Burundi’s conflict is rooted in reappearing tensions between the two main ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, and has remained as a contention since the granting of independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962. Following numerous attempts in the 1960s and 1970s by the majority Hutu groups to oust the minority Tutsi dominated government and military, and with a continuous upsurge of killings in both circles, preliminary efforts towards national reconciliation emerged. In October of 1988 the Commission for National Unity was established which was set up to investigate past massacres and to bring Hutus and Tutsis together to carryout reform. In March of 1992 a referendum election was held for constitutional reform. In the election, 90% of the voters reacted positively towards constitutional reform measures and in June of 1993, Burundi witnessed its first democratically elected President, Melchior Ndadaye, who was a Hutu from the Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) party. However, this acquisition of power by the Hutu party and the new positive shift towards democratic governance in Burundi were short lived as Tutsis began to experience a loss of power. With plans to increase Hutu membership in the government and reformation in the national army, hostilities erupted soon after Ndadye entered office. With an increase in tension in the nation, conflict reemerged which cumulated with the assassination of Ndadye during a brutal coup by Tutsi army paratroopers on October 23, 1993, leading the country back into civil war.
The events in 1972 and 1993 triggered two major refugee waves, which increased the number of both Hutu and Tutsi internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the amount of refugees in the neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Tanzania. The years encompassing the civil war sparked the cross boarder migration of displaced persons and can be linked with the increased flow of illicit arms across the borders of Burundi and the DRC. The increase in IDPs, refugees and illicit arms transfers perpetuated the conflict while creating additional challenges for the establishment of an effective DDR strategy in Burundi. The following events influenced the civil war and often exacerbated the violence in the region.
On April 6, 1994, Ndadye’s successor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed in a plane crash with the then Rwandan President Hapbyarimana when the plane they were traveling on was shot down by a rocket during its descent to Kigali airport. Coupled with parallel atrocities occurring in Rwanda and an increase in armed Hutu and Tutsi groups in both nations attempting to establish territorial strongholds, the violence continued to escalate in the region. With tensions high in Burundi, the nation was ripe for a coup when on July 26, 1996, the former President, Pierre Buyoya, was appointed as the interim President of a new four year transitional republic through a bloodless coup by the Burundian armed forces. During the initial three week period, political parties were banned, the National Assembly was dissolved, and the Constitution of 1992 and the 1994 Convention of Government were suspended. At the end of this temporary hiatus, both the National Assembly and political parties were reinstated with certain restrictions.
In 1998, a window for effective negotiations opened up as the Government initiated talks with the National Assembly. This set the precedent for a power sharing partnership, and on June 4, the Transitional Constitutional Act and the Transitional Political Platform was adopted. With a new set of government guidelines, realignment in political parties, and the initial good offices of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who was later succeeded by South African President Nelson Mandela, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was signed without a cease-fire on August 28, 2000. However, Hutu rebel groups, such as CNDD-FDD and FNL and three Tutsi parties did not signed the agreement, referencing their opposition for the presidential candidates, which perpetuated fighting. With further negotiations, the three remaining Tutsi parties signed the accord on September 19, 2000, beginning the process to implement peace.
In November of 2000, the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) was established and would form a foundation for overseeing the implementation of the Arusha Accords. The IMC was surpassed by President Buyoya, when he announced in April of 2001 that the Arusha agreement would be implemented and a new constitution and legislation on political parties would be introduced. Following these announcements, there were two unsuccessful coup attempts, demonstrating that there were continued unresolved tensions in the nation. Despite remaining unrest in the country, which called for assistance from the South African security forces, on November 1, 2001, Burundi established a fragile Transitional Government that shared power without a cease-fire. After the onslaught of the transitional government of Burundi (TGOB), there were several cease-fire agreements which are listed below. In October of 2003 the African Union established the African Union Mission in Burundi (AMIB), which was to set up the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process. This was replaced by the UN Mission in Burundi (ONUB) in June of 2004 and preceded the October 2004 commencement of the Arusha Agreement, which ended the period of the transitional government and called for national elections.
Ceasefire/Cessation of hostilities agreements:
• December 2, 2002: Joint Ceasefire agreement
• January 27, 2003: Joint Declaration of Agreement on the final cessation of hostilities.
• November 15, 2003: Global Ceasefire Agreement in Dar es Salaam, between the Burundi government and the then main rebel movement, the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Force pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD.)
• September 7, 2006: comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL)
On 3 June 2005, for the first time since the country’s independence, the people of Burundi were able to participate in elections for communal councillors. On 19 August 2005, CNDD-FDD (Nkurunziza) won 93 of the 129 communes and, Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of CNDD-FDD, was elected as President by a Joint Parliamentary Congress comprising members of the National Assembly and the Senate. On 26 August, the inauguration of Mr. Nkurunziza marked the formal conclusion of the transitional process in Burundi.
On 7 September 2005, at a summit of the Regional Peace Initiative for Burundi in Dar es Salaam, a comprehensive ceasefire agreement was endorsed by regional leaders and signed by President Pierre Nkurunziza, on behalf of the Government of Burundi, and by Agathon Rwasa, on behalf of FNL. The ceasefire, which entered into force on 10 September provides for a cessation of all hostilities, as well as the integration of FNL combatants into the national security forces or their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.