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Country Reports
BURUNDI, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Burundi signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 but has not yet ratified, due largely to a domestic atmosphere of political instability which included suspension of the National Assembly from August 1996 to August 1998. According to Burundi’s Ambassador to Belgium, Jonathas Niyungeko, recent improvements in the political situation may now allow the authorities to ratify, implement and create a specific framework to deal with the landmine issue.[1]

Burundi officials state that Burundi has not used, produced, exported, or stockpiled antipersonnel mines, though no unilateral prohibitions are in place. Burundi endorsed the Brussels Declaration but apart from attending the Bonn preparatory meeting, Burundi did not participate in meetings of the Ottawa Process. It voted in favor of the 1996 and 1998 UN General Assembly resolutions on landmines but was absent from the 1997 vote. Burundi also agreed to the Plan of Action from the May 1997 OAU Conference on Landmines and the June 1997 OAU resolution on landmines.[2] According to Niyungeko domestic legislation forbids the transfer through Burundi of weapons including landmines.[3]

There is considerable awareness among the population regarding landmine issues, including among opposition representatives. On 21 February 1996, the opposition Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD) gathered in Bukavu (former Zaire), expressed its high concern about the AP mine use in the Bubanza region.[4]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

There is no evidence that Burundi has ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines. Officials claim that the mines in Burundi have been brought in by rebels or foreign armies. One official has said, “It is highly possible that among the Rwandan antipersonnel mines introduced in Burundi, some have been sent to other countries. It seems that some of the antipersonnel mines are sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.”[5]

According to the government, Burundi has never stockpiled antipersonnel mines.[6] At the same time, however, officials acknowledge that they sometimes keep mines captured from rebels, and the Ministry of Defense has said that limited stocks are kept for training purposes.[7] This raises questions as to whether Burundi may have an operational stockpile of AP mines.

At the end of 1996, thousands of Burundian rebels crossed Lake Tanganyika and the Tanzanian and Zairian borders to conduct raids in Burundi. What were described as captured rebel munitions stocks were presented to Human Rights Watch by the Burundian army, including six Egyptian AP mines, four antitank mines, Chinese hand grenades of different makes, grenade launchers, electrical detonators, explosives, TNT, and more than fifty anti-tank rockets.[8] Officially, the only landmines stockpiles in Burundi are held by rebels, but an official said that whenever these are discovered they are destroyed “or the Army keeps them.”[9]


The Ministry of Defense states that no mines have ever been laid by the army,[10] but rebels have used them regularly. Before 1996, there was believed to be no landmine problem in Burundi.[11] But according to the Minister of Defense, Col. Alfred Nkurunziza, the first mine accidents reported in Burundi occurred in 1993.[12] Members of the former Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR) allegedly carried with them 40,000 antipersonnel mines and 2,000 antitank mines when they fled the advance of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in April-May 1994.[13]

Cibitoke was the first province to be affected by mine use, but the problem subsequently spread to Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Makamba. This last province is though to be the worst affected, due to its proximity to rebel groups operating out of Tanzania.[14] Since 1993, 172 AT mines and 144 AP mines have been reported found in Burundi, either by accident or through army detection operations.[15] While AP mines reportedly continue to be found regularly, no AT mines have been found or reported since May 1998.[16]

Between November 1996 and July 1998, roughly fifty AT mine and ten AP mine incidents were reported to the United Nations “Security Cell,” in Burundi, including more than 12 in the capital Bujumbura.[17] Until early 1997, most incidents occurred on access roads to the capital but since then, most incidents have occurred in the provinces, especially Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza.[18] Unconfirmed information indicates widespread mine use along the border with Tanzania, especially towards the south-east.[19] According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-Belgium, AP mine use has become quite frequent to protect isolated military posts from rebel attacks at night and rebels also use AP mines to protect retreat routes.[20]

Political-ethnic conflict continues in Burundi in the aftermath of Pierre Buyoya’s coup of 1996 and Burundi’s involvement in the wider Hutu-Tutsi conflict in the Great Lakes region. Several outbursts of violence has been recorded since December 1998, including landmine incidents. Although Burundi has managed to avoid being completely drawn into the wider crisis centered upon the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the local struggle between Buyoya’s government (locally viewed as pro-Tutsi) and Hutu extremists in the various militia on and outside the country’s border, reflects the lines drawn in Rwanda and DRC since 1994. Burundian Hutu rebels are thought to have developed close links with DRC head of state Laurent Kabila’s Forces armées congolaises (FAC). Conversely, anonymous local sources state that Burundian armed forces have been fighting alongside Rassemblement congolaise pour la démocratie (RCD) forces opposing Kabila’s government.[21]

Landmine Problem

According to a recent assessment by the UN Mine Action Service, "the scope of the landmine problem does not appear to justify the establishing of a specific civilian clearance authority at this stage. Nor does it justify the implementation of specific victim assistance projects."[22] Still, Burundi is significantly affected by landmines. But use of mines does not seem to be geographically widespread. No in-depth country-level survey or assessment of the situation has been made to date. However, areas that were and still are conflict-free are believed to be mine-free zones.[23] There is no precise number of people affected. Burundi’s landmines are of Egyptian, Italian, South African, Russian and Chinese origin, with an increasing number of plastic AP mines.[24]

There is no specialist government department and no funding for mine clearance, victim assistance, mine awareness or training.[25] The landmine issue is a low priority compared with other questions and there seems to be little political will to finance activities on mine clearance, victim assistance, mine awareness and training.

Mine Awareness and Clearance

The United Nations in Burundi continues to conduct, co-ordinate and monitor a mine awareness-training program for all UN staff in the country. According to the Ministry of Defence, mine awareness training is also being conducted for both the military and civilian populations in mine-affected areas.[26] Mine awareness materials have been distributed in Bujumbura, although no mines detected in the last year in the capital.[27] There are currently no coordinated mine clearance and training activities in Burundi. No evaluations exist of how much mine localization and clearance would cost.

Landmine Casualties

While there is a paucity of data on landmine casualties, some sources give an indication of the problem. From 1 October 1996 to 10 April 1997 the UN Security Cell in reported twenty-three “confirmed” mine incidents and ten “unconfirmed” incidents.[28] MSF-Belgium recorded 112 mine incidents between 1996 and 1998, 61 percent of which occurred in 1997.[29] During this period, there were 364 mine victims (48% wounded, 52 % dead) and forty percent were civilian.[30] Three-quarters of logged incidents were due to AT mines.[31] These figures, while helpful, probably do not fully reflect the scale of the problem in the border areas with Tanzania.

Landmine Survivor Assistance

Burundi’s health care system has deterioated since 1993, largely due to the imposition of sanctions and while exemptions were granted for health products in April 1998, availability of basic medicines and health supplies has not returned to pre-sanction levels.[32] There are two main civilians hospitals in the capitol where mine victims can be treated and onemilitary hospital.[33] Through a bilateral agreement, the Government of South Africa also treats victims with important trama who cannot be treated in Burundi and has also provided prostheses, a total of 167 as of August 1998.[34]

Handicap International (HI) has set up a coordination center in Bujumbura and currently operates in the provinces of Gitega, Kirundo, Muyinga and Bujumbura.[35] In Gitega, Kanynya, Muyinga and Bujumbura, HI provides support for mine victims and the wider population through technical training and material assistance. A HI income-generating project program has been set up. About 15 HI micro-projects have been implemented. HI is mainly working in partnership with the Minister of Social Action, and hopes to strengthen its national co-ordination this year, to gain official government recognition.

During 1998, MSF-Belgium provides surgical services in Ngozi, Ruyigi and Karusi Provinces, and in Bujumbura Municipality. In addition, MSF has set up emergency sections in Bujumbura Province and in Bururi. MSF also provides drugs, medical devices and materials, and expert staff support.


[1]In August 1998 moderate opposition parties joined a coalition government. LM Researcher interview with His Excellency, Jonathan Niyungeko. Ambassador of Burundi in Belgium, Brussels, 12 February 1999.

[2]CM/Dec. 363 (LXVI) “Rapport du Secrétaire Général sur la question des Mines anti-personnel et les efforts fais au niveau international pour parvenir à une interdiction totale” Doc. CM/2009 (LXVI), OAU Summit, Harare, June 1997.

[3]Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[4] “Sur les Mines Antipersonnel”, African Topics, Issue 17, April-May 1997, p.19.

[5] Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[6] UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 10.

[7]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 6.

[8] “The balance of forces”, Africa Confidential, Vol. 37, n° 22, 1 November 1996, p.3. in “Les rapports du GRIP”op.cit p. 22.

[9]Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[10]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 6.

[11]See U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1993), p. 63; and U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1994), p. 15.

[12]Pierre Hublet, “Mission Report in Burundi from the 23rd January to the 1st February 1999”, Handicap International Belgique, 1998, p. 3-4.





[17]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 1.

[18]Hublet, Mission Report, p. 7.

[19]Hublet, Mission Report, p. 6-7.

[20]Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgique, Récapitulatif des incidents par mines au Burundi, Période 1996-1998, p. 1.

[21]Pierre HUBLET, “Mission Report in Burundi from the 23rd January to the 1st February 1999”, Handicap International Belgique, 1998, p. 3.

[22]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 12.

[23]Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[24]United Nations Mine Action Service, Joint Assessment Mission Report, 27 August 1998, p. 6.

[25] Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[26]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 9.

[27]Interview, Jonathas Niyungeko, 12 February 1999.

[28]United Nations, Burundi, 6 April 1997.

[29]Médecins, Sans Frontières-Belgique, Récapitulatif des incidents par mines au Burundi, Période 1996-1998, p 1.



[32]UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 9.



[35]Handicap International-Belgium, “Assistance aux victimes au Burundi” Plan d’action 1998-1999, 4 pp.