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Country Reports
BURUNDI, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
 
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BURUNDI

Key developments since May 2000: It seems certain that antipersonnel mines have continued to be used in the ongoing conflict in Burundi. There have been allegations of use by both government and rebel forces. Landmine Monitor has not been able to obtain conclusive evidence regarding which belligerents are responsible for mine use. The government appointed an interministerial commission to oversee and facilitate the Mine Ban Treaty ratification process.

Mine Ban Policy

Burundi signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 but has not yet ratified it. On 16 January 2001, former President of Mali Amani Toumani Toure held a press conference in Bujumbura to launch an advocacy campaign initiated by the “Agence de la Francophonie” in support of the elimination of landmines in the world. President Toure met with Burundi officials, including the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, and the commanders of the Army and all reiterated the fact that the process of ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty is following its normal course.[1] UNICEF Burundi has also been urging the government to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty.[2]

The government appointed an interministerial commission, presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to oversee and facilitate the ratification process.[3] In September 2000, at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Geneva, the Burundi delegation said ratification would occur soon.[4] In January 2001, in Bujumbura, authorities told Landmine Monitor that ratification is proceeding as expected.[5] One official said, “The only problem that prevails is the persistence of the war.”[6] In February 2001, at the Bamako Landmine Seminar, the Burundi delegation said that the ratification papers were prepared and would go to the National Assembly soon.[7] In May 2001, at the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva, the Burundi delegation said all preparations and documentation for ratification were complete, but that political instability and problems with the peace process were causing delays; hope was expressed for ratification by the time of the Third Meeting of States Parties in September 2001.[8]

Burundi attended the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva in September 2000. At the meeting, the delegation strongly denied the finding in Landmine Monitor Report 2000 that Burundian forces had likely laid antipersonnel mines on the border with Tanzania.

Burundi did not attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in December 2000, but did participate in the intersessional meetings in May 2001. Burundi also participated in the Bamako, Mali Seminar on Universalization and Implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty in Africa in February 2001. Burundi voted in favor of November 2000 UN General Assembly Resolution 55/33V supporting the Mine Ban Treaty. Burundi is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, but did attend the December 2000 Second Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in Geneva.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Burundi is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel mines. According to Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Chief of Operations at the Ministry of Defense, “The government of Burundi has never bought mines except for training, which is allowed by the international community. Even the mines captured from rebels are totally destroyed.”[9] While describing it as a “limited stock for training,”[10] he later told Landmine Monitor that the stockpile was “less than 15,000” antipersonnel mines and that all the mines were Belgian, and were purchased before 1974.[11] Col. Bujeje said that 172 antitank mines and 144 antipersonnel mines have been captured from rebels, and would be destroyed.[12] He said a definitive stockpile number could be provided at the Third Meeting of States Parties.[13]

The allegations that government forces have used antipersonnel mines, if true, would indicate that Burundi has an operational stockpile of antipersonnel mines, not just mines for training purposes.

Use

Landmine Monitor Report 2000 stated that it appeared likely that Burundian forces had been laying antipersonnel mines on its border with Tanzania at least since the beginning of 1999. This conclusion was based on information provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other UN officials, humanitarian aid workers, refugees, and press reports from the region.[14]

Drawing perhaps on the Landmine Monitor Report 2000, the US State Department said that in the year 2000, “Comprehensive and accurate information about landmines was hard to obtain; however, the armed forces apparently used landmines to prevent rebels from accessing government territory.  There were reports that the security forces mined the border with Tanzania in order to prevent rebels from crossing the border.”[15] 

The government of Burundi forcefully denied the allegations of use, blaming rebels. (See below).

In the current Landmine Monitor reporting period, since May 2000, it seems certain that antipersonnel mines have been used in the ongoing conflict in Burundi.[16] There have been continued allegations of use of antipersonnel mines by both government and rebel forces. Landmine Monitor has not been able to obtain conclusive evidence regarding which belligerents are responsible for mine use.

Allegations of mine use have come from humanitarian relief organizations, United Nations field officials, refugees and press reports from the region. The allegations include use of mines near the capital of Bujumbura, around the National airport, on the border with Tanzania, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A report in January 2001 cited allegations by a humanitarian aid organization that mines sown by the army are a threat to civilians. It said one of the areas involved was Tenga, 15 kilometers north of the capital. Sources in the report were quoted as saying, “More and more, mines are planted close to houses, so residents do not dare enter their own homes.”[17] In February 2001, a press report said, “Several witnesses say a large part of Tenga Sector (north of Bujumbura) is currently mined.”[18] In April 2001, following fighting on the outskirts of Bujumbura, UNICEF established an emergency mine awareness program for the displaced population.[19] After a mine incident near the capital in June 2001, a resident said, “Seven people have already been killed by mines in that area.... The population does not venture into the fields because of the fear of mines.”[20] These latter reports do not indicate who was responsible for the mine use.

Following the shooting of a Sabena Airlines plane in early December 2000, it was reported that the “zone around the airport also appeared to have been mined” by government forces.[21] Another report said that after rebels attacked the National Airport of Bujumbura on 1 January 2001, many landmine casualties were reported in its vicinity.[22]

In early April 2001, a press account said five civilians had fallen victim to landmines in the two previous weeks in rural areas of Burundi; it said, “As reported by the civil society, the civilians fell upon the devices while travelling along the roads that the government troops claim are used by the rebellion.”[23]

In the period between February and May 2001, new areas in the eastern part of Burundi close to the Tanzanian border, such as Ruyigi and Rutana, were reported as mined as the army and rebels engaged in heated combat. The government acknowledged the danger of mines in these areas, but insisted that the mines were laid only by the rebels.[24]

The Tanzania border with Burundi remains an active refugee transit zone for people from Burundi fleeing the eight-year civil war. Although there is no evidence that the Tanzanian side of the border is mined, mine victims from Burundi are found in Tanzania. There have been allegations of use of antipersonnel mines by both the Burundi army and rebels along the border between the two countries, especially in the Burundi region of Makamba. Survivors and victims of the turmoil have taken refuge in several camps inside northwest Tanzania. Tanzania has been accused of hosting Burundi rebels.[25]

In September 2000, Tanzanian authorities deployed landmine specialists in western and northwestern regions of the country near refugee camps to comb the areas “said to have thousands of landmines,” according to the Kigoma regional police commissioner. “However, the task is not a two-day or one week exercise. It will take time to come out with the findings because the area they are combing is vast and covered with heavy forest,” the Tanzanian police officer added.[26]

In October 2000, fighting intensified in the provinces of Cankuzo, Bururi and Gitega in Burundi, and Jesuit Refugee Service reported that “sources spoke of a reported increase in landmines and Burundian soldiers at the border to control movement in and out of Burundi.”[27]

Sources in Tanzania told Landmine Monitor that “short cuts” used by civilians to flee from Burundi have been mined while the main roads are not. Aid workers interviewed by Landmine Monitor believe that it is likely the Burundian army would mine the short cuts, as these are the routes they assume are used by the rebels. Mining the short cuts is also seen as an effort to keep civilians inside Burundi.[28]

A 13-year-old boy, who was rescued by aid workers at Manyovu after being tied to a post for four days, reported that he had been serving in the Burundi government army as a porter.[29] He described how the army operated and drew images depicting mines. He explained to the relief agency officials how they buried these (mines) on the ground. He could not remember, however, the exact points where they had buried these “objects” (as he referred to them).

Landmine Monitor has also received allegations that government forces have used antipersonnel mines to protect isolated military posts from rebel attacks, and to protect important economic infrastructure such as towers that convey electric power.[30]

As a result of the conflict in Burundi, landmines have been planted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Uvira region in Kivu, close to the Burundi border. The Uvira airport,[31] the Uvira-Baraka road,[32] Makobolo and the Ruzizi valley are reported to be mined.[33] More than 20 mine victims have been reported in the Uvira region, and most of the mine incidents took place in the beginning of 2001.[34] It is not known if Burundi rebels or Burundi government forces (or both) laid the mines, nor is it known when the mines were laid.

Government and military officials consistently deny laying mines. The Ministry of Defense states that no antipersonnel mines have ever been laid by the army.[35] In a 30 August 2000 response to Landmine Monitor’s earlier allegations, the government “energetically refuted” the allegations of army use of antipersonnel mines along the border of Tanzania, stating that opposition forces were using mines. The letter said that Burundi was deeply supportive of the Mine Ban Treaty.[36]

At the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva in September 2000, the Burundi delegation emphatically stated that the armed forces had not used mines, and that rebel use of mines was causing the problem in the country. Burundi invited an “observer mission” to clarify the situation.[37]

Subsequently, military authorities also denied laying mines, saying that it would be irresponsible and ridiculous to mine whole villages or the whole border between Burundi and Tanzania. “Not only it would be costly, but also it would constitute a public danger as nobody knows who is going to be the victim. Antipersonnel mines are weapons of the weak side which is not the case of the Burundian Army.”[38]

An official from the Ministry of Defense also said Burundi would welcome an international commission to investigate the landmine issue in Burundi, in order to establish the facts on mine use and to assess the magnitude of the problem.[39] He reiterated that the army does not use landmines, and only the rebels are responsible for planting landmines.

With respect to rebel use, Landmine Monitor has not been able to determine conclusively if rebel forces have been using antipersonnel mines, as alleged by the government. The first government allegation of mine use by the rebels that the Landmine Monitor is aware of came in the 30 August 2000 letter to Landmine Monitor denying use by the army. Since that time, the government has regularly accused rebels of laying antipersonnel mines.

In May 2001, Col. Bujeje told Landmine Monitor that the rebels primarily used booby-traps, but also used antipersonnel mines. He said as the conflict continued, there was increasing use of booby-traps, but less use of mines. He said the rebels had mines and booby-traps left over from Rwanda in 1994, and also claimed that rebel munitions came from the Congo.[40]

Landmine Monitor has not seen a denial or an admission of use of antipersonnel mines by opposition forces.

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

According to a 1998 UN Mine Action Service report, mines did not pose a major humanitarian and/or socio-economic problem in Burundi.[41] The Ministry of Defense states that “there are no mined areas that could be identified as such;” the government has no demining or awareness program because it considers the issue as “not being a big problem.”[42]

There are currently no coordinated mine clearance activities in Burundi, except for the military. There has been no assessment of the mine problem or estimates of what clearance would cost. The use of mines does not seem to be geographically widespread in Burundi. The number of people affected is still not known.

In April 2001, following fighting on the outskirts of Bujumbura, UNICEF established an emergency mine awareness program for the displaced population. UNICEF plans to build the technical capacity of the government to enable them to implement mine awareness programs in mine-affected areas. The focal point in the government will be the Department of Civil Protection. UNICEF will also help the government establish a national victim surveillance network. A central database will be established in Bujumbura.[43]

Landmine Casualties

The Deputy Director of the Military Hospital in Bujumbura, Dr. Venerand Barendegere, said that high rates of landmines casualties had been reported between 1995 and 1997, peaking in 1997.[44] After 1998, the number of casualties started to decline. According to the Ministry of Defense, up to 1998, casualty figures were as follows: 80 deaths among which 52 were military and 28 civilians; 187 seriously injured among which 92 were military and 95 civilians.[45] It was also noted, “Sometimes rebels fall into their own traps, but information about the numbers of casualties are not at our disposal.”[46] Last year, Dr. Barendegere gave much higher figures: 791 deaths since 1993, and 364 dead and injured from 1996-1998.[47]

In December 2000, an international aid worker reported that there were approximately two mine victims each month along the Tanzanian border and that there are mines around the refugee camps.[48]

The US State Department’s report on human rights in Burundi for 2000 says, “An international organization received reports of 9 antipersonnel landmine incidents in the first 7 months of the year, a decrease from the 47 incidents reported during the previous 12 months. The decline in reported incidents may be due in part to self-imposed limitations on the movement of U.N. personnel during the year. Other sources reported that in mid-April a landmine that exploded on a footpath on the northeastern edge of the capital killed two women and three children.”[49]

In May 2001, a Burundi representative related three recent incidents involving rebel use of booby-traps and mines: 28 April 2001 in Nyabunyegeri, two military killed and one injured by booby-traps; 2 May in Gihanga, three civilians injured by antipersonnel mines; 4 May 2001 in Buheme, near the Tanzanian border, three military injured by booby-traps.[50]

Survivor Assistance

In December 2000, the National Army launched a program to train 140 handicapped commissioned officers and soldiers, victims of the war, in fields like computer skills, electricity, masonry, and carpentry.[51] Many of these soldiers are said to have fallen victim to rebel-planted landmines.

The National Army has also provided prostheses to amputated military through an agreement for cooperation between the National Social Security Institute affiliated with the military, and some hospitals in South Africa.[52] This service is only available to the military, not civilians.

According to Dr. Barendegere, victim assistance takes place in the nearest health centers, while the Military Hospital provides specialized trauma care, including to victims of landmines. About 70 percent of surgical admissions are wounded, out of which more than 80 percent are war wounded. Dr. Barendegere told Landmine Monitor that a survey of the location of incidents and identification of types of incidents could be carried out, but there is a lack of funds.[53]

Handicap International (Belgium) has a program to assist disabled people in Burundi. The program occasionally assists mine victims, although the exact number is not known. HI-B supports three orthopedic workshops in Bujumbura, Gitega, and Muyinga. The centers produce about 108 prostheses a year, in both polypropylene, and leather and wood. However, it is difficult for patients to reach the centers because of lack of transport. MSF reports patients in need of assistance to HI-B.[54]

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[1] “Le Renouveau du Burundi,” no. 5596, 22-23 January 2001, p. 2.
[2] Interview with Liliane Bigayimpunzi, UNICEF Officer in charge of Mine Awareness, Bujumbura, 10 April 2001.
[3] Interview with Mr. Benoit Bihamiriza, Director of Treaties, Legal and Judicial Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bujumbura, 22 January 2001. Members of the commission are: The Minister of Foreign Affairs (President of the commission); the Minister of Communication and speaker of the Government, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Human Rights and Relations with the National Assembly, and the Minister of Justice.
[4] “Declaration of the Delegation of Burundi to the Second Meeting of States Parties,” Permanent Mission of the Republic of Burundi to the United Nations, Geneva, 12 September 2000.
[5] Interview with Mr. Benoit Bihamiriza, Director of Treaties, Legal and Judicial Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bujumbura 22 January 2001.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bugege and Amb. Nicomede Nduhirubusa, at the Bamako Seminar on Landmines, Bamako, Mali, 15-16 February 2001.
[8] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Chief of Operations, Ministry of Defense, at the Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva, 8 May 2001.
[9] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Chief of Operations, Ministry of Defense, at the General Headquarters of the Forces Armees Burundaises, Bujumbura, 12 January 2001.
[10] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, 12 January 2001.
[11] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bugege and Amb. Nicomede Nduhirubusa, at the Bamako Seminar on Landmines, Bamako, Mali, 15-16 February 2001. Another official and an individual who requested anonymity said that the armed forces started to stockpile antipersonnel mines after 1976. Interview, December 2000.
[12] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, 12 January 2001.
[13] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva, 8 May 2001.
[14] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 153-155.
[15] US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Burundi, February 2001.
[16] The eight-year-old conflict between the Hutu and Tutsis in Burundi has left hundreds of thousands dead and internally displaced. Hutu rebels have intensified their attacks in the countryside and also in the capital, especially after the failed Arusha peace accord. Two main rebel movements -- Forces for Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Forces (FNL) -- did not take part in the Arusha peace process, brokered by former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
[17] “Burundi: Landmine threat to civilians reported,” UN IRIN, 19 January 2001.
[18] “Burundi: Land mines killing people in area north of capital Bujumbura,” Asania, Burundi, 13 February 2001.
[19] “UN Portfolio of Mine-Related Projects: Burundi,” April 2001, p. 72.
[20] “Woman killed, son injured, by landmine in Burundi,” Agence France Presse, Bujumbura, 24 June 2001.
[21] “Burundi: Landmine threat to civilians reported,” UN IRIN, 19 January 2001.
[22] Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l’homme -Iteka, Des mines antipersonnelles à Gatumba et Rukaramu, nouvelle du 16 Fevrier 2001.
[23] “Burundi: Civilians reportedly maimed by government landmines,” BBC Monitoring, on Misna News Agency website, Rome, (in English), 5 April 2001.
[24] Interviews with Burundi soldiers and mine victims at the military hospitals during this period.
[25] “Everyone knows Burundi Rebels are based in Tanzania,” Interview with Burundi’s President Pierre Buyoya, East African, 30 April-6 May 2001.
[26] IRIN bulletin of 21 September 2000, quoting The Guardian newspaper, Tanzania.
[27] JRS Dispatches No. 80, "Burundi/Tanzania: Burundians Flee Fighting," Refugee news briefings, 16 October 2000.
[28] Landmine Monitor/Tanzania interview with UN field officials working along Tanzania-Burundi border, 13 February 2001.
[29] Anecdotal account given to Landmine Monitor/Tanzania by aid workers who received the boy, February 2001. It was unclear whether the mines were antipersonnel or antitank mines.
[30] Use of mines by the army for these purposes in the past was reported by Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgium. MSF-Belgique, “Récapitulatif des incidents par mines au Burundi, Periode 1996-1998,” p. 1.
[31] Interviews, Eastern DRC, April 2001.
[32] In its news summary of Wednesday 21 March 2001, BBC reported, “In Eastern DRC, the FDD (Forces pour la Défense de la Democratie) laid antitank mines on Uvira-Baraka road. Banyamulenge militia recently fell victim to antipersonnel mines around Baraka.”
[33] See www.heritiers.org/landmine.html.
[34] See www.heritiers.org/landmine.html.
[35] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, 12 January 2001.
[36] Letter to Landmine Monitor (Stephen D. Goose, Human Rights Watch) from Ambassador Thomas Ndikumana, Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Washington, DC, 30 August 2000.
[37] “Declaration of the Delegation of Burundi to the Second Meeting of States Parties,” Permanent Mission of the Republic of Burundi to the United Nations, Geneva, 12 September 2000. The government of Belgium, which serves as co-chair of the Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee on General Status and Operation of the Convention, has taken the lead in following up on the invitation for an observer mission. However, circumstances in the country have made such a mission difficult to arrange.
[38] UN IRIN-CEA, Update 1,096 for the Great Lakes, 19 January 2001; also, interview with Major Haziyo Serges, Director of the Minister of Defense’s cabinet, Bujumbura, 12 January 2001.
[39] Interview with Major Haziyo Serges, Director of the Minister of Defense’s cabinet, Bujumbura, 12 January 2001.
[40] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Chief of Operations, Ministry of Defense, at the Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee Meeting, Geneva, 8 May 2001.
[41] UN IRIN-CEA, Update 1,096 for the Great Lakes, 19 January 2001.
[42] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Bujumbura, 16 January 2001.
[43] “UN Portfolio of Mine-Related Projects: Burundi,” April 2001, p. 72. Also, information supplied by Liliane Bigayimpunzi, UNICEF Officer in charge of Mine Awareness program, Bujumbura, 10 April 2001. Landmine Monitor participated in a training session organized for the local people in Kisana on 10 April 2001.
[44] Interview with Colonel (Dr.) Venerand Barendegere, Deputy Director, Military Hospital, Bujumbura, 3 February 2001.
[45] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, 16 January 2001.
[46] Ibid.
[47] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 155-156, citing Statement from Dr. Venerand, Ministry of National Defense, Military Hospital of Kamenge, 3 May 2000.
[48] Confidential interview, 22 December 2000.
[49] US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Human Rights Report 2000, February 2001.
[50] Interview with Colonel Juvénal Bujeje, Chief of Operations, Ministry of Defense, at the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional Standing Committee meeting, Geneva, 8 May 2001.
[51] Interview with Major Haziyo, Bujumbura 12 January 2001.
[52] Ibid.
[53] Interview with Dr. Barendegere, 3 February 2001.
[54] Email from Barbara Jamar, Program Director, Handicap International - Burundi, 24 July 2001.