Recently ended conflict (updated: February 2011)

In 2006, the government and the main rebel group, Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), signed a peace agreement that included a provision to demobilize the FNL and integrate them into the national army. Despite this agreement and an official end to the civil war, violent clashes between the FNL and national army continued, most notably when the FNL shelled the capital in 2008. In 2009, the FNL officially disbanded as a rebel group and became a political party. A DDR process began in earnest, though the effectiveness of this process remains unclear. Despite concerns about renewed violence surrounding elections in 2010, Burundi was removed from the Armed Conflicts Report in 2010 when the number of conflict-related deaths fell below 25 for the second consecutive year.




2010 Between May and September, local and national elections were held amid fears of a resumption of civil war. After the communal elections, the electoral commission declared the majority of votes for the ruling CNDD-FDD party. Opposition parties claimed fraud and boycotted the subsequent elections, forming a coalition called ADC-Ikibiri. The government responded by banning all opposition activity. After winning the presidential elections, Pierre Nkurunziza was set govern Burundi for a second five-year term. In August, the government took over the opposition Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) party. The year saw no open combat or large-scale violence. There were sporadic political killings throughout the year, with violence peaking during the election period.

2009 This year saw the official end of the lengthy conflict in Burundi. The last, active rebel group, the FNL, stepped down and formed a political party in April. The Partnership for Peace in Burundi (PPB), which was monitoring the peace process, declared that there would be “no more negotiations.” Tensions remained due in part to the flawed DDR process, which began in January. Land allocation and resettlement problems arose as Burundians who had fled the country returned in large numbers. According to the National Disarmament Commission, 80,000 weapons have been handed in since 2007—almost 80 per cent of all weapons in circulation. But thousands of firearms remain in circulation, compounding fears of violence ahead of 2010 elections. Among the former combatants entering the DDR program in 2009 there were approximately 340 former child soldiers. Through a multiyear project sponsored by the government and UNICEF, approximately 3,600 child soldiers from both government security forces and former rebel groups have been demobilized. Some of these children were not direct combatants (FNL recruited children to boost numbers and strengthen their negotiation power). Whether Burundi has officially entered into a post-conflict phase will in many respects be determined by the elections in 2010. Tensions remained high going into 2010 with the threat of a split in the FNL.

2008 Peace negotiations between the government and the FNL remained stalled in early 2008. The FNL stated it would resume talks only on the condition its exiled leaders were granted immunity. On April 17, violence resumed in Bujumbura and Bujumbura Rural province, leaving 100 dead and displacing thousands. The violence lasted until May 14, when exiled leaders returned home to implement the peace deal. Talks resumed and an agreement was reached in late May. Burundians who had fled to neighbouring countries began returning. The peace situation, although stable, remained fragile throughout the summer, with both parties accusing the other of breaking the peace accords. In the fall, Palipehutu-FNL, the political branch of the rebel faction, refused to allow DDR to begin unless they were recognized as an official political party. The government rejected the demand as long as the group maintained its ethnically oriented name. In December, an agreement was reached. DDR processes were set to begin in 2009.

2007 Despite the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the FNL in September 2006, negotiations between the two parties remained stalled. In the fall, a splinter faction of the FNL attacked government forces in two separate provinces and the capital, resulting in casualties and the displacement of thousands of civilians. The international community pledged more aid, which analysts said was insufficient to ensure a lasting peace. Concerns were raised that the stalled peace talks, economic stagnation, increased armed banditry and government corruption would lead to a resumption of armed hostilities.

2006 Government officials and FNL rebels signed a peace agreement in September despite numerous skirmishes between the two sides. Approximately 10 government troops and 20 rebel fighters were killed in 2006. Forty civilians were killed, with 38 reported missing and presumed dead. These numbers represent a decline from previous years. Human rights abuses and a lack of transparency remained serious issues and prompted the resignation of vice-president Alice Nzomukunda in September. Leaders of the past government, including president Domitien Ndayizeye and former deputy president Alphonse Marie Kadege, were arrested in August and allegedly tortured on charges of conspiracy to commit a coup to topple the Nkurunziza government.

2005 Low-intensity conflict between the FNL rebels and the government continued through the year, leaving approximately 300 people dead, close to half civilians. A new constitution established a power-sharing arrangement between Burundi’s ethnic groups, and a new government and parliament were elected. The former rebel group, the CNDD-FDD, and its leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, were swept into power.

2004 Government ceasefires with rebel groups held through the year, leaving the FNL as the only active rebel group. Sporadic clashes between the FNL and security forces as well as attacks on civilian targets left between 250 and 300 people dead. Following the massacre of over 150 Congolese Tutsi refugees at a camp in Burundi, tensions in the Great Lakes region climbed and Rwanda threatened to invade Burundi and the Congo in order to prevent further massacres. The African Union peacekeeping force was replaced with a 5,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission. Elections scheduled for this year were delayed until late April 2005.

2003 Ceasefires signed in October 2002 between the government and two smaller rebel factions endured throughout 2003. However, the two largest Hutu rebel groups, the FDD and the FNL, continued their armed struggle against the Tutsi-dominated government and military, resulting in intense fighting throughout most of the year. A November peace agreement between the government and the FDD held throughout the remainder of the year, leaving the FNL as the sole remaining group in armed conflict with the government. The deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force to Burundi in the latter part of the year was a promising indication of regional commitment to resolving the conflict.

2002 In February, the transition government requested Tanzania’s help in bringing to the table the two rebel groups which have refused to recognize the power-sharing agreement forged in August 2000. Subsequent negotiations for a general framework agreement calling for a ceasefire and the restoration of democracy held in August largely failed as rebel combatants and government soldiers continued to target both combatants and civilians. However, by the end of the year, both FDD factions and a splinter faction of the FNL had signed ceasefires with the Burundian government.

2001 Attempts to continue the August 2000 peace talks eventually failed due to the refusal of two rebel groups to participate, an offensive by the rebels against the Burundian capital Bujumbura and disagreement over who would lead the transitional government. The beginnings of a peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) led to the return of some 4,000 rebel fighters into Burundi and to the escalation of the Burundian conflict. Some 400 civilians were killed in the first half of 2001, as well as hundreds of soldiers on both sides. A transitional government comprised of both Tutsis and Hutus was inaugurated in November 2001 for a three-year period.

2000 An August peace accord and continuing ceasefire talks did not prevent clashes between government troops and rebel fighters or an escalation of violence by the end of the summer. There were reports of hundreds killed in 2000, likely an increase over 1999.

1999 Burundi remained in the throes of civil war in 1999, with most killings and much of the destruction reported in Bujumbura Rural—the province around the capital—and in the southern and eastern provinces. More than 500 people died during the year, down from the number of conflict deaths in 1998.

1998 The civil war between the Tutsi-led government and Hutu rebel groups continued to target civilians as the warring factions used summary executions, rape and torture to terrorize, leaving thousands displaced from their homes.

Type of Conflict

State control

Parties to the Conflict
1. Government of Burundi: In August 2005, Pierre Nkurunziza, former leader of the Hutu rebel group, National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), became president after the CNDD-FDD swept local and parliamentary elections. This brought an end to the transitional government, formed in November 2001 by the creation of a coalition of 17 opposition groups. In line with Burundi’s new constitution, the new government consists of a 60-40 Hutu-Tutsi ratio. However, Burundi’s Tutsi military elite, officially a part of the new government, remain a powerful and potentially disruptive force. Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected in 2010 to serve a second five-year term after winning the elections. In 1994, this group split away from the FRODEBU party after being displeased with the leader’s accommodation of demands from the Burundi Armed Forces (FAB).


2. Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) [formally the Parti pour la Libération du Peuple Hutu – Forces Nationales de Libération (PALIPEHUTU – FNL)]: The FNL is the longest-established Hutu rebel group. An FNL splinter group signed a ceasefire with the government in October 2002 but the main faction of the FNL delayed signing a peace agreement until September 2006. It took until May 2008, however, before the FNL and the government came to an agreement on the implementation of this peace accord and until December 2008 before both sides publicly committed to pursuing peace. April 2009 saw FNL give up its status as a rebel group and become a political party. It changed its name to remove the word Hutu. Despite FNL leader Agathon Rwasa being appointed director-general of the National Social Security Institute when the party joined the government, he is still facing dissent within the FNL.
•    In 2010, the government recognized dissident wing FNL Iragi Rya Remi Gahutu, as a new political party.

3. Other opposition parties: a number of other political parties have recruited demobilized combatants, including:

a. Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi/Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU): This is a national political party founded in 1992. As a Hutu-dominated party it has been in opposition with the Tutsi-dominated party UPRONA. Burundi’s first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, who was assassinated in 1993, had been leader of this party. The subsequent leader of FRODEBU and president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira was killed in 1994 when the plane he shared with Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down. The following FRODEBU leader and third president of Burundi, Sylvestre Ntibantuganya, was ousted in a military coup led by UPRONA leader Pierre Buyoya in 1996. CNDD was a splinter group of FRODEBU, formed in 1994, whose members were displeased with Ntaryamira’s co-operation with the Burundi Armed Forces (FAB). The leader now is Leonce Ngendakumana.

  • Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi Nyakuri/Front for Democracy in Burundi Nyakuri (FRODEBU Nyakuri) – this is a splinter group that won swing votes in the 2010 National Assembly elections

b. Union pour le Progrès National/Union for National Progress (UPRONA): This is one of the four national mainstream parties that has traditionally been a Tutsi party, with formerly strong ties to the army. It was formed in 1958. In 1996, its leader Pierre Buyoya ousted President Ntaryamira during a military coup. It is now led by Jean-Baptiste Manwangari.

c. Mouvement pour la Solidarité et la Démocratie/Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD): This is a political party founded in 2007 by journalist Alexis Sinduhije.

d. Union pour la Paix et le Développement/Union for Peace and Development (UDP-Zigamibanga): This is a political party established in 2007. It was previously aligned with the CNDD-FDD until the arrest of leader Hussein Radjabu.

e. Partie pour le Redressement National/Party for National Redress (PARENA): This political party consists of mainly Tutsi membership. It was led by former President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza.

f. Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie/National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD): This political party, also known as CNDD-Nyangoma in order to differentiate it from the ruling party CNDD-FDD that split from CNDD in 1998, is led by Léonard Nyangoma.

International Actors:
4. Opération des Nations unis au Burundi/United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB):  Mandated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter by Resolution 1545 on May 21, 2004, the mission was mandated to provide a secure environment for transparent and peaceful elections, to ensure that ceasefire agreements were honoured and to carry out the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants. The troops also oversaw the illegal flow of arms across borders. The total number of military personnel included 5,650 people. Twenty-four were killed as part of the mission, which ended on Dec. 31, 2006.

5. Bureau Intégré des Nations Unies au Burundi/United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB): The United Nations Security Council established BINUB through Resolution 1719 on Oct. 25, 2006. It was mandated to promote and protect human rights, to execute DDR procedures and to ensure democratic governance. It was active until Dec. 31, 2010. On Jan. 1, 2011, BINUB was replaced by the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB).

Status of the Fighting

2010 At least five politically motivated killings took place during the two weeks leading up to the elections. More than 250 opposition members were arrested in June and July on charges of throwing grenades and of “inciting the population not to vote,” which is not a crime in Burundi. Political activists on all sides were attacked by 128 grenades throughout the country during the presidential and legislative elections, killing 11 and injuring at least 169. The police arrested several opposition members for their participation in armed groups in former FNL rebel bases in Rukoko and Kibira forests and areas of the Bujumbura Rural province, which may be signs of the start of another rebellion. 

2009 There was no active fighting after April 2009, when the FNL, the last active rebel group, stepped down and formed a political party. However, the widespread availability of illegal weapons combined with organized youth wings of political parties left a threat of violence ahead of the 2010 elections. Thousands of people associated with the former rebel group FNL were excluded from the DDR program because they were not active combatants. In the DDR program, 11,000 combatants would return to their communities—including 1,000 women and over 300 children—and 3,500 FNL combatants would be integrated into the National Defense and Security Forces. Without the full disarmament of the former rebel group a risk remained that Burundi could drift back to war if the peace process did not succeed.

2008 Fighting broke out in April between the government and the FNL. Both parties blamed the other for the increase in violence; however the UN and the United States accused the FNL of starting the conflict by shelling the capital. Conflict continued in Bujumbura and Bujumbura Rural province sending approximately 20,000 people from their homes. The FNL was accused having approximately 500 child soldiers within their ranks.

2007 Despite the recommitment of the FNL to the 2006 peace accords, fighting broke out in the fall between government forces and a splinter faction of the FNL. The splinter faction, which reportedly split from the main body of FNL leader Agathon Rwasa’s forces, battled with the main faction of the FNL, resulting in some deaths. Conflict occurred mainly in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza, Mugraruo and the capital city of Bujumbura. The number of internally displaced people in Burundi surpassed 4,000.

2006 Throughout 2006, fighting between the FNL and government troops continued and was largely concentrated in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza. However, the main remaining FNL rebel faction signed a peace agreement with the Burundi government in September, the details of which have not been disclosed. Despite the signing of this agreement, allegations against both the government and FNL forces of human rights abuses, including very high instances of rape and sexual torture continued to be reported. There have also been reports of arbitrary killings by government intelligence services. The demobilization process initiated in 2005 entered its final phase and the country’s new National Defence Force was reduced to approximately 25,000 troops.

2005 Fighting continued between the FLN and government troops. The FLN intensified its
attacks, expanding its operations beyond western Burundi and into areas in the north and centre of the country while the government responded with a major offensive in the fall. The use of child soldiers by the FLN continued. Approximately 55,000 former fighters began a demobilization and reintegration process under UN supervision. In December, the UN began the first of a series of troop withdrawals.

2004 There were sporadic clashes between government security forces and FNL rebels. And government forces clashed with members of Rwanda’s Interahamwe militia who reportedly entered the country from the Congo. Attacks on civilian targets by rebels and militia were also reported, including an assault on Congolese refugees in a Burundi camp that killed more than 150 people. The FNL was accused of the attack but a later UN report proved inconclusive. Although the Burundian army demobilized over 900 child soldiers, children remained active on both sides of the conflict.

2003 At the beginning of the year, ceasefires existed between three of the four rebel groups and the Burundian government (the exception being the main faction of FNL). In spite of this, the largest factions of each of the two main rebel groups, the FDD (despite its ceasefire with the government) and the FNL, fought the government’s security forces and each other. A major offensive by the FNL in July, described as the most concerted attack on the capital in ten years, and later sporadic attacks targeting both civilians and government fighters shattered any hopes of the group signing a ceasefire with the government. However, a November peace agreement between the government and the FDD ended the conflict between these two groups for the remainder of the year. The number of internally displaced within Burundi increased as the conflict intensified.

2002 Government soldiers, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), and the National Liberation Front (FNL) continued to exchange attacks, with civilians being targeted by all parties to the conflict. In the first nine months of 2002, the military claimed a number of significant victories, boosting its morale and weakening the rebellion. In October, the government and smaller factions of both the FDD and the FNL rebel groups agreed to a ceasefire. In December, the main faction of the FDD also signed a ceasefire with the Burundian government.

2001 The Arusha peace accords of August 2000 did not stop the fighting and the two rebel groups which refused to sign the peace accords, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), and the National Liberation Front (FNL), increased their attacks on both civilian and military targets. In January, the National Liberation Front (FNL) began an offensive against the capital, Bujumbura, which, according to media reports, left hundreds of civilians and soldiers dead.

2000 Despite the signing of a peace accord in August and the continuation of ceasefire talks, clashes between Burundian troops and rebel fighters continued in 2000. By the end of the summer, there were reports of an escalation in the frequency of rebel attacks and ambushes by the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Front (FNL), the two rebel groups refusing to take part in the peace process.

1999 Burundi remained in the throes of civil war as security conditions deteriorated. Most killings and much of the destruction reportedly took place in Bujumbura Rural, the province around the capital, and in the southern and eastern provinces. The army used landmines to prevent rebel groups from accessing territory and the rebels used mines to continue a campaign of terror.

1998 Both insurgents and soldiers engaged in substantial military activity from July through October, particularly in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza, Kayanza, Muramvya and Nyanza-Lac, where military attacks in August caused the flight of 2,000 people to Tanzania.

Number of Deaths

Total: Independent media reports estimate that approximately 300,000 people have been killed since 1993.

2010 Various reports estimate that up to 60 people were killed this year, though only 20 of the reported deaths could be verified by multiple sources. According to Human Rights Watch, there were at least five politically motivated killings in the two weeks leading up to the elections. Eleven political activists were killed during the presidential and legislative elections, with at least 169 injured. At least 18 mutilated bodies, some of which were identified as FNL members, were pulled from the Rusizi River. According to the United Nations Mission in Burundi (BINUB), there was evidence police carried out some of these killings. At least 20 people, including activists from all sides, were killed between late April and early September in acts of politically motivated violence.

2009 Score-settling between the FNL and CNDD-FDD resulted in 23 killings and a dozen non-fatal injuries carried out between December 2008 and April 2009.

2008 Fighting between government forces and the FNL from April 17 to May 26 claimed the lives of 100 to 140 rebel fighters and soldiers. Reports confirmed four civilian deaths but the number of unconfirmed civilian deaths was much higher. There were reports of increased murder and crime in the country stemming from an increase in population, poverty and a greater number of weapons in the country. Reports described torture and summary executions at the hands of the national intelligence service.

2007 Fighting between government forces and a splinter faction of the FNL as well as internal fighting among FNL factions claimed the lives of at least 33 rebel fighters and government troops. No estimates were given as to the number of civilian casualties that resulted from the clashes that took place in the fall. Reports also described atrocities on the part of the government, including summary executions, torture and increased instances of rape and sexual violence.

2006 Claims that the government’s secret service carried out atrocities remained rampant. Though an official tally of casualties was unavailable, approximately 10 government troops and 20 rebel fighters were killed in 2006 along with 40 civilians, while 38 were reported missing and were presumed dead. These numbers represent a decline from previous years when deaths regularly totalled 300 or more.

2005 Over 300 people were reported killed, close to half civilians.

2004 Between 250 and 300 people, a combination of rebels and civilians, were reportedly killed.

2003 The sporadic nature of the conflict and the discrepancy in the figures from government and rebel reports made it impossible to determine the number of deaths resulting from the conflict in 2003. Between 400 and 800 people were likely killed throughout the year, with the majority of deaths occurring during and after a July rebel offensive.

2002 Unconfirmed sources report that approximately 1,000 combatants and civilians were killed in the first eight months of 2002.

2001 Human rights groups in Burundi issued a report stating that more than 400 civilians were killed in the fighting in the first half of 2001. According to media reports, hundreds of government soldiers and rebels were also killed in the fighting.

2000 There were reports of hundreds killed in 2000; more accurate conflict casualty figures were unavailable.

1999 More than 500 hundred people were killed by government forces and rebels in 1999. By the end of the year, Burundi’s army forcefully removed some 300,000 people from their homes in the countryside near the capital, Bujumbura. The army regrouped these people in camps, saying its action was the key to ending the attacks on Bujumbura. More than 300,000 people from Burundi were seeking refuge in Tanzania, while 800,000 people were internally displaced.

1998 At least 2,500 people died in the fighting in 1998, with some reports suggesting many more. This represents a reduction from the tens of thousands of annual deaths reported in previous years.

Political Developments

2010 Thirteen soldiers were arrested in January for allegedly planning a coup to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza. Local and national elections were held between May and September: communal elections on May 24; presidential elections on June 28; legislative elections on July 23 and 28; and colline (village-level) elections on Sept. 7. After the communal elections, the National Independent Electoral Commission declared the majority of the votes (64 per cent) for the ruling party, CNDD-FDD. The opposition claimed fraud and boycotted the subsequent elections. On June 8, Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana banned all opposition activities. In June and July, at least 12 opposition activists were reported tortured by the National Intelligence Service. Five opposition candidates from the FNL, FRODEBU, MSD, UPD AND CNDD, pulled out of the presidential election race in June, leaving incumbent Nkurunziza as the only candidate. On June 12, 12 opposition parties, including the FNL, FRODEBU, MSD and UDP, formed a coalition, Alliance des Démocrates pour le Changement (ADC-Ikibiri), demanding the boycott of subsequent elections unless the communal elections were held again. One opposition party, Union for National Progress (UPRONA), took part in the legislative elections in July. The CNDD-FDD won more than 80 per cent of the parliamentary seats. By August, FNL leader Agathon Rwasa and ADC-Ikibiri spokesperson Leonard Nyangoma went into hiding. In August, the government took over the FNL. At the end of October, the government launched a judicial commission to investigate reports of extrajudicial executions.

2009 On April 18, FNL leader Agathon Rwasa officially handed in his weapons and uniform as the FNL became the last of the rebel factions to disarm. In order to become a legal political party, the FNL changed its name from Parti pour la Libération du Peuple Hutu—Forces Nationales de Libération (PALIPEHUTU—FNL) to Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL). It was transformed into a political party on April 21, starting a demobilization and army integration programme for what Rwasa said were 21,000 fighters in the FNL, though only 8,500 were officially recognized. In June, FNL leaders formally took up government posts, joining with the CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy), raising concerns among rights groups. According to Human Rights Watch, “Numerous individuals who may have perpetrated crimes against humanity and war crimes hold key government positions, including in the military and the executive branch” [Human Rights Watch, 13 August, 2009].  For the upcoming 2010 presidential, parliamentary and local elections, the United Nations began to subsidize approximately one million national identity cards for Burundians who could not afford them. Some parties remained unsatisfied with the level of debate on new electoral legislation and the proposed system of ballots.

2008 April and early May 2008 saw an increase in violence in the capital, Bujumbura, and its surrounding provinces. According to Human Rights Watch, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government arrested more than 300 people suspected of being part of the FNL’s political wing and held them for longer than seven days without charge (in violation of Burundi’s constitution). In May, the FNL and the government came to an agreement on the implementation of the peace accord signed in September 2006. The return of FNL leader Agathon Rwasa to the country suggested an increased commitment to peace on the part of the FNL. The Palipehutu-FNL, the political wing of the FNL, stated it would not commit to a DDR process unless it was recognized as an official political party. The government denied the request unless the group change its name (which means “for the Hutu alone”). Arguments over the name change continued into late November. In December, the Palipehutu-FNL dropped its request and both sides publicly committed to pursuing peace in a communiqué issued to the public. As part of the deal, 33 senior members of the Palipehutu-FNL received non-elected positions in the government and the government released all political and war prisoners.

2007 Despite the commitment of the FNL (National Liberation Front) to a peace accord signed in September 2006, tensions remained high between the rebel group and the government. The FNL abandoned the peace process several times throughout the year. The government remained mired in accusations of corruption and was accused of using torture and summary executions against civilians. International donors signed a $665-million (U.S.) deal for economic recovery and South Africa committed 1,100 soldiers to an African Union task force. The government formed a new, more inclusive cabinet with members of two other rebel parties: the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) and the Union for National Progress (UNPRONA).

2006 In September, a peace agreement was signed by the government and the main faction of FNL, the last rebel group to sign a peace accord.  Details of the agreement have not been released, but FNL leader Agathon Rwasa has expressed concern over government control of both the army and police forces. In addition, continued allegations of human rights abuses and corruption within the government sparked the resignation of Vice-President Alice Nzomukunda. In August, members of the former government, including former vice-president Alphonse Marie Kadege, were arrested on the premise of a conspiracy to commit a coup. Many reports also alleged that the former vice-president, along with six other high-ranking officials had been tortured while detained. The repatriation of refugees has also been problematic as it has resulted in many instances of land disputes as thousands return from neighbouring countries.

2005 Communal and parliamentary elections were held marking the end of the transitional government. The former Hutu rebel group CNDD-FDD received a majority of votes and Pierre Nkurunziza, former head of CNDD-FDD, became president. The government was formed with a 60-40 Hutu-Tutsi ratio as stipulated by the constitution overwhelmingly approved earlier in the year through a national referendum. The FNL, the last remaining rebel group, first rejected the new government’s offer of peace talks but later said it was willing to negotiate if its imprisoned members were freed by the government. The UN mission in Burundi (ONUB) was extended by the Security Council to July 2006.

2004 In August, CNDD-FDD rebels voted to become a political party while the FNL was declared a terrorist organization and a Tutsi-Hutu power-sharing agreement was endorsed at a summit of African leaders. Despite the main Tutsi parties dropping objections to an interim constitution, national elections scheduled for 2004 were delayed until 2005. As part of a reintegration plan, the Burundi government ended ethnic political identification and divisions and began training the first unit of the government army to include former rebel group members. It also voted to establish a truth and reconciliation commission following elections. African Union peacekeeping troops in Burundi were replaced by a UN peacekeeping mission in June. Although tens of thousands of Burundian refugees returned home during the year, thousands more fleeing the Congo conflict threatened to destabilize Burundi. Following the August refugee camp massacre, tensions climbed in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo, as Rwanda threatened to invade the other two countries to prevent further massacres of Tutsis.

2003 As part of an earlier power-sharing agreement, in May the presidency of the transitional government was passed from Major Pierre Buyoya to Domitien Ndayizeye, who became the first Hutu leader of Burundi in seven years. This appointment was not considered sufficient by the two main rebel groups who continued their armed struggle. In April, the African Union (AU) outlined the mandate of a peacekeeping force, the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB), which was to deploy to Burundi by June with an initial mandate of one year. Due to initial financial and logistical constraints, the peace operation was delayed in its deployment; however, with the assistance of the European Union, the full force of 2,500 was in the field by mid-October. In November, leaders of the FDD and the government signed a peace deal that endorsed the sharing of power between the two parties in political, security and economic matters. At the same summit, regional leaders issued an ultimatum to the FNL: Cease hostilities within three months or face regional action.

2002 The inauguration of a new power-sharing government of Hutus and Tutsis in late 2001 failed to stop the bloodshed. Peace talks in Tanzania in August made little progress. A ceasefire between the army and the rebels could not be reached, although rebels did agree to negotiate at a later date.

2001 African leaders’ attempts to continue the peace negotiations that had begun in August 2000 failed due to the refusal of two of the rebel groups, the National Liberation Front (FNL), and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), to participate and due to disagreements over who would lead the proposed transitional government. An FNL offensive on Burundi’s capital around the time of the peace talks complicated negotiations further. In other developments, progress in the peace process of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), led Burundian rebels using the DRC as a staging area for attacks against Burundian government forces to return to Burundi and escalate the conflict there. A transitional government was inaugurated on Nov. 1, 2001 for a three-year period. President Pierre Buyoya, 17 political parties and the National Assembly signed the power-sharing agreement. President Buyoya (a Tutsi) will remain in charge for 18 months. He will be succeeded by the current Vice-President Domitien Ndayizeye (a Hutu) for the second half of the three-year period. Multiparty elections are scheduled from April 2004. The two main rebel groups refused to sign this agreement. South Africa sent 700 soldiers into Burundi to serve as a “special protection unit” for the young government.

2000 Nominated as a new moderator for peace negotiations, Nelson Mandela presented a draft peace agreement by the beginning of August. Government officials were resistant to a peace accord prior to a ceasefire agreement and there were differences on key issues such as the leadership of the transitional government proposed in the pact. Nevertheless, in late August, 13 of the 19 parties involved in the talks signed the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi. Two critical armed factions, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Force (FNL) were among six non-signatories. A new round of ceasefire negotiations began in Nairobi during September when rebel leaders presented conditions, including power-sharing arrangements, prior to ceasefire negotiations. Mandela and other regional leaders threatened to impose sanctions against Burundi unless a ceasefire was agreed to within thirty days.

1999 Economic sanctions imposed on Burundi by neighbouring African countries more than two years earlier were lifted in 1999. There was little progress made in the Arusha peace process launched in 1998. President Nelson Mandela of South Africa was nominated as the new mediator of Burundi, picking up negotiations where the late Julius Nyerere had left off.

1998 The ethnic and regional nature of the renewed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo further complicated the Burundian situation, yet peace negotiations occurred during 1998, with varying degrees of success. After a negotiated July ceasefire failed immediately, discussions in October made some progress.


Burundi has been subject to ethnic violence since independence from Belgium in 1962. Tutsis mostly have held the reins of power, with the majority Hutus claiming oppression by minority rule. The current phase of the conflict began in 1988 when 20,000 or more Hutus were massacred by the military following an uprising in northern Burundi. In 1993, a Hutu, Melchior Ndadaye, and his Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) party won Burundi’s first democratic elections. Shortly after, Ndadaye was murdered, allegedly by Tutsi soldiers.

In 1994 the formation of a coalition of parties representing two ethnic groups, FRODEBU (Hutu) and the Tutsi Union for National Progress (UPRONA), led to the installation of Cyprien Ntaryamira as president. After he and Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana were killed in a plane crash in April 1994, a UN-brokered agreement produced another Government of National Unity.

In 1996 former president Major Pierre Buyoya regained control of the government by a military coup and neighbouring states reacted to Buyoya’s suspension of parliament and banning of political parties by imposing economic sanctions on Burundi. Renewed conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 further complicated the Burundian situation, although peace talks began the same year.

In November 2001, a transitional government consisting of both Hutu and Tutsi representatives was inaugurated in accordance with the August 2000 Arusha peace accords. However, the two main rebel groups, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Force (FNL) refused to recognize this government or agree to a ceasefire. The situation changed in 2003 when the FDD agreed to join the government, leaving the FLN as the sole rebel group. The continued violence led the African Union to mandate the creation of a peacekeeping force to Burundi.

By October 2003, 2,535 peacekeepers had been deployed to Burundi and in 2004 the AU mission was replaced by a 5,000 troop UN peacekeeping force.  In February, 2005 a new constitution was approved after receiving over 90 per cent of votes in a national referendum. The constitution established a democratic mixed parliamentary presidential political system and the sharing of parliamentary, government and military posts among Burundi’s ethnic groups.

In September 2006, the FNL signed peace accord with the government, the country’s last remaining rebel group to do so.  However, throughout 2007 negotiations remained difficult and the FNL continuously abandoned the process, resulting in increased fear that the process could be derailed altogether. In 2008, violence erupted in April with renewed peace talks occurring in May 2008.  In May, government and the FNL reached an agreement on the implementation of the 2006 peace accord. The summer months saw the slow deterioration of peace; however, in December, both parties issued a combined communiqué which set the DDR process to begin in January of 2009.  In 2009, the FNL became a legitimate political party.

This disarmament and peace process brings to a close decades of brutal fighting between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The DDR process has seen limited success, with many former combatants as well as civilians still armed in the lead-up up to the 2010 elections. Armed youth wings of political parties remain a threat to stability, as well as the potential for a split among the FNL. Impunity for those who committed war crimes remains high.

Arms Sources

During the conflict, the government received weapons from South Africa in 1998 and the Ukraine in 2001 and 2002 while the Hutu rebels, especially the CNDD, were reportedly supplied by Zimbabwe. France was the main arms supplier to the Burundi government until 1996.

Though the 12-year civil war ended in 2005, the presence of small arms and light weapons continued to threaten security. The number of small arms was estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000, with most Russian-made Kalashnikovs (AK-47s) and Belgian-made rifles. These weapons have circulated the Great Lakes Region from one conflict to another. At the beginning of the civil war in 1993, president Pierre Buyoya disseminated weapons to the population to protect civilians from rebel attacks. Ownership of weapons became a source of income for many Burundians who rent out their weapons for 50,000 Burundian Francs ($50 [U.S.]) per night.

According to SIPRI, in 2008, Burundi’s military spending was 4.9 per cent of its GDP. The country’s total military expenditure in 2008 was $43.9-million (U.S.). A two-year contract, which began in October 2008, between Burundi’s defence ministry and Cranford Trading, a Ukrainian firm, agreed on the supply of 60 Chinese-made, .50-calibre machine guns. Sold to the firm by North Korea, these weapons appeared to be defective. As a result of signing the peace agreement in December 2008, the rebel group FNL did not take up arms again in 2009.

On Sept. 12, 2005, the Commission Nationale pour la Demobilisation, la Reinsertion, et la Rehabilitation des Combattants (CNDRR) began to disarm civilians and demobilize soldiers, former combatants and militias, starting with the CNDD-FDD militias and paramilitary youths. Since the start of the program until February 2006, approximately 20,000 former combatants, including child soldiers, returned to their families and communities. Civilians found in possession of weapons risked arrest. Despite this, civilians were inclined to hold onto their weapons for personal safety. In 2009, the National Disarmament Commission’s own data showed that fewer than 2,500 of the weapons handed in during the last phase of voluntary disarmament were rifles. The rest were grenades (10,429), bombs (218) and mines (28).

Economic Factors

The major agricultural products are coffee and cash crops, which are a result of the colonial legacy that has left Burundi extremely vulnerable and unstable economically. During their colonial control in the 1930s, Belgians introduced coffee to Burundi and made the Tutsis administrative overseers of the coffee production carried out by Hutus. Not only does the dependence of cash crops leave Burundi’s economy vulnerable to the international market’s price fluctuations, it has also put a strain on the land, degrading it and causing food shortages.

It is estimated that three-quarters of Burundi’s population is involved in the production of coffee. Due to the small size of the private sector, the state is the only provider of employment and the only economic redistributor. Therefore, exploitation and control over Burundi’s agricultural production has been central in perpetuating the conflict.

Many argue that it was not ethnicity but economic disparity between the elite and the rural majority that was the key factor in the conflict. The urban ruling elite, often comprised of Tutsis, historically redistributed wealth among the Tutsi regional network. In 1992, Hutus destroyed 1,924,841 coffee trees in retaliation of the assassination of president Melchior Ndadaye in 1993.

Burundi is landlocked and one of the most densely populated countries in the world (estimated population: six million), making land scarce. In order to meet export demands for coffee production, the government has imposed restrictions on what farmers can cultivate. Farmers struggle to balance cultivation of agriculture for subsistence and cultivation of coffee for income. In addition, government elites have used revenue from coffee to purchase arms to protect their own interests rather than development. The collapse of coffee prices in the world market in 2001 caused eruptions of violence and the smuggling of coffee to Rwanda in order to gain higher income.

map: CIA Factbook

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