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Country Reports
BURUNDI, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Based on information provided by the UNHCR and others, it appears likely that Burundi has been laying antipersonnel mines on its border with Tanzania.

Mine Ban Policy

Burundi signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997, but has not yet ratified. In a March 2000 written response to Landmine Monitor’s request for updated information, Burundi’s Ambassador to Belgium, Hon. Jonas Niyungeko stated that the issue is currently being “studied” by the Parliament as a move towards ratification.[1]

Burundi participated in the First Meeting of States Parties in Maputo in May 1999 with a delegation led by Ambassador S.E. Nicodeme Nduhirubusa of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Cooperation. Burundi is not known to have made any official statements regarding a mine ban in 1999 or 2000. Burundi has not participated in any of intersessional meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Burundi sponsored UN General Assembly resolution 54/54B which urged rapid ratification and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, but it was absent during the vote in December 1999.

Burundi is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons nor is it a member of the Conference on Disarmament.

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

There is no evidence that Burundi has ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines and officials claim that the mines in Burundi have been brought in by rebels or foreign armies.[2] Members of the Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR) allegedly escaped into Burundi with 40,000 antipersonnel mines and 2,000 antitank mines when they fled from the now ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front in April and May 1994.[3]

In July 1998, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official then in charge of landmine policy, Ambassador Jaques Hakizimana, told an UNMAS assessment mission that implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty should not be a problem, since the government of Burundi has “never produced, imported, used or stockpiled” antipersonnel mines.[4] But the Minister of Defense, Col. Alfred Nkurunziza, told UNMAS that “limited” stocks are kept for training purposes.[5] New evidence that government forces have likely laid mines at the borders would indicate that Burundi has a significant operational stockpile of AP mines.


In July 1998, the Minister of Defense told the UNMAS assessment mission that no mines had ever been laid by the army.[6] It now appears that Burundi’s armed forces have been laying antipersonnel mines on the border with Tanzania at least since the beginning of 1999. This assessment is based on statements made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (responding to testimony of refugees), as well as on interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch with UN officials and humanitarian workers, and on press reports from the region. The Burundi military appears to be using mines both to prevent thousands of Burundi citizens from fleeing the civil war into Tanzania, as well as to control cross-border attacks and prevent infiltration by Hutu rebel forces based in Tanzania.

In January 1999, a UN Security Officer in Bujumbura told Human Rights Watch that new landmines had been planted along infiltration routes and that he believed the mines were planted by government soldiers.[7] In May 1999, a local aid worker in the Musagara receiving station on the border told Human Rights Watch that most of the wounded refugees who came across the border were mine victims and that there had been an increase in victims since September 1998.[8] A local aid worker interviewed in Kigoma reported the use of landmines near the Kibuye entry point into Tanzania and told Human Rights Watch that three refugees had died and three were injured by mines. He believed the mines were laid recently as he had not heard of any such injuries before January 1999.[9] Another local aid worker in Kigoma stated that there were “a good number of landmine wounds among Burundian refugees” and indicated that refugees crossing the border had stepped on landmines.[10] He also said that some Tanzanians had stepped on mines and were sent to the Kiberezi reception center for treatment.

In February 2000, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated, “The refugees have reported the presence of landmines as part of the reason why the numbers [of refugees] have dwindled.”[11]

In March 2000, the UNHCR stated that it had protested to Burundi authorities about its mining of the border with Tanzania. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said that “the main entry points to Tanzania have been heavily mined,” preventing refugees from fleeing fighting between government forces and rebels. He also said that the government maintained the landmines were a necessary defense against the rebels.[12] The mining of the border was reported by a number of newspapers.[13]

In April 2000, the UNHRC released a statement saying, “UNHCR is concerned at refugee accounts of use of mines as well as reports of civilians being caught between rebel forces and recent military reprisals in eastern Ruyigi and Makamba provinces.” The UNHCR again noted the decline in the refugee flow, and said that refugees arriving in Tanzania from Burundi cited landmines, military activity near the border, and rising rivers as reasons for the drop-off.[14]

In May 2000, the UNHRC said that according to the latest arrivals, there is “mining by the governmental army of routes to Tanzania.”[15]

It seems clear that mines have been used, and while Landmine Monitor does not have direct, incontrovertible evidence that Burundi armed forces are responsible, that is the conclusion drawn from the available evidence. There have been no allegations that other parties, such as the Hutu rebels or the Tanzanian government, might have laid the mines that are claiming new victims, and there is no evident reason why those parties would use mines in that fashion.

Landmine Monitor has asked Burundi for official comment on allegations of use of antipersonnel mines, but had not received an answer as of the end of July 2000.

Though the Mine Ban Treaty has not entered into force for Burundi, the use of mines by a signatory can be judged a breach of its international obligations. Under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, “A state is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when...it has signed the treaty....” Clearly, new use of mines defeats the object and purpose of the treaty.

Landmine Problem

According to the Minister of Defense, Col. Alfred Nkurunziza, the first mine accidents reported in Burundi occurred in 1993.[16] Cibitoke was the first province to be affected by mine use, but the problem subsequently spread to Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Makamba.[17] This last province is thought to be the worst affected, due to its proximity to rebel groups operating out of Tanzania.[18] Landmines buried in Burundi are of Egyptian, Italian, South African, Russian and Chinese origin.[19]

There have been no in-depth assessments or surveys of Burundi’s landmine problem since the 1998 assessment mission. Dr. Barendegere Venerand of the Kamenge Military Hospital told Landmine Monitor that “the location of mined areas is not yet well known in Burundi but epidemiologic surveillance is being conducted now in the Ministry of Health.”[20]

Mine Action

The United Nations in Burundi conducts mine awareness for all UN staff in the country. In 1998, UNMAS reported that according to the Ministry of Defense, mine awareness training was being conducted for both the military and civilian populations in mine-affected areas.[21] No updated information was available on any mine awareness education programs taking place in Burundi. There is currently no humanitarian mine clearance underway in Burundi.

Landmine Casualties

In a detailed response to Landmine Monitor, Dr. Venerand indicated that the first cases of AP mine victims appeared in 1995. Ten amputations were carried at the hospital in 1996 and ninety-six in 1997. The number of recent landmine casualties is not known, but 316 incidents have been recorded since 1993 which, resulted in 791 deaths, mostly civilians. The majority of the victims have come from Cibitoke, Bubanza, rural Bujumbura, Bururi and Makamba.[22] According to UN figures, between 1996 and 1998 there were 112 mine incidents, resulting in 364 casualties, about half of which were deaths. Seventy percent were antitank mine incidents.[23]

Survivor Assistance

According to Dr. Venerand, victim assistance takes place in the nearest health centers, while Kamenge Military Hospital provides “specialised services in trauma.” The hospital receives “lots of cases” of mine victims. About 70 percent of admissions in surgery are wounded out of which more than 80 percent are war wounded. The hospital is preparing a survey of the “geographic location of incidents, type of activities at the moment of incident, morbidity and mortality.”[24] On 25 March 2000 the Ministry of Reinstallation organized a day of reflection on the re-organization of medical assistance, with the aim to reduce cost of health care for victims of the conflict.[25]

Handicap International (HI) is providing training in physiotherapy and orthopedics. It is also supporting a number of income-generating projects for handicapped people. Its main activities are concentrated in Gitega where the national orthopedics center is located (which has a production capacity of five prostheses per month). HI also supports other small centers in Makamba, Kirundo, Muyinga, and Bujumbura which can produce only simple appliances.


[1] Letter from Jonas Niyungeko, Burundi Ambassador to Belgium, to Landmine Monitor, 2 March 2000.
[2] Interview, Amb. Jonathas Niyungeko, Brussels, 12 February 1999.
[3] Pierre Hublet, “Mission Report in Burundi from the 23rd January to the 1st February 1999,” Handicap International Belgique, 1998, p. 3-4.
[4] United Nations Mine Action Service, Joint Assessment Mission Report, 27 August 1998, p. 10.
[5] Ibid., pp. 6, 10.
[6] Ibid., p. 6.
[7] Human Rights Watch interview with UN Security Officer, Bujumbura, 15 January 1999.
[8] Human Rights Watch interview with local aid worker in Musagara, 15 May 1999.
[9] Human Rights Watch interview with local aid worker in Kigoma, 15 May 1999.
[10] Human Rights Watch interview with local aid worker in Kigoma, 14 May 1999.
[11] “Burundi Refugee flow slows, landmines pose threat,” Reuters, 17 February 2000, reported in Refugees Daily, 17 February 2000. The article is quoting Vincent Parker, UNHRC spokesperson, in Tanzania. The number of refugees crossing the border into Tanzania peaked in January 2000 at 23,000, but had dropped to 1,126 by May 2000. UNHCR Press Briefing Note, 4 May 2000; Refugees Daily, “Thousands Displaced but Few Leaving,” 5 May 2000.
[12] “UN says Mines Cause big drop in Refugees to Tanzania,” Associated Press, 24 March 2000, reported in Refugees Daily, 24 March 2000. See also, UNHCR Press Briefing Note, “Burundi/Tanzania: Border Area Mined,” 24 March 2000.
[13] See for example, “Landmines In Use On Burundi-Tanzania Border?” Guardian (Dar es Salaam) 28 March 2000, reported by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 28 March 2000; and Tanzania Heko Newspaper, 13-19 April 2000, interview with Leone Ndabagaye, Head of Foreign Unit.
[14] UNHCR Press Briefing Note, “Tanzania: UNHCR concern at mine accounts,” 28 April 2000. See also, “Mines, fighting, rivers reduce Burundian flight to Tanzania,” Agence France Press, 4 May 2000; and “Number of Refugees to Tanzania Dwindling,” IRIN-CEA Weekly Roundup, 5 May 2000.
[15] UNHCR Country Updates, Africa Fact Sheet, May 2000, on UNHCR web site, http://www.unhcr.ch/news/cupdates/0005afri.htm
[16] Pierre Hublet, “Mission Report in Burundi from the 23rd January to the 1st February 1999,” Handicap International Belgique, 1998, p. 3-4.
[17] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report, 27 August 1998, p. 6.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Statement faxed to Landmine Monitor from Dr. Barendegere Venerand, Ministry of National Defense, Military Hospital of Kamenge, 3 May 2000.
[21] UNMAS, Mission Report, p. 9.
[22] Statement from Dr. Venerand, Ministry of National Defense, Military Hospital of Kamenge, 3 May 2000.
[23] Cited in, Statement from Dr. Venerand, Ministry of National Defense, Military Hospital of Kamenge, 3 May 2000.
[24] Ibid.
[25] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Humanitarian Operations in Burundi Bulletin, 16-31 March 1999.