United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Burundi, -, 30 January 1996, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/usdos/1996/en/24831 [accessed 02 March 2024]
BURUNDI Burundi's first democratically elected government retained power despite the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye, an ethnic Hutu, in an October 1993 coup attempt, and the death of his successor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, a Hutu, in a suspicious April 1994 plane crash. The Government consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, which operate under the 1992 Constitution and the September 1994 Convention of Government. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice it is dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group. The Convention of Government created a 10-member National Security Council, led by the President and Prime Minister, to mediate between the branches of government as needed. Real power, however, lies with the military and the minority opposition headed by the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA Party, which obtained a number of power sharing concessions from the majority, Hutu-dominated FRODEBU party in presidential succession negotiations following President Ntaryamira's death. While a multiparty political system remains in place, effective authority is limited due to both a strong political opposition and a lack of effective control of the military. Political conflict between the majority Hutu and opposition Tutsi parties has paralyzed the Government. Several Hutu ministers received anonymous death threats; two were murdered. Tensions between Burundi's ethnic Tutsi minority--which historically maintained political, economic, and military control over the country--and the Hutu majority remain high. Violent conflict between Hutu and Tutsi armed militants as well as the army has plunged the country into a spiral of ethnic violence verging on civil war that has not spared the civilian population. Security forces consist of the army and the gendarmerie under the Ministry of Defense, the judicial police under the Ministry of Justice, and the public security and documentation police forces under the Ministry of the Interior. The high command of the Tutsi-dominated military professes loyalty to the elected government and neutrality in political negotiations. However, the military has committed at least four massacres of unarmed civilian Hutus and frequently permitted Tutsi extremists to create civil disturbances and engage in violence against Hutus. Hutu rebel forces have also massacred both Hutu and Tutsi civilians. Burundi is poor and densely populated, with over four-fifths of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. The small monetary economy is based largely on the export of coffee and tea. The ongoing violence since the October 1993 coup has caused severe disruptions and dislocations. Large numbers of internally displaced families were unable to produce their own food crops and had to depend largely on international humanitarian assistance. The Government made little progress in its efforts to privatize parastatal enterprises. The human rights situation generally deteriorated as the security forces and armed civilian groups committed extensive serious human rights abuses, which the Government was largely unable to prevent. Perpetrators generally went unpunished. Because of its superior firepower and wide dispersion, the most serious abuses involved actions by the armed forces. Serious incidents of ethnically motivated destruction and extrajudicial killing occurred throughout the country. Armed troops brutally killed both armed and unarmed ethnic rivals, including women, children, and the elderly. Government efforts to restore security were inadequate. Members of the armed forces and vigilante groups committed serious human rights violations with impunity. The lack of accountability for those responsible for the coup attempt, assassinations, and ethnic violence was universally recognized as a primary cause of public insecurity. The dysfunctional justice system could not satisfactorily address this problem due to its own inefficiency, administrative disruption, and the public's perception of its partiality to Tutsi officials. There continued to be disappearances and credible reports of the torture of prisoners. Prison conditions remain life threatening. Legal and societal discrimination against women continues to be a serious problem; violence against women also occurs. The Twa (Pygmy) minority remained almost completely marginalized.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Amnesty International estimates that between October 1993 and December 1995 over 100,000 people were killed in ethnic violence. The Army was more responsible than any other group for these deaths, and also frequently committed abuses in Government-approved operations to disarm civilians. In addition to extrajudicial killings by the armed forces, armed militias and other combatant groups perpetrated unlawful, politically and ethnically motivated killings of political opponents and members of the other ethnic groups. In June the military, in pursuit of armed Hutu militants, entered Bujumbura's Kamenge neighborhood and killed an estimated 150 civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, according to a high-ranking Hutu government official. Many were shot at close range. In July a soldier shot and killed a driver employed by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). No one has been prosecuted for the killings in Kamenge; an investigation into the death of the NDI driver was underway at year's end. An army operation August 28 at Choga Hill near Bujumbura resulted in the killing of an estimated 30 to 50 civilians. Choga townspeople brought four brutally slain civilians to the Unity Monument; two were women, two were children. The two women had been shot in the chest. One of the dead children was a boy of 5 whose head had been split open. The second child was a boy about 10 years old who had been bayoneted in the stomach. A Western observer reported that he had seen soldiers shoot a mother, father, and child at point blank range near Bujumbura on September 9. Men dressed in army uniforms reportedly killed a Hutu Catholic priest in Marenga, 90 kilometers northeast of Bujumbura. The assailants dragged the priest from church during mass. Later, they bayonetted and discarded his body. According to a local human rights group, witnesses report that in June a Hutu priest was abducted by a group of young men in downtown Bujumbura. His body was found two days later in the Tutsi neighborhood of Bwiza in Bujumbura. In August and September alone, eight Burundian Catholic priests were murdered throughout the country. On September 30, two Italian priests and a lay missionary were murdered at their mission in Buyengero. According to government officials, three soldiers accused of the priests' murder "escaped" from the custody of the authorities in October and have not been recaptured. A fourth person reportedly remains in custody. In November elements of the military killed 421 unarmed villagers at Gasarara; most were children. Tutsi civilian authorities reportedly accompanied the soldiers responsible for the massacre to a church were many villagers were hiding. The Government ordered a ministerial investigation. In Bujumbura Hutu and Tutsi paramilitary and vigilante youth groups shot, stoned, beat, and stabbed to death people of differing ethnicity. In the countryside, armed Hutu gangs ambushed army units, who in turn carried out vengeance attacks with armed Tutsi gangs against Hutu civilians. In many areas of the country, both Hutu and Tutsi civilians continued to be killed in sporadic violence perpetrated by government security forces and armed gangs. In March armed Hutu militants murdered three Belgian civilians, including a 3-year-old, in a highway ambush south of Bujumbura. In May a Greek employee of Catholic Relief Services was murdered in Kirundo province. In April an armed attack by Hutu rebels against a military post in the city of Gasorwe resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and five attackers. Authorities failed to identify perpetrators in these incidents. In two separate incidents during May, armed insurgents ambushed soldiers in the provinces of rural Bujumbura and Cibitoke, killing five and seriously wounding one. The perpetrators escaped in both incidents. In June unidentified attackers ambushed a motorcade carrying the Minister of External Relations and the U.S. ambassador. The attack, for which no group claimed responsibility, resulted in the deaths of one army officer and an Organization for African Unity (OAU) captain from Burkina Faso. In addition, eight other members of the motorcade were wounded, including three OAU personnel, four soldiers, and one security guard. In June at least 17 Hutu university students were killed in revenge attacks for the killing of 2 Tutsi high school students earlier that day. In August a group of Hutu militants attacked and brutally killed a Tutsi officer and his pregnant wife, whom they eviscerated. In September unidentified attackers ambushed a vehicle convoy carrying the Archbishop of Gitega, a Tutsi, north of Bujumbura. Three people were killed and several people were wounded. No one was arrested and charged in any of these crimes. In 2 incidents during May and June, unidentified civilians threw grenades into Bujumbura's central market, killing a total of 8 and injuring more than 30 people. Police forces have made no arrests in those incidents. It was not clear whether the attacks were criminally, personally, or politically motivated. Increasingly in Bujumbura, all three elements, in varying degrees, motivated incidents of violence. Armed ethnic groups carried out assassinations throughout the year. In January a lone attacker stabbed to death the Hutu governor of Muyinga province. The attacker was not apprehended, and the exact motive of the attack remained uncertain. However, earlier on the day he was killed, the governor had publicly condemned armed Hutu insurgents operating in the province. In March gunmen shot and killed the (Hutu) Minister of Energy and Mines in downtown Bujumbura. The Government established a commission of inquiry into the murder and took two suspects into custody. In March a group of Hutu militants abducted and brutally murdered a retired Tutsi army lieutenant colonel in northern Bujumbura. Many viewed the attack as vengeance against the Tutsis for the murder of the Minister of Energy and Mines. Eight suspects have been arrested. No trial for these killings had taken place by year's end. In May the Hutu chief of cabinet for the Ministry of Health was abducted and murdered in Bujumbura. His body, recovered in a river, bore indications of torture. Conflicting reports blame both Hutu militants and government security forces. A suspect has been arrested, but no trial has taken place. Also in May unknown assailants assassinated a local Hutu administrator in Cibitoke province. The administrator was reportedly outspoken against the military. In June a Hutu professor and director of research for the University of Burundi was assassinated in his office by an unknown gunman. Following his death all Hutu professors fled the campus. Some have since returned. In July unknown assailants abducted and murdered the Hutu counsellor for diplomatic and political affairs at the National Assembly. The National Assembly president accused the military of the murder. The military accused Hutu militants of trying to discredit them. No arrest was made in the case. The military and Ministry of Justice report that the military issued approximately 3,500 sanctions against its personnel for excesses carried out against civilians between October 1993 and July 1995. Of the 3,500 sanctions, 238 resulted in prison sentences, of which 2 are life sentences. National efforts to investigate those responsible for the October 1993 coup attempt and subsequent violence have made little progress. The Ministry of Justice reports that a national commission of inquiry created in 1994 has resulted in the arrests of 100 people (including military personnel) believed to be associated with the coup attempt. Although the commission has not been dissolved, it no longer functions. Many of those arrested in connection with the 1993 coup attempt and subsequent ethnic violence were not tried, although they remained in custody as a result of political gridlock in the National Assembly which prevented the appointment of court personnel and the reconstitution of the criminal courts. In September, however, the President bypassed the Assembly and, through presidential decree, made new judicial appointments which allowed the reconstitution of the criminal courts. By year's end criminal courts were functioning at Bujumbura, Gitega, and Ngozi.
Local human rights groups reported that abduction and disappearance were commonplace occurrences throughout the year. Disappearances were the result of both political and ethnic rivalry. Valid numerical estimates were not available, as many disappearances were not reported and some may have been civil crimes. Disappearances in the countryside are reported even less frequently. A well-informed source reports that on April 15 police at a military checkpoint in rural Bujumbura arrested a Hutu man with no known political affiliation. Police said that the man was released on April 17, yet the man's family, working through a local human rights group, maintains that he disappeared while in police custody. A local human rights group said that in September three Hutu men, arrested by the police in the Kamange neighborhood of Bujumbura, disappeared while in custody. Police told the human rights group that the men had been released a few days after their arrests. In March a group of Hutu militants abducted and murdered a retired Tutsi military officer in northern Bujumbura (see Section 1.a.)). There was no further information on six Tutsis who disappeared in 1994.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits these abuses, but they occur in practice. In March Amnesty International delegates interviewed prisoners who bore clear marks of torture. State-run prison conditions were life threatening and characterized by severe overcrowding and inadequate hygiene, clothing, medical care, food, and water. Four or five persons were forced to share a poorly ventilated cell two meters square. Prisoners had to rely on family members to ensure an adequate diet, and officials acknowledged that digestive illness was a major problem among the prisoners. Women were held separately from men. Human rights monitors are reportedly permitted to visit prisons. In April security forces discovered Hutu militants operating a civilian prison in the Hutu neighborhood of Kamenge where two people were being held. Four prisoners who had been tied up and beaten were discovered in another Hutu jail in Kamenge. In September a well-informed source reported the presence of a private prison run by Tutsi militants in the Bwiza neighborhood of Bujumbura. Scalping and mutilation, including the breaking of limbs and cutting off of ears, were reportedly carried out at this prison.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Presiding magistrates are authorized to issue arrest warrants. Regular police and gendarmes can make arrests without a warrant but must submit a written report to a magistrate within 48 hours of the detention. A magistrate can order the suspect released or confirm the charges and continue detention, initially for 15 days, then subsequently for periods of 30 days as necessary to prepare the case for trial. The law also allows unlimited pretrial detention. The police are obligated to follow the same procedures as magistrates, but have detained people for extended periods without announcing charges, certifying the cases, or forwarding them to the Ministry of Justice as required. Bail is permitted in some cases. Incommunicado detention reportedly exists, although the law prohibits it. The disruption of the political process and the general level of insecurity within the country severely impeded the judicial process. Pretrial detainees constituted about 75 percent of the prison population of approximately 4,000 inmates. The Constitution prohibits political exile, and the Government did not use forced exile as a means of political control. However, many people chose voluntary exile in Zaire and elsewhere. Many high-level officials keep their families outside Burundi. The Minister of External Relations fled the country in June, while in August the Minister of Transportation, Posts, and Telecommunications also fled, both out of fear for their safety.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice the judiciary is dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group. Hutus accounted for 13 of the country's 228 judges and lawyers. The President's authority to appoint judges and to pardon or reduce sentences was limited by constitutional amendment in September 1994 during presidential succession negotiations. Most citizens assume the courts still promote the interests of the dominant Tutsi minority, and members of the Hutu majority perceive that the Tutsi-dominated judicial system is biased against them. The judicial system was severely disrupted as a result of the October 1993 coup attempt, the repeated presidential succession negotiations in 1994, and the ongoing violence in 1995. When operating normally, the judicial system is divided into civil and criminal courts with the Supreme Court at the apex. Military courts have jurisdiction over crimes committed by members of the military or those involving actions against the military. The Constitution provides for a high court to try the President, Prime Minister, or the president of the National Assembly; it provides for a Constitutional Court to review all new laws (including decree/laws) and constitutional issues. Citizens do not have regular access to civilian and military court proceedings, although trials are ostensibly public. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to appeal. While defendants have a right to counsel and to defend themselves, few have legal representation in practice. The criminal court system has not functioned since October 1993. Those arrested on criminal charges since October 1993 remained in custody awaiting trial. The civil court system functioned, although the lack of a well-trained and adequately supported judiciary constrained expeditious proceedings. In September the President appointed by decree three judges and five jury members to each of the three criminal courts. The criminal court system provides for five-member juries, appointed by the President, which sit for 1-year periods. The appointments will permit the system, whose structure remains unchanged, to resume functioning after a lapse of more than 2 years. During this time the President and National Assembly failed to agree on changes to its structure. Besides the frequent lack of counsel for the accused, other major shortcomings in the legal system include the lack of adequate resources and trained personnel and an outmoded legal code. Most citizens have lost confidence in the system to provide even the most basic protection. This has contributed to the growing level of violence as revenge became the method of justice which private citizens carried out for themselves. Since the late President Ndadaye's 1993 amnesty decree, there have been no clearly identifiable political prisoners. However, police often bring charges of involvement in violent crimes or disturbance of the peace against detainees in connection with political issues.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the right to privacy, and the authorities generally respect the law requiring search warrants. Security forces, however, can monitor telephones and are commonly assumed to do so.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Incidents of ethnic violence continued to plague the country, including a number of neighborhoods in Bujumbura. From March through June, clashes between the army and Hutu militants in Bujumbura's Kamenge neighborhood resulted in the deaths of between 200 and 300 people, according to credible sources. Many homes in Kamenge have been burned or razed. In June alone, the army killed an estimated 150 civilians (see Section 1.a.). Thousands of Bujumbura's residents fled the capital as a result of this fighting. At present some 5,000 Hutus have returned to the Kinama neighborhood of Bujumbura. Violence in Kamenge and other Bujumbura neighborhoods continued throughout the year. By the end of the year, only one of Bujumbura's neighborhoods was not segregated along ethnic lines. Most Hutus reside on the fringes of the city, while Tutsis dominate neighborhoods in town. Credible witnesses said that troops pursuing armed Hutu militants killed unarmed civilians, including women and children in rural Bujumbura, Bubanza, Cibitoke, Muyinga, and Bururi provinces. The army, as well as Hutu and Tutsi militants, deliberately targeted civilians. A well-informed government official estimated that 130,000 people had been displaced in Bubanza province as a result of violence. Violence and theft in the countryside has severely hampered the delivery of relief supplies and humanitarian assistance. One international relief organization chose to deliver relief supplies by air due to lack of security on overland routes. In April armed bandits, with the complicity of the army, hijacked trucks with approximately 500 metric tons of donated food supplies in Muyinga province. Two workers were killed. Hutus in the interior attacked displaced Tutsis attempting to return to their homes. Military troops on legitimate disarmament operations targeted noncombatants or destroyed homes, crops, or markets without authorization and often without provocation. Displaced Tutsis, often with the help of members of the military or armed Tutsis militants from the capital, attacked Hutus and burned homes in turn, maintaining a cycle of retribution.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for the right to free opinion and expression so long as these rights are expressed "in a manner consistent with the public law and order." In practice, the Government respects this provisional guarantee, but has added new restrictions on what can be said. The 1992 Press Law restricts criticism of government policies, the person of the President, and statements which the authorities at their discretion could construe as contrary to national unity or injurious to the national economy. The law also provides for government review and possible censorship of all media prior to publication. In practice, private newspapers were published without prior government review and no cases of seizure were recorded. In January the Government enacted a security measure which required that "every declaration made by the political parties over the national electronic media ... be submitted to a radio or television journalist" so that it might "be rewritten in a professional manner." This measure had negligible results in practice. Although political statements read by party leaders were no longer broadcast on television and radio, reporting of political rallies with extended excerpts of uncensored partisan speeches increased. In February the Government established a press unit within the public prosecutor's office to monitor the press. Its purpose was to enforce the 1992 law which required daily newspapers to submit for government review two copies of each issue 4 hours before publication. All other publications were required to submit to the Government two copies of each issue at least 24 hours prior to circulation. This law was not enforced in practice, and newspapers ignored it with impunity. Twenty-five newspapers appeared regularly, in addition to the government-owned French-language daily Le Renouveau. There were 13 weekly and 3 monthly French-language newspapers. The remainder were Kirundi-language publications. Journalistic standards were low, and most newspapers were simply political party newsletters. Others were consistent and energetic organs of ethnic hatred. No newspaper was banned or suppressed by authorities. Newspaper readership, however, remained limited. Most people relied on the two Government-owned radio stations for information. One station broadcast in Kirundi, the other in French, Swahili, and English. The two stations allowed political parties equal broadcasting opportunities in rotation. Some opposition parties complained that the arrangement provided insufficient access. Since 1994 clandestine radio messages, originating from unknown sources and broadcasting intermittently, were used by Hutu rebel groups and by Leonard Nyangoma to attack the Government and the Tutsi establishment. The Civil Code does not address academic freedom. Although no persons were persecuted for what they published or said, the University remains a monoethnic institution. Hutu are discouraged from returning by other students.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
A 1991 decree/law established guidelines for granting permits for public meetings or parades. The Government often denied rally permit applications to the President's Hutu-dominated majority FRODEBU party. It claimed that it could not guarantee security. The Government did grant opposition parties permits for several public rallies and demonstrations, but it occasionally denied this permission when it alleged that the lead time was insufficient to arrange adequate security. Most meetings were subsequently rescheduled. Unlike the situation in the capital, there were no reports of government harassment or bureaucratic obstacles to the formation of associations in rural areas. However, rural residents other than those gathered in displaced camps did not form associations, fearing inadequate government security.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution does provide for freedom of religion. There is no state religion, and the Government made no attempt to restrict freedom of worship by adherents of any religion. However, in interethnic conflict, a number of Catholic priests were murdered (see Section 1.a.), evidently targets of opposition assailants. The Government has scant ability to protect politically targeted clergy. Some Tutsi political leaders accused the Catholic Church of supporting the Hutus. On September 22, for example, 8 days before the murders of the Italian priests, the newspaper of UPRONA, the most important Tutsi-dominated party, published an article which claimed that the clergy was "hand-in-hand" with FRODEBU. It also accused the Church of being responsible for the formation of FRODEBU, which it characterized as a "Nazi party with an ideology of genocide."
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Immigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these rights, but the Government restricted their exercise. In general, the Government made no attempt to restrict citizen's travel for political reasons, either internally or abroad. In January, July, and December, however, it closed the Bujumbura-Uvira, Zaire, border crossing to both Burundi and Rwandan citizens for 2- to 3-day periods, citing security reasons. Political parties and civilian militant groups at times prevented citizens traveling to work and to other locations. In February activity in the city of Bujumbura and provincial towns including Gitega, Rutana, Ngozi, and Kayanza came to a standstill for 3 days when the UPRONA Party conducted a peaceful protest against the Prime Minister. In May Tutsi youths, through violence and intimidation, hindered free movement within Bujumbura for 3 days to force the release of fellow youth arrested for criminal wrongdoing. Movement throughout the country has been restricted by security concerns which the Government has not allayed. Increasing banditry and ethnic violence perpetrated by armed gangs and the military has rendered travel in the countryside perilous. In most of the country, Hutus rarely enter Tutsi areas, and Tutsis rarely enter Hutu areas. Military security checkpoints throughout the country effectively restrict movement. Several hundred thousand Burundian refugees, most of them Hutu, remained in Zaire and Tanzania at year's end. Many fled following the presidential assassination and coup attempt in October 1993. Others fled as early as 1972; more fled this year. As a result of continuing ethnic and political violence, particularly in the northwest, little progress was made in repatriating either these refugees or in returning the internally displaced persons to their home communes. Citizens continued to flee their homes in increasing numbers as a result of the growing violence. This resulted in significant increases in the number of internally displaced persons as well as the number of Burundian refugees in eastern Zaire and northwestern Tanzania. More than half the population of the provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and rural Bujumbura were estimated to be either refugees or internally displaced persons. The high level of insecurity made it very difficult to assess accurately the number of internally displaced people or to provide adequate humanitarian assistance for them. In June Burundi, Rwanda, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees formed a tripartite commission to facilitate the return of the more than 200,000 Rwandan refugees who fled to northern Burundi following the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. These refugees, predominantly Hutu, were a growing source of concern to the Government, since their presence exacerbated ethnic tensions in the volatile northern provinces. The tripartite commission contributed to the voluntary repatriation of 38,000 of Rwandan refugees. In April and May, the army forcibly returned to Rwanda groups of 30 and 500 refugees respectively. This forced repatriation of refugees was, however, not repeated.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides for free, multiparty elections by secret ballot, with a 5-year term of office for both the President and members of the National Assembly. Citizens exercised this right in 1993, but subsequent events eroded the power of the elected Government. Presidential succession negotiations following the October 1993 Ndadaye assassination and the April 1994 death of Ntaryamira led to a Convention of Government, signed in September 1994. The Convention allows for the Interim President to remain in office until June 1998, at which time a new president will be elected. National Assembly elections are also scheduled for June 1998. There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or indigenous people in elections or politics. In practice, however, both women and ethnic Twa (Pygmies), who comprise about 1 percent of the population, are underrepresented in government and politics. Women currently hold 2 of 22 Cabinet seats and 9 of 81 National Assembly seats. Although the Twa voted in the 1993 elections, none sought political office.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Local human rights groups received varying degrees of cooperation from government ministries. The human rights group Iteka continued to operate and publish a newsletter on the human rights situation. The Government welcomed international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Africa. The work of such organizations was hampered, however, by insecurity in the countryside and the Government's inability to protect human rights workers. An OAU military officer was killed and three other OAU personnel wounded in an attack in June on a motor convoy that included a government minister and the U.S. ambassador (see Section 1.a.). In September an ambush of an OAU vehicle travelling in Karuzi province resulted in the death of the Burundian driver and the wounding of a Burundian soldier. The OAU subsequently suspended operations in Karuzi province. In May a Greek relief worker was murdered in Kirundo province (see Section 1.a.). Local military authorities, often acting independently, frequently refused access to human rights and international aid workers. Militant extremists, both Hutu and Tutsi, threatened the lives of people investigating human rights violations. Some international human rights organizations expressed concern at a lack of government support in the face of such adversity. An international commission of inquiry was established to investigate the October 1993 assassination of President Ndadaye and its violent aftermath. Burundi authorities first requested such a commission in late 1993 and formally set forth the request in the September 1994 Convention of Government. In August the Government informed the United Nations Security Council that it was willing to work with an international commission of inquiry. Later in August, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1012 requesting the U.N. Secretary General to establish this commission. In October the members of the Commission arrived in Burundi, but poor security initially hampered their work. Security for the Commission is being improved. The U.N. sent a fact-finding mission in February. The Government allowed Amnesty International to send delegations to Burundi in March and May. Numerous other international human rights organizations sent missions to Burundi.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution explicitly provides equal status and protection for all citizens, without distinction based on sex, origin, ethnicity, religion, or opinion. However, the Government failed to enforce effectively all the Constitution's provisions.
Violence against women occurred, but there was no documentation of its extent. Wives have the right to bring physical abuse charges against their husbands; in practice they rarely do so. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and the press does not report incidents of violence against women, including rape. There were no known court cases dealing with abuse of women. Women hold a secondary place in society and face both legal and societal discrimination. Explicitly discriminatory inheritance laws and discriminatory financial credit practices remained unchanged. Although women by law must receive the same pay as men for the same jobs, women are far less likely to hold any mid- or high-level positions. In rural areas, women traditionally perform hard farm work and have less opportunity for education than men.
The Government has taken no action to protect children's rights, nor has it addressed the growing problem of the increasing population of orphans which resulted from the continued violence since 1993. Children have not been spared by belligerents in the civil conflict; many of the victims of massacres have been children.
People with Disabilities
The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise mandated access to buildings or government services for people with disabilities. Burundi's rudimentary economy effectively excludes the physically disabled from many types of employment.
The Twa (Pygmy) minority remained almost completely marginalized--economically, socially, and politically. Most Twa continued to live in isolation, uneducated, and without access to government services, including health care. The Twa voted in the 1993 election, but were otherwise outside the political process.
Burundi's fundamental problem continued to be ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus, who gained political power only with the election of Ndadaye, and the minority Tutsis, who have historically held power and still control the military and dominate educated society. De facto ethnic discrimination against Hutus--85 percent of the population--colors every facet of society and institutions, including the military and the judicial establishment, despite constitutional provisions and some policies introduced under the Buyoya military administration to attract Hutus into the professions. The Ndadaye Administration upon assuming office began a more concerted effort to put Hutus into the government bureaucracy. Those policy changes quickly led to increased tensions between long-term Tutsi professionals and the FRODEBU Government. Anonymous threats and assassinations of Hutu ministers and government officials took place under Ndadaye and continued this year. Tutsi students have intimated Hutu students that University of Burundi. There are almost no Hutus in attendance at the University.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution and the Labor Code nominally protect the rights of workers to form unions, although the military, the gendarmerie, and certain expatriates working in the public sector are prohibited from union participation. Most workers are urban civil servants. Since gaining its independence from the Government in 1992, the country's first national umbrella trade union, the Organization of Free Unions of Burundi (CSB), has been financially dependent on a system of voluntary checkoffs, as are local unions. The CSB represented labor in collective bargaining negotiations in cooperation with individual labor unions. Unions are Tutsi-dominated, reflecting the fact that it is mainly Tutsi who are employed in the formal sector of the economy. The Labor Code permits the formation of additional unions or confederations outside the CSB. In March a second national umbrella trade union, the Confederation of Unions of Burundi (COSBYU), was formed. COSBYU represents eight national unions. The Teachers' Union was the only union outside the two umbrella trade union organizations this year. When settling disputes in which more than one labor union is represented, the law stipulates that the Minister of Labor will chose the union representing the greatest number of workers to participate in the negotiations. Unions are able to affiliate with international organizations. The Labor Code also provides workers with a restricted right to strike. Restrictions on the right to strike and lockout are several: the action must be taken only after exhausting all other peaceful means of resolution; negotiations must continue during the action, mediated by a mutually agreeable party or by the Government; and 6 days' notice must be given. The law prohibits retribution against workers participating in a legal strike and this provision is upheld in practice. Three nationwide strikes took place this year. In July the National Teachers and Nurses Union went on strike to demand higher salaries. The strikers were unsuccessful and after discussions with the Government returned to work. The two other major strikes were tied to the political situation. Employees of the National Institute of Social Security struck in August to demand the dismissal of the Institute's director of finance, whom they accused of mismanagement. The employees also demanded the formation of a new board of directors. The Institute's director of finance was Hutu and a FRODEBU member, while the striking employees were mostly Tutsis and members of UPRONA, the most important Tutsi-dominated party. Although the director of finance did not formally resign, he stopped work in September. In the same month, employees resumed work as negotiations on the board of directors continued. In August employees of the National Office of Telecommunications (Onatel), who were mostly Tutsi, struck to demand the dismissal of Onatel's four executive directors, all Hutus, whom they accused of mismanagement. The employees also demanded the formation of a new board of directors. Onatel's employees resumed work in September after a new board of directors was formed and three of the four executive directors were dismissed. The only executive director who retained his position belonged to the UPRONA Party. The three who were dismissed were members of different Hutu-dominated political parties.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Labor Code recognizes the right to collective bargaining, which had formerly been acknowledged only by ordinance. Since most workers are civil servants, government entities are involved in almost every phase of labor negotiations. Public sector wages are set in fixed scales in individual work contracts and are not affected by collective bargaining. In the private sector, wage scales also exist but individual contract negotiation is possible. In principle, private sector wage scales can also be influenced by collective bargaining, although this is infrequent. The Labor Code gives the Labor Court jurisdiction over all labor dispute cases, including those involving public employees. Labor negotiations are still conducted largely between unions and employers under the supervision of the tripartite National Labor Council, the Government's highest consultative authority on labor issues. The Council represents government, labor, and management and is presided over and regulated by the Minister of Labor. The Labor Code prohibits employers from firing or otherwise discriminating against a worker because of union affiliation or activity. This right is upheld in practice. There are no export processing zones, although a decree/law making the entire country a free zone for many nontraditional, export-oriented activities was promulgated in 1992.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not practiced.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Labor Code states that children under the age of 16 are not allowed to be employed by "an enterprise" even as apprentices, although it also states that they may undertake occasional work which does not damage their health or interfere with their schooling. In practice, in rural areas children under age 16 do heavy manual labor such as transporting bricks in daytime during the school year. Children are legally prohibited from working at night, although many do so in the informal sector. Children are obliged by custom and economic necessity to help support their families by participating in activities related to subsistence agriculture in family-based enterprises and the informal sector.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The formal minimum wage for unskilled workers is $0.58 (145 Burundi francs) per day in Bujumbura and Gitega and $0.48 (120 Burundi francs) in the rest of the country, with a graduated scale for greater skill levels. This amount does not allow a worker and family to maintain a decent standard of living, and most families rely on second incomes and subsistence agriculture to supplement their earnings. Employees working under a contract, particularly in urban areas, generally earn significantly more than the minimum wage. All employees in the public sector work under contract. The CSB estimates that 70 percent of employees working in the formal private sector are covered by a contract. The Labor Code imposes a maximum 8-hour workday and 45-hour workweek, except in cases when workers are involved in activities related to national security. Supplements must be paid for overtime. The Labor Code establishes health and safety standards requiring an employer to provide a safe workplace and assigns enforcement responsibility to the Ministry of Labor. However, the Ministry does not enforce the code effectively. Health and safety articles in the Labor Code do not directly address workers' right to remove themselves from a dangerous work situation.
In this section
U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Burundi
Discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity
Economic, social and cultural rights
Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
Freedom of assembly and association
Freedom of expression
Freedom of movement
Freedom of religion
Freedom of speech
Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
Social group discrimination
Trafficking in persons
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