinshasa.

Pre-2002 Events

Burundi's majority ethnic Hutu and minority ethnic Tutsi populations have violently competed for power for 30 years. A relatively small number of Tutsi elite, primarily from the southwest province of Bururi, have dominated the country's politics and military since independence in 1962.

Military actions by the government and its supporters led to the targeted slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Burundians, overwhelmingly Hutu, during the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1993, Burundi's first democratic elections produced a Hutu president. Tutsi soldiers assassinated the new president and other high-ranking Hutu officials several months later, triggering a wave of violence that killed approximately 50,000 people of both ethnic groups and began Burundi's civil war.

The violence uprooted approximately 1.5 million Burundians, nearly half of whom fled to neighboring countries.

In early 1994, a newly appointed Hutu president died in a plane crash. In mid-1994, another Hutu official was appointed president. Security concerns, however, prevented a national election.

Attacks by anti-government Hutu militia against displaced Tutsi civilians prompted the Tutsi-dominated military to attack Hutu civilians indiscriminately during 1995. Thousands died in the retaliatory raids, which forced tens of thousands of both ethnic groups to flee their homes.

A military-led coup shifted power back to Tutsi elites in 1996 and installed former president Pierre Buyoya as Burundi's leader.

As the strength of several rebel groups increased during the late 1990s, government authorities responded by forcing up to 800,000 Hutu civilians into designated "regroupment" camps to deprive rebels of support in rural areas.

After closing most of the camps in 1998, authorities responded to renewed rebel attacks in 1999 by re-establishing dozens of regroupment camps and forcing more than 300,000 Hutu civilians to vacate their homes and occupy the new sites.

The civil war between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated military continued unabated, killing an additional 60,000 or more civilians during 1994–99. Despite continuing violence and bleak prospects for peace, some 200,000 refugees repatriated to Burundi during 1996–99.

Many of the returnees, however, fled again when renewed violence struck their communities.

Violence worsened and spread during 2000, particularly in mountains surrounding the capital, Bujumbura, where rebels intensified their attacks.

Rebels killed more than 1,000 civilians and engaged in rapes, beatings, and looting. Many atrocities went unreported as poor security and government restrictions impeded regular access to conflict zones.

Vigorous mediation by former South African president Nelson Mandela produced the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in mid-2000. The settlement, among 19 parties and factions, including the Burundian government, called for a power-sharing government, an ethnically mixed military, and judicial reform.

But the peace accord had little effect during the ensuing 12 months. The agreement contained no cease-fire provision, and Burundi's two main rebel groups, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Forces (FNL), refused to sign the accord or engage in negotiations.

In mid-2001, signatories to the peace accords agreed to split a three-year transitional national government into two 18-month periods in which a Tutsi president and a Hutu vice president would lead the government for the first term before switching roles in the second term. Numerous Tutsi and Hutu political leaders rejected the agreement, however, and FDD and FNL rebels continued fighting.

In November 2001, Burundi's newly integrated transitional government took office.

Burundi's war has killed at least 150,000 people since 1993; some estimates range far higher.

2002 Peace Negotiations

As in previous years, progress in Burundi's peace negotiations seemed to inflame violence rather than dampen it.

During 2002, international efforts to negotiate an end to Burundi's ten-year civil war failed to end the violence as all sides sought to gain a military advantage before reaching a political solution.

Rebel forces, allegedly including combatants from Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa, mounted intensified attacks. Burundian government troops and Tutsi civilian militia responded harshly to the rebel attacks.

Government-initiated violence toward civilians also increased.

Violence continued despite a signed cease-fire agreement between Burundi's transitional government and two minor rebel factions in October.

In December, Burundi's transitional government and FDD rebel leaders signed a cease-fire accord that vowed to stop all hostilities by the end of the year. FNL rebel leaders refused to sign the accord. The cease-fire pledge failed to curtail the violence, which raged in many regions of the country.

Newly Uprooted Burundians

Approximately 800,000 Burundians remained uprooted at the end of 2002, including some 400,000 refugees in neighboring countries – primarily in Tanzania – and an estimated 400,000 internally displaced persons.

Targeted attacks, heavy shelling, ambushes, and retaliatory murders perpetrated by government soldiers and opposition forces pushed an additional 100,000 civilians per month from their homes during 2002, and killed and injured hundreds of others.

Many of the newly uprooted civilians returned home by year's end. More than 25,000 new Burundian refugees fled to Tanzania. The widespread violence destroyed hundreds of homes, public and private buildings, livestock herds, and crops.

A government military offensive near the capital killed 30 civilians and uprooted more than 35,000 others in January. FNL rebels attacked a military target near the capital in March, killing two government soldiers.

The government military responded by shelling rebel enclaves on the outskirts of Bujumbura, which killed approximately 60 people and uprooted nearly 50,000, including many people displaced from earlier clashes.

"If people have been killed, they are rebels because this area has been deserted by its inhabitants for a long time," a Burundian military spokesman asserted.

Heavy fighting in April uprooted some 20,000 civilians in Bujumbura Rural Province, near the capital. Poor security initially prevented humanitarian agencies from reaching the displaced population, many of whom sought shelter in abandoned schools without food and water.

In mid-April, more than 40 persons were killed and 20 houses razed during a government military attack on a suspected rebel home in northwest Burundi's Bubanza Province.

Rebel forces twice entered a camp for displaced persons in southwest Burundi in April, killing 2 people and robbing the camp's 1,000 residents, including recently repatriated refugees.

Government soldiers forced more than 33,000 civilians into so-called protection sites in eastern Burundi's war-ravaged Ruyigi Province in April–May. Government authorities denied humanitarian agencies and the media access to the displacement sites, insisting that the locations were insecure.

Local health workers registered more than 500 acutely malnourished people at the sites, but lacked supplies to assist. Authorities finally allowed relief deliveries to the sites in July.

"If the transitional government wants to gain credibility with the people of Burundi, it must break with such abusive practices and leave the people in their homes," Human Rights Watch stated.

A militia attack in Ruyigi Province uprooted an estimated 5,000 civilians in July. In southern Burundi's Makamba Province, militia shelling displaced more than 1,500 residents, destroyed some 350 homes, and forced 2 relief agencies to evacuate their international staff.

In August, violence intensified in much of Burundi as peace talks resumed. Tens of thousands of civilians fled their homes and hundreds were killed in the final five months of the year.

Rebel artillery barrages and a government army counteroffensive near Bujumbura killed more than 50 civilians. Clashes between government soldiers and FNL rebels in the town of Kabezi in Bujumbura Rural Province uprooted some 50,000 people and left 10 dead and countless others wounded.

Government soldiers massacred at least 200 civilians and temporarily uprooted more than 35,000 people in Burundi's central Gitega Province in September. Burundian military authorities eventually admitted that government soldiers massacred 173 persons, but human rights organizations and witnesses insisted that the death toll was much higher.

"Soldiers buried many of the people they killed before the government investigators arrived," a resident told the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) during a site visit to Burundi in October. "The investigators did not search the entire village, either."

Warnings of impending clashes in eastern Burundi's Cankuzo Province uprooted tens of thousands of civilians in October, including approximately 18,000 who fled to Tanzania. Many of the new refugees had returned to Burundi only a few months earlier.

Approximately 100,000 Burundians fled their homes in November, including more than 70,000 people in central Burundi. At least two sizable towns in Gitega and Muramvya Provinces became virtually empty. Clashes in Burundi's northwest province of Bubanza temporarily uprooted an estimated 20,000 civilians.

Conditions for Displaced Burundians Burundi's massive, largely unassisted population of internally displaced persons continued to grow and struggle for survival during 2002.

Women and children constituted the majority of the estimated 300,000 Hutu and Tutsi internally displaced persons who lived in some 200 camps scattered throughout the country.

An additional estimated 100,000 displaced persons survived outside of camps in mountainous regions, forests, and with relatives, beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance programs.

Conditions for internally displaced Burundians remained deplorable. Humanitarian agencies provided limited food rations and health-care services to some accessible populations.

More than 70 percent lacked access to potable water, while an estimated 30 percent did not have access to sufficient sanitation facilities, according to UN relief officials.

Rates of HIV/AIDS were particularly high in camps for internally displaced people because of sexual violence and the deterioration of family structures, according to health workers. Education services for displaced children remained largely non-existent.

More than 50,000 Burundians repatriated – primarily from Tanzania – to the provinces of Muyinga, Kirundo, and Ruyigi in northern and eastern Burundi. Unable to return to their villages of origin because of poor security, many Burundians who repatriated from Tanzania during 2002 instead crowded into camps for internally displaced persons.

A vehicle accident, unrelated to internal violence, killed 41 Burundian refugees repatriating from Tanzania to Burundi's southeastern Rutana Province in June.

USCR conducted two site visits to Burundi in May and November to examine the repatriation and reintegration of Burundian refugees. Many returnees expressed to USCR that limited reintegration assistance and non-existent social services made it difficult for them to regain their livelihoods.

Poor security reduced returnees' ability to farm and earn income and prevented thousands of others from resettling in their villages of origin. Returnees warned that continued political uncertainty and violence made it likely that they would again flee their homes.

USCR issued a report in June, "Returning to Partial Peace: Refugee Repatriation to Burundi," which noted that "a lack of a cease-fire has encumbered Burundi's ability to gain international financial support to adequately address the country's reintegration, reconstruction, and development needs."

Humanitarian Conditions

Burundi ranked as the world's third-poorest country, according to UN statistics. The civil war and massive population upheaval continued to provoke food shortages and outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria.

One in six Burundians remained uprooted. The average life expectancy for those who remained at home has plummeted from 51 years in 1993 when the civil war began, to less than 40 years in 2002.

Maternal mortality has tripled during the war, according to health workers. Only half of the population had access to potable water. One in ten Burundians were infected with HIV/AIDS, including 19,000 children under the age of 15.

The AIDS epidemic has left nearly 250,000 children orphaned. According to UN statistics, more than 25,000 additional children have been orphaned by the war, and thousands of unaccompanied Burundian children lived as refugees outside the country.

More than 90 percent of Burundians are subsistence farmers. Per capita food availability has declined by 15 percent since 1993, making one in ten Burundians dependent on food aid during 2002. "Instability, displacement, failed harvests, and dysfunctional market systems remain the primary causes of food insecurity," the UN reported in November.

Although overall malnutrition rates declined during 2002, malnutrition rates rose dramatically among populations residing in provinces embroiled in conflict. Malnutrition increased 17 percent in Bujumbura Rural Province, 32 percent in Cankuzo Province, and 430 percent in Ruyigi Province, according to UN aid officials.

The number of persons – primarily women and children – visiting supplementary feeding centers more than doubled in several northern provinces.

Malaria remained the leading cause of death in Burundi; the number of Burundians infected with malaria grew from 200,000 in 1984 to 3 million in 2002. Malaria accounted for more than half of the number of Burundians seeking medical attention during the year.

Armed conflict between government forces and rebel militias damaged education centers throughout the country and prevented more than 500,000 children from attending school during 2002. "The current decline in school attendance is nothing short of catastrophic," a UN report noted.

UN humanitarian agencies appealed to international donors for $72 million to assist Burundians during 2002, but received less than 40 percent of that amount. The funding shortfall adversely affected education, malaria prevention, poverty reduction programs, and the demobilization of child soldiers.

Poor security also impeded relief efforts. The unpredictable violence forced UNHCR to curtail monitoring visits to assess the reintegration progress of refugees returning to their home communities during the year.

Refugees from Neighboring Countries Nearly 40,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa lived in Burundi at the end of 2002, including about 20,000 new arrivals. More than 5,000 Congolese refugees spontaneously repatriated without international assistance during the year.

Most of the 20,000 new Congolese refugees arrived in October because of violence and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Congo-Kinshasa. At year's end, about one-third of this population lived in two UNHCR-administered transit centers and two refugee camps.

Some 7,000 remained at Rugombo transit center in Burundi's northwest Cibitoke Province, just one mile (1.6 km) from the Congolese border, and more than 1,000 lived in Gatumba transit camp in Bujumbura Rural Province, less than three miles (5 km) from the border.

Many occupants of the transit centers resisted UNHCR's efforts to relocate them to safer camps, choosing instead to remain near the border to monitor developments at home.

Nearly 3,000 Congolese refugees lived in newly constructed Cishemeye camp in Cibitoke Province.

More than 3,000 others lived in another new camp, Gasorwe, in eastern Burundi's Muyinga Province.

Congolese refugees in the transit centers and camps received basic health care, water, and housing materials from UNHCR and monthly food rations from WFP. An additional 20,000 or more Congolese refugees lived primarily in Bujumbura without humanitarian assistance.

More than 1,000 Rwandan refugees remained in Burundi after nearly 500 repatriated during 2002.


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