International Criminology World

World : Africa : Burundi

In the 16th century, Burundi was a kingdom characterized by a hierarchical political authority and tributary economic exchange. A king (mwani) headed a princely aristocracy (ganwa) which owned most of the land and required a tribute, or tax, from local farmers and herders. In the mid-18th century, this Tutsi royalty consolidated authority over land, production, and distribution with the development of the ubugabire--a patron-client relationship in which the populace received royal protection in exchange for tribute and land tenure.

Although European explorers and missionaries made brief visits to the area as early as 1856, it was not until 1899 that Burundi came under German East African administration. In 1916 Belgian troops occupied the area. In 1923, the League of Nations mandated to Belgium the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, encompassing modern-day Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgians administered the territory through indirect rule, building on the Tutsi-dominated aristocratic hierarchy. Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administrative authority. After 1948, Belgium permitted the emergence of competing political parties. Two political parties emerged: the Union for National Progress (UPRONA), a multi-ethnic party led by Tutsi Prince Louis Rwagasore and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) supported by Belgium. In 1961, Prince Rwagasore was assassinated following an UPRONA victory in legislative elections.

Full independence was achieved on July 1, 1962. In the context of weak democratic institutions at independence, Tutsi King Mwambutsa IV established a constitutional monarchy comprising equal numbers of Hutus and Tutsis. The 1965 assassination of the Hutu prime minister set in motion a series of destabilizing Hutu revolts and subsequent governmental repression. In 1966, King Mwambutsa was deposed by his son, Prince Ntare IV, who himself was deposed the same year by a military coup lead by Capt. Michel Micombero. Micombero abolished the monarchy and declared a republic, although a de facto military regime emerged. In 1972, an aborted Hutu rebellion triggered the flight of hundreds of thousands of Burundians. Civil unrest continued throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1976, Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza took power in a bloodless coup. Although Bagaza led a Tutsi-dominated military regime, he encouraged land reform, electoral reform, and national reconciliation. In 1981, a new constitution was promulgated. In 1984, Bagaza was elected head of state, as the sole candidate. After his election, Bagaza's human rights record deteriorated as he suppressed religious activities and detained political opposition members.

In 1987, Maj. Pierre Buyoya overthrew Colonel Bagaza. He dissolved opposition parties, suspended the 1981 constitution, and instituted his ruling Military Committee for National Salvation (CSMN). During 1988, increasing tensions between the ruling Tutsis and the majority Hutus resulted in violent confrontations between the army, the Hutu opposition, and Tutsi hardliners. During this period, an estimated 150,000 people were killed, with tens of thousands of refugees flowing to neighboring countries. Buyoya formed a commission to investigate the causes of the 1988 unrest and to develop a charter for democratic reform.

In 1991, Buyoya approved a constitution that provided for a president, multi-ethnic government, and a parliament. Burundi's first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, of the Hutu-dominated FRODEBU Party, was elected in 1993. He was assassinated by factions of the Tutsi-dominated armed forces in October 1993. The country was then plunged into civil war, which killed tens of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands by the time the FRODEBU government regained control and elected Cyprien Ntaryamira president in January 1994. Nonetheless, the security situation continued to deteriorate. In April 1994, President Ntayamira and Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana died in a plane crash. This act marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, while in Burundi, the death of Ntaryamira exacerbated the violence and unrest. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was installed as president for a 4-year term on April 8, but the security situation further deteriorated. The influx of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees and the activities of armed Hutu and Tutsi groups further destabilized the regime.


The ongoing conflict in Bujumbura Rural province resulted in numerous serious abuses against the civilian population by government and rebel forces; generally no actions were taken against perpetrators. The FAB and CNDD-FDD killed numerous civilians following fighting with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, in reprisal for PALIPEHUTU-FNL attacks, and for suspected collaboration with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL. Abuses included the killing of civilians, the looting and burning of houses, attacks on noncombatants, the displacement of large numbers of civilians, and the rape of women. Security forces prevented international humanitarian aid agencies and human rights observers from reaching some areas of the country.

While no definitive countrywide casualty figures were available, reports from media and NGOs estimate that more than 250,000 persons, mostly civilians, have been killed in conflict-related violence since 1993. Much of the unlawful killing and property destruction during the year was concentrated in Bujumbura Rural province, which was the scene of continuing fighting between the FAB and CNDD-FDD on one side, and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL on the other.There were numerous reports that FAB forces deliberately killed civilians during the conflict. For example, on March 29, FAB soldiers killed a man who refused them entry into his home in Mutimbuzi Commune, Bujumbura Rural province, while they were searching the area for PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebels.League Iteka reported that on April 27, in Kabezi Commune, Bujumbura Rural province, FAB soldiers killed four IDPs after fighting occurred in the area between FAB and PALIPEHUTU-FNL forces.

According to League Iteka, on June 8, FAB soldiers killed two civilians and wounded three others that they suspected of having contacts with PALIPEHUTU-FNL members.There were numerous reports that FAB forces killed civilians indiscriminately as a result of the conflict. For example, League Iteka reported that on January 26, FAB soldiers began firing into the marketplace in Mutambu Commune, killing six civilians. The soldiers reportedly opened fire after the PALIPEHUTU-FNL killed two FAB soldiers in the marketplace.

According to HRW, on March 16, during fighting between FAB soldiers and PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebels, FAB soldiers indiscriminately fired mortars into a crowd of fleeing civilians in Kabezi Commune, Bujumbura Rural Province. No additional information was available by year's end.On May 29, FAB soldiers killed 23 persons in Kabezi Commune, Bujumbura Rural Province; at least 1 of the victims was raped prior to be being killed.

CNDD-FDD soldiers operating in Bujumbura Rural Province, in cooperation with the FAB, were also accused by human rights organizations of killing civilians. According to HRW and local NGOs, one tactic the CNDD-FDD regularly employed was to search local areas for persons not known by the areas' inhabitants, or to search for wounded individuals, and to summarily execute them under suspicion of belonging to the PALIPEHUTU-FNL. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), on September 16, in Mutamba Commune, Bujumbura Rural Province, CNDD-FDD and FAB soldiers forced the local population to undress to inspect them for alleged battle-related injuries. One man, who was discovered to have wounds, was summarily executed.

According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) and NGOs, soldiers and rebels used rape as a weapon of war. From January to May, Search for Common Ground reported 267 rapes, 54 of which were attributed to the security services and a significant number to the PALIPEHUTU-FNL.On February 17, while searching for PALIPEHUTU-FNL members in Nyambuye Zone, Bujumbura Rural Province, members of the CNDD-FDD raped girls as young as 7 years old and several women, at least two of whom died from their injuries.League Iteka reported that members of the CNDD-FDD raped a mother and her daughter in the Gatumba Zone of Bujumbura Rural Province in mid-April.

On April 30, six members of the CNDD-FDD raped a 22-year-old resident of Kamenge Zone in Bujumbura. The UNOHCHR reported that although the identities of the rapists were known, no action was taken to investigate this crime. In February, FAB troops reportedly stole $50,000 (54 million Burundian francs) worth of non-food humanitarian assistance from approximately 4,000 families. The CNDD-FDD also reportedly pillaged houses throughout the year in Bujumbura Rural Province. During one operation that began on February 17, elements of the CNDD-FDD looted over 2,000 homes in Nyambuye Zone, Bujumbura Rural Province.On September 6, members of the CNDD-FDD, who were searching for PALIPEHUTU-FNL members or sympathizers, looted approximately 15 houses in the Kanyosha Zone of Bujumbura and beat the owners of the houses, according to League Iteka. No actions were taken against members of the security forces or CNDD-FDD responsible for abuses reported in 2003 or 2002.Landmines placed by government and rebel forces in past years continued to cause civilian deaths and injuries.During the year, security forces restricted access by humanitarian organizations to parts of Bujumbura Rural Province; although authorities said insecurity in those areas made delivery of aid impossible, commercial traffic was sometimes not restricted.Security forces and former rebel groups continued to have child soldiers in their ranks; however, during the year, the Government and former rebel groups removed child soldiers from combat units and demobilized many of them by year's


The mainstay of the Burundian economy is agriculture, accounting for 47% of GDP in 2003. Agriculture supports more than 90% of the labor force, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers. Although Burundi is potentially self-sufficient in food production, the civil war, overpopulation, and soil erosion have contributed to the contraction of the subsistence economy by 30% in recent years. Large numbers of internally displaced persons have been unable to produce their own food and are dependent on international humanitarian assistance. Burundi is a net food importer, with food accounting for 13% of imports in 2003.

The main cash crop is coffee, which accounted for some 50% of exports in 2003. This dependence on coffee has increased Burundi's vulnerability to fluctuations in seasonal yields and international coffee prices. Coffee processing is the largest state-owned enterprise in terms of income. Although the government has tried to attract private investment to this sector, plans for the privatization of this sector have stalled. Efforts to privatize other publicly held enterprises have likewise stalled. Other principal exports include tea, sugar, and raw cotton. Coffee production, after a severe drop in 2003, returned to normal levels in 2004. Revenues from coffee production and exports are likewise estimated to return to pre-2003 levels.

Little industry exists except the processing of agricultural exports. Although potential wealth in petroleum, nickel, copper, and other natural resources is being explored, the uncertain security situation has prevented meaningful investor interest. Industrial development also is hampered by Burundi's distance from the sea and high transport costs. Lake Tanganyika remains an important trading point. The trade embargo, lifted in 1999, negatively impacted trade and industry.

Burundi is heavily dependent on bilateral and multilateral aid, with external debt totaling $1.2 billion in 2003. A series of largely unsuccessful 5-year plans initiated in July 1986 in partnership with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attempted to reform the foreign exchange system, liberalize imports, reduce restrictions on international transactions, diversify exports, and reform the coffee industry.

IMF structural adjustment programs in Burundi were suspended following the outbreak of the crisis in 1993; the IMF re-engaged Burundi in 2002 and 2003 with post-conflict credits, and in 2004 approved a $104 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan. The World Bank is preparing a Transition Support Strategy, and has identified key areas for potential growth, including the productivity of traditional crops and the introduction of new exports, light manufactures, industrial mining, and services. Both the IMF and the World Bank are assisting the Burundians to prepare a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Serious economic problems include the state's role in the economy, the question of governmental transparency, and debt reduction.

Burundi was not eligible for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2003.

To protest the 1996 coup by President Buyoya, neighboring countries imposed an economic embargo on Burundi. Although the embargo was never officially ratified by the UN Security Council, most countries refrained from official trade with Burundi. Following the 1996 coup, the United States suspended all but humanitarian aid to Burundi. The regional embargo was lifted on January 23, 1999, based on progress by the government in advancing national reconciliation through the Burundi peace process.


During the year, there were reports that discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS increased. In reaction to the perceived increase in discrimination, an association for persons living with HIV/AIDS campaigned during the year for the Government to enact a law protecting affected persons from discrimination and stigmatization.Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that security forces committed political killings; however, security forces committed unlawful killings of civilians during the year.

At year's end, six of the seven individuals accused in the 2001 killing of Kassi Manlan, including Colonel Gerard Ntunzwenayo, remained in jail and their trial was ongoing. No action had been taken against the seventh, Commander Sylvestre Hakizimana. At year's end, police held in custody another man allegedly involved in the killing. Two other individuals accused of having taken part in the killing had disappeared; however, the Attorney General told the court that they were being held in a safe place for security reasons.The FAB regularly committed unlawful killings, often with impunity, of Hutu and Tutsi civilians following fighting with rebels, in reprisal for rebel attacks, and for suspected collaboration with rebels.League Iteka reported that on February 21, a FAB soldier reportedly killed Melchiade Basingwa and his wife in Kiremba Commune, Ngozi Province, and stole approximately $280 (300,000 Burundian francs). The soldier was arrested on March 15 and held for interrogation. At year's end, it was unknown if he was still in detention.There were no developments in the February 2003 killing of Abraham Nshirimana, allegedly by FAB soldiers.During the year, there were reports that suspects were killed while in the custody of security forces and the CNDD-FDD. For example, League Iteka reported that on May 6, in Bujumbura city's Kanyosha Zone, the local gendarmerie reportedly shot and killed a bicycle taxi operator who was in custody. There had been no investigation into the killing at year's end.On August 13, members of the CNDD-FDD detained and beat to death Albert Ntahomvukiye in Mutimbuzi Commune, Bujumbura Rural province. Ntahomvukiye's son was beaten until he was unable to walk. League Iteka reported that the CNDD-FDD suspected them of collaborating with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL.

League Iteka reported that on September 20, the corpse of an alleged thief who had been in FAB custody was found near a FAB position in Bugabira Commune, Ngozi Province. There were no reports that action was taken against persons responsible for the alleged killing.There were no developments in the June 2003 torture death of FAB soldier Mathias Nkurunziza. Civilians were killed during fighting between government and rebel forces, and women died as a result of being raped .There continued to be reports of deaths and injuries caused by landmines laid by both government and rebel forces.

Although very few exact figures were available, there were numerous political killings by unidentified assailants during the year. For example, Bujumbura Rural Province Governor Ignace Ntawembarira reported that 38 local government officials were killed in the province during the year. According to League Iteka, on September 8, in Kayanza Province, seven armed men in military uniforms killed CNDD-FDD Gatara Commune representative Sebastien Bamporubusa, severely tortured the Karurusi colline chief, and amputated the fingers of one of Bamporubusa's neighbors.

There were no developments in the following 2003 killings by unknown assailants: The February killing of Leonard Masengo; the May killing of Jean Nkurukiye; the September killing of Raphael Nzinahora; or the November killing of World Food Program official Philbert Nsengiyumva. There were reports that the GP committed killings, rapes, and armed robberies during the year.The PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebels killed numerous persons during the year and committed serious abuses against the civilian population, including a massacre of refugees in August .

Killings by bandits were a serious problem during the year, particularly by year's end. In November, a U.N. spokesperson told the press that between 6 and 10 persons were dying every day as a result of acts of banditry. There were numerous reports during the year of mob violence, lynchings, and the killing of suspected witches. For example, League Iteka reported that on February 12, a mob killed Nephtalie Sindayihebura, whom the local population accused of being a witch, in Rumonge Commune, Bururi Province.League Iteka also reported that on February 28, the local population of Rugombo Commune, Cibitoke Province, lynched an individual accused of using witchcraft to paralyze and kill a local youth.

On April 9, a mob stoned to death a man accused of injecting persons in the markets of Kayanza Province with the HIV/AIDS virus. In August, there were several similar reports that mobs killed individuals accused of injecting persons with poison. During the year, the local press reported numerous incidents in which individuals threw hand-grenades into bars or other public gathering places, resulting in deaths and injuries. For example, on April 14, in Kirundo Province, four men were killed in a pub after an unidentified individual threw a grenade into the establishment.On July 10, in Rutana Commune, Rutana Province, two persons were killed and 19 wounded after an unidentified individual threw a grenade into a wedding reception

The crime rate in Burundi is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Burundi. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Burundi will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1998 was 9.68 per 100,000 population for Burundi, 1.10 for Japan, and 6.3 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1998 was 1.60 for Burundi, compared with 1.48 for Japan and 34.4 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1998 was 1.42 for Burundi, 2.71 for Japan, and 165.2 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1998 was 10.82 for Burundi, 15.40 for Japan, and 360.5 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1998 was 2.0 for Burundi, 187.93 for Japan, and 862.0 for USA. No data were given for larceny for Burundi. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1998 was .23 for Burundi, compared with 28.37 for Japan and 459.0 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 25.75 for Burundi, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4615.5 for USA . (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1998, but were derived from the Uniform Crime Report for 1998 and that not data for larceny were reported to Interpol.)


The Transitional Constitution prohibits such practices; however, members of the security forces continued to torture and otherwise abuse persons. Throughout the year multiple credible sources reported that the CNDD-FDD set up illegal detention and torture centers across the country, including at least five in Bujumbura. League Iteka reported that members of the security forces and CNDD-FDD members beat and tortured civilians and detainees throughout the year.On February 17, in Nyambuye Zone, Bujumbura Rural province, members of the CNDD-FDD detained and tortured numerous individuals, several of whom were reportedly hospitalized; some young girls and women were raped (see Section 1.g.). On April 14, two FAB soldiers in Mutambu Commune, Bujumbura Rural province, detained Judge Gaspard Gahungu, stole $45 (48,000 Burundian francs) and a mobile phone, and beat him until he lost consciousness.

In April, members of the CNDD-FDD arrested many residents of Mutimbuzi Commune, Bujumbura Rural province, took them to detention center, beat them, forced them to spend the night in a trough filled with water, and later forced them to drink that water.On September 29, in Mutimbuzi Commune, Bujumbura Rural province, CNDD-FDD members detained a 13-year-old student and four others, took them to a local CNDD-FDD garrison, and beat them with rods and batons until they could no longer walk. According to League Iteka, the five were accused of knowing members of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL. There were no new developments in the July 2003 torture of Emmanuel Niyongabo by the Public Security Police and Ezechial Ncitiyinisalaba by security forces, or in the December 2003 torture of suspected witches by members of the CNDD-FDD.

Although precise figures remained unavailable, there were frequent reports that members of the FAB and the CNDD-FDD raped women with impunity. For example, according to League Iteka, on June 1, a FAB soldier raped a 6-year-old girl in Bubanza province. On June 29, again in Bubanza province, two men in military uniforms raped a 12-year-old girl. The soldiers' superiors took no action in either case.League Iteka reported that on July 21, in Mwaro province, a FAB officer, Justin Nitunga, raped a 13-year-old girl. There was no official investigation of this case.


The criminal code prohibits arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention; however, security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons.

Impunity for those who committed serious human rights violations, and the continuing lack of accountability for those who committed past abuses, remained key factors in the country's continuing instability. The security forces did not always cooperate with civilian prosecutors or magistrates, including in investigations involving members of the security forces. Members of the GP were unpaid and poorly trained. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that members of the GP were coercively recruited. Corruption, abuse of the criminal code's standards on the duration of detentions, and mistreatment of prisoners remained problems.

The law requires arrest warrants, and presiding magistrates were authorized to issue them. Police and gendarmes could make arrests without a warrant but were required to submit a written report to a magistrate within 48 hours. Few aspects of these provisions were respected in practice, and the requirement that that detainees be charged and appear in court within 7 days of their arrest was violated routinely. A magistrate could order the release of suspects or confirm charges and continue detention, initially for 15 days, then subsequently for periods of 30 days, as necessary to prepare the case for trial. The police were required to follow the same procedures as magistrates; however, the police have regularly detained suspects for extended periods without announcing charges, certifying the cases, or forwarding them to the Ministry of Justice as required. Multiple credible sources reported that incommunicado detention existed, although the law prohibits it. Bail was permitted in some cases.

Many of the persons arrested on criminal charges since 1993 remained in pretrial custody. According to the Ministry of Justice, 4,798 prisoners were awaiting trial. There were 400 communal lockups where those who were arrested were supposed to be held no longer than 1 week; however, in practice, detainees were regularly kept in these facilities for much longer periods of time. Family members were required to provide all food for these detainees. Once detainees were transferred to larger detention facilities, the Government provided food.


The Transitional Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary was not independent of the executive and was dominated by members of the minority Tutsi community. The judicial system was inefficient and subject to bribes and other forms of corruption; many citizens had no confidence in its ability to provide even basic protection. Judicial reform was a priority of the Arusha Accord, but little progress was made during the year.

The judicial system consisted of civil and criminal courts with the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court at the apex. In all cases, the Constitutional Court had the ultimate appellate authority; however, in practice few cases of lower-ranking offenders reached this level.

Citizens generally did not have regular access to court proceedings and often had to travel more than 30 miles to reach a court of law. All trials were conducted before a jury. Defendants, in theory, are presumed innocent and have a right to counsel and to defend themselves; however, in practice, few had legal representation. Authorities sometimes were unable to carry out their investigations or transport suspects and witnesses to the appropriate court because of lack of resources and poor security conditions. According to the law, all defendants, except those in military courts, have the right to appeal their cases up to the Supreme Court, and in capital cases, to the President for clemency; however, in practice, the inefficiency of the court system extended the duration of the appeals process, effectively limiting the possibility of appeals, even by defendants accused of the most serious crimes.

The Transitional Government officially recognized the traditional system of communal arbitration, which functioned under the guidance of elders, the "Bashingantahe," and which facilitated the settlement and reconciliation of disputes. A Bashingantahe opinion often was necessary before access was granted to the formal civil court system. The Bashingantahe was limited to civil and minor criminal matters and had no jurisdiction over serious criminal matters. Community elders presided over deliberations under this system.

The law provides for an independent military court system, which in practice was influenced by the executive and higher ranking military forces. Courts of original jurisdiction for lower ranking military offenders were called "War Councils," and one existed in each of the five military districts. A court martial tribunal of appeals heard appeals of War Council decisions and also had trial jurisdiction for mid-ranking military offenders up to the rank of colonel. Military courts had jurisdiction over military offenders and civilians accused of offenses implicating members of the military. Defendants were not provided attorneys to assist in their defense, although NGOs have provided some defendants with attorneys in cases involving serious charges. Trials generally were open to the public; however, they could be closed for compelling reasons, such as national security or "scandalous accusations against prominent people."

Procedures for civilian and military courts were similar; however, military courts reached decisions more quickly, and trials generally failed to meet internationally accepted standards for fair trials. In addition, defendants in military courts are allowed only one appeal.

The detention of political prisoners remained a problem during the year. Local human rights NGOs claimed that the Government held approximately 4,000 political prisoners during the year. However, the Government stated that there were no political prisoners and that each person in detention had been convicted of a specific crime. Charges against defendants convicted for nonpolitical crimes sometimes were politically motivated.


Prison conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Severe overcrowding persisted. According to government officials and human rights observers, prisoners suffered from digestive illnesses, dysentery, and malaria, and prisoners died as a result of disease. The Transitional Government provided sufficient food, and families were permitted to supplement prisoner rations.

According to the Ministry of Justice, during the year, 7,568 inmates were held in facilities built to accommodate a maximum of 3,650 persons. Of this number, 2,728 were serving sentences, and 4,798 were pretrial detainees. Human rights NGOs lobbied the Transitional Government during the year for the release of prisoners who were held for long periods of time without charge. Between January and September, the Transitional Government released over 400 of these prisoners and had set up a commission to review the cases of pre-trial detainees.

On July 30, over 400 gendarmes stormed Mpimba prison in Bujumbura to quell a prison strike that was launched on July 19 by self-proclaimed political prisoners who demanded amnesty under the terms of the Arusha Agreement. According to press reports, the gendarmes used teargas to break up the strike, and at least four prisoners were wounded.

According to the Ministry of Justice, women were detained separately from men. During the year, there were 135 children in prisons, of whom 42 accompanied their convicted mothers. Juvenile prisoners were held with and often treated as adults. Political prisoners often were held with convicted prisoners. Pretrial detainees were held in communal lockups, but some were also incarcerated with convicted prisoners.

During the year, the Transitional Government permitted visits by international and local human rights monitors. NGOs continued their efforts to monitor and improve sanitation, hygiene, medical care, food, and water.

The ICRC was allowed access to prisoners and detained persons, including persons detained for "reasons relating to the conflict," and conducted visits regularly during the year.


Domestic violence against women was common; however, no credible statistics were available. Wives had the right to charge their husbands with physical abuse, but rarely did so. Police normally did not intervene in domestic disputes. The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence; however, persons accused of domestic violence could be tried under assault provisions of the law. By year's end, no known court cases had dealt with domestic abuse. The Transitional Government rarely investigated cases involving violence against women. According to League Iteka, women were beaten by their husbands, forced out of their homes, denied basic food necessities, and denied freedom of movement.

The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. The FAB, CNDD-FDD, and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL raped women during the year (see sections 1.c. and 1.g.). According to a 2003 AI report, domestic rape (outside the context of the conflict) was common. According to UNHCRC, many rapes of young girls were committed during the year with the belief that they would prevent or cure sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Information on rape has only recently begun to be recorded. Few cases of rape were reported to the authorities, and many rape victims did not receive medical care due to the intimidation caused by cultural attitudes. Men often abandoned their wives following the abuse, and women and girls were ostracized. In some instances, police and magistrates reportedly ridiculed and humiliated women who alleged that they were raped; according to the UNOHCHR, there were reports that some police required that victims provide food and pay the costs for incarceration of those they accuse of rape. According to the UNOHCHR, those who sought judicial redress faced the weaknesses of the judicial system, including many judges who did not regard rape as a serious crime, and a lack of medical facilities for gathering important medical evidence. In the limited number of cases that were investigated, successful prosecutions of rapists were rare.

Civil society and religious communities attacked the stigma of rape to help victims reintegrate into families that rejected them. Domestic human rights groups League Iteka and APRODH continued to encourage women to press charges and seek medical care, and international NGOs provided free medical care in certain areas. The Transitional Government also raised awareness of the problem's extent through seminars and local initiatives on the kinds of medical care available.

The law prohibits prostitution; however, it was a problem. There were reports that soldiers and rebels sexually exploited women and young girls residing near military installations and rebel camps. According to a 2003 report by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the ongoing conflict has forced many women into prostitution to feed their children. Increased prostitution continued to contribute to the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS.

Women faced legal and societal discrimination. Discriminatory inheritance laws, marital property laws, and credit practices continued. By law, women must receive the same pay as men for the same work, but in practice they did not. Women were far less likely to hold mid-level or high-level positions. In rural areas, women performed most of the farm work, married and had children at early ages, and had fewer opportunities for education than men.

Several local groups worked in support of women's rights, including the Collective of Women's Organizations and NGOs of Burundi, and Women United for Development.


The law provides for children's health and welfare, but the Transitional Government could not adequately satisfy the needs of children, particularly the large population of children orphaned by violence since 1993 and by HIV/AIDS.

According to the Ministry of Education, the maximum age up to which public schooling was provided was 22. Schooling was compulsory up to age 12; however, in practice this was not enforced. The Transitional Government provided primary school at nominal cost, but it was increasingly unaffordable due to the declining economy. UNICEF reported during the year that the net primary school enrollment/attendance rate for children was 47 percent, with 44 percent of girls enrolled/attending compared with 49 percent of boys. Sixth grade is the highest level of education attained by most children, with approximately 11 percent of children of secondary school age attending school.

An estimated 550,000 children of school age did not attend school for many reasons, including an inability of their families to afford school fees and materials, frequent displacement due to civil war, ill health, and the deaths of parents as a result of HIV/AIDS, which left children orphaned, homeless, or both. More than 25 percent of primary schools have been destroyed in the war, and many teachers have been killed. Teacher training was interrupted, and it was difficult to find qualified teachers to work in some parts of the country.

Under the law, the country's minimum age for military recruitment is 16, although the Transitional Government has stated that no one under 18 was recruited; however, throughout the year, there were reports that security forces and former rebel groups continued to have child soldiers in their ranks, despite the participation of all of these groups in a joint government-UNICEF project to demobilize and reintegrate children into their communities. No reliable figures were available on the exact number of child soldiers in the security forces, GP militia, and former rebel groups, and estimates varied significantly among different organizations and changed during the year, in part to reflect the reported results of demobilization.

In May, UNICEF estimated that approximately 3,000 child soldiers were serving in government forces or former rebel groups. According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, there were reports during the year that the FAB continued to use children as domestic laborers, spies, and in combat; however, in June, the FAB reportedly ceased conscripting children and--along with some former rebel groups--reportedly removed child soldiers from combat units. During the year, there continued to be reports that some former rebel groups continued to recruit and use child soldiers.

According to a U.N. news agency, some children joined the FAB voluntarily by using fraudulent documents such as birth certificates. In previous years, according to HRW, children voluntarily attached themselves to military units. Most of these children were orphans or IDPs who had no independent means of survival. Some observers believed the FAB allowed these children to perform menial tasks such as cooking in army encampments.

On January 26, the Transitional Government demobilized 24 child soldiers as it officially launched the National Structure for the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Prevention of Child Soldiers (National Structure). By year's end, the National Structure had demobilized and reintegrated 2,913 child soldiers, of which more than 2,000 came from the FAB and the GP militia, and 632 from former rebel groups. By October, all six former rebel groups, including the CNDD-FDD, had joined the child soldier demobilization effort.

The PALIPEHUTU-FNL continued to use and recruit child soldiers, and according to HRW, children were among the PALIPEHUTU-FNL combatants in the August 13 Gatumba massacre

According to UNICEF, HIV/AIDS infection rates in girls aged 15 to 19 were roughly 2 times greater than in boys of the same age, and according to a 2003 UNICEF study, there were an estimated 200,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in the country. The ongoing conflict and increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS has increased the number of orphans, which has resulted in an increase in the number of street children. According to the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and for Social Action, there were approximately 5,000 street children by year's end. Street children were accused of involvement in street crimes. Following a series of rapes in December 2003, police rounded up 700 street children during the year and took them to a special government center for street children. By year's end, 175 remained in the center; the rest were returned to their provinces of origin or to the streets.

The Labor Code states that children under the age of 16 cannot be employed by "an enterprise," except for the types of labor the Ministry of Labor determines to be acceptable, which includes light work or apprenticeships that do not damage their health, interfere with normal development, or prejudice their schooling; however, child labor remained a problem. Children under the age of 16 in rural areas regularly performed heavy manual labor in the daytime during the school year. According to the ICFTU, the vast majority of children in the country worked during the year.

Children were legally prohibited from working at night, although many did so in the informal sector. Most of the population lived by subsistence agriculture, and children were obliged by custom and economic necessity to participate in subsistence agriculture, family-based enterprises, and the informal sector. Child labor also existed in the mining and brick-making industries. The use of child soldiers and child prostitution continued to be problems


The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, and there were reports of trafficking. Traffickers could be prosecuted under existing laws against assault, kidnapping, rape, prostitution, slavery, and fraud. During the year, the Transitional Government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of traffickers; however, it investigated alleged cases of trafficking.

The Ministry of Reinsertion, Repatriation, and Reintegration and the Ministry of Institutional Reform, Human Rights, and Parliamentary Relations were responsible for combating trafficking. At year's end, the Transitional Government was aggressively investigating a case of suspected trafficking of women that emerged in 2003.

During the year, Burundi was a source and transit country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced soldiering, and there were reports of coerced sexual exploitation of women by both government soldiers and rebel combatants. The trafficking of child soldiers by both the CNDD-FDD and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL within the country was a problem (see Section 5, Children).

During the year, the Transitional Government supported public awareness campaigns and programs to prevent trafficking, and demobilized 2,913 child soldiers from the FAB, GP, and six former rebel groups


Internet research assisted by John Turner

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