Personal tools



Ethnic violence between Tutsi (14 percent of the population)
and Hutu (85 percent) erupted on October 21, when a coup
attempt by elements of the Tutsi-dominated military disrupted
the effort, begun by former President Major Pierre Buyoya, to
move to an open multiparty political system. In the failed
coup attempt, soldiers killed the first democratically elected
President, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, who had defeated Buyoya in
presidential elections on June 1. The assassination of
President Ndadaye initiated a vicious cycle of ethnic killings
and led to a massive outflow of refugees.

At year's end, the number of Burundi refugees (mainly Hutu)
outside the country was estimated at nearly 600,000, and the
number of displaced within the country was estimated at over
500,000. The refugees faced life-threatening conditions in
countries of asylum, notably in Rwanda, where the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported
extremely high death rates due to disease and malnutrition.

Burundi authorities, religious institutions, and humanitarian
assistance organizations agree it is too soon to make credible
estimates of the numbers killed during the ethnic violence.
Mortality figures will remain uncertain until enough witnesses
return to establish the fate of others and until the
countryside is sufficiently stabilized to permit investigation
of suspected burial sites.

Government operations were slowly recovering at year's end.
The Prime Minister and most of the ministers had resumed work
in their offices, and many made assessment trips and public
appearances in the interior. Several ministers, particularly
those who had received specific death threats, returned at
night to the guarded protection of a secluded hotel.

In contrast, at the beginning of the year the outlook for
political reform had looked promising. Following adoption of a
new Constitution in 1992, President Buyoya took a series of
steps to ensure free and fair presidential and parliamentary
elections. These measures included developing a new Electoral
Code and inviting more than 600 international and domestic
election observers, who subsequently certified the validity of
the outcomes. In the presidential and legislative campaigns,
Buyoya was supported by his party, the former sole ruling
party, the National Party for Unity and Progress (UPRONA) and
Ndadaye by his party, the Front for Democracy in Burundi
(FRODEBU), with smaller parties generally allying themselves
with UPRONA or FRODEBU based on their ethnic ties. President
Ndadaye was sworn into office in an exemplary change of power
on July 10; and the National Assembly was sworn in shortly
thereafter and held its initial session on July 19. President
Ndadaye appointed 9 Tutsis to his 23-member Cabinet.

In his 100 days in office, Ndadaye cautiously began discussing
reform of the 18,000 member Tutsi-dominated security forces,
consisting of the military (army and gendarmerie), the police,
and the Surete; to increase Hutu representation in many other
institutions, including the judiciary and the civil service;
and to encourage the return of thousands of Hutu refugees. A
weak coup attempt on July 3, shortly before Ndadaye's
inauguration, quickly dissolved after failing to gather support
among the military. However, on October 21, soldiers from the
Tutsi-dominated military stormed the presidential palace and
attempted to seize power. President Ndadaye was taken prisoner
and brutally slain. The President and Vice President of the
National Assembly, the Minister of Territorial Administration,
and the head of the Center for Documentation (Intelligence)
were also killed in the coup attempt, along with the wife of
the Foreign Minister and a family friend. Some government
ministers initially accused the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant
Colonel Jean Bikomagu, of backing the coup attempt, but he
denied involvement, as did other senior officers. In an
October 31 press conference, the Prime Minister gave Bikomagu a
qualified vote of confidence.

The U.N. Security Council issued a Presidential statement
condemning the coup attempt and the murder of President Ndadaye
and other officials and stressed the importance of bringing
those responsible to justice. The Government and the military
arrested several accused plotters, but others were still at
large at year's end. A national commission of inquiry was
named but had not yet begun its work. The Government requested
the establishment of an international commission of inquiry, a
proposal broadly supported by both Hutus and Tutsis.

At year's end, relations between the military and the
Government remained tenuous. The Government remained cautious
toward the military, though dialog was improving slowly. Most
units remained in their barracks, but there were still
occasional reports of violence by some military elements.

Landlocked Burundi is extremely poor and densely populated.
Over four-fifths of the working population is engaged in
subsistence agriculture, working small privately owned plots.
The small monetary economy is based largely on the exports of
coffee and tea, with few other cash crops. The October coup
attempt and ethnic killing that followed caused massive
dislocations which severely disrupted both the monetary and
subsistence economies.

Despite the progress on political reform made through October,
members of both Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups committed serious
human rights abuses during and following the coup attempt.
Elements of the Tutsi-dominated military initiated the
attempted coup and murdered President Ndadaye and others,
unleashing unrestrained ethnic violence. Both Tutsi and Hutu
engaged in massive revenge killings of civilians. Rogue
elements of the military continued to operate in some parts of
the country at year's end. For example, in November civilians,
reportedly aided by soldiers, killed the governor of Bubanza.
Prior to that, some uncontrolled military elements had engaged
in killing in the northern and central provinces of Gitega,
Muramvya, Karuzi, Ruyigi, and Kirundo.

There were human rights abuses committed prior to the
changeover in Government, many relating to the aftermath of the
ethnic violence in November 1991. For example, there were
vigilante-style killings resulting in the deaths of eight
persons in March. The details of interethnic killings remained
unclear but reportedly resulted from rivalry between FRODEBU
and UPRONA followers in the province of Bubanza during the
heated political campaign. Hutu residents took the law into
their own hands when local officials refused to pursue suspects
who had staged harassment raids on their homes. There were
also examples of unfair trials, mainly involving Hutu
defendants, stemming from the 1991 violence. Women continued
to experience extensive societal and legal discrimination, and,
with their children, suffered many of the casualties in the
latest violence.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The Governments of President Buyoya and President Ndadaye did
not engage in political or other extrajudicial killings.
However, the attempted coup against the democratically elected
Government and assassination of President Ndadaye triggered
interethnic violence and killing on a broad scale throughout
the country (see Section 1.g.). By the end of the year, the
Government and the military had arrested about nine military
enlisted men and officers implicated in the coup plot of
October 21. Several others were believed at large in Burundi
and abroad. Investigations into the coup attempt by the
Government and the military were continuing at year's end.

There were early warning signs of extrajudicial killings. For
example, in March a political party official reported that,
following unexplained nighttime raids on Hutu houses, local
Hutu residents in Bubanza province killed two unidentified
persons who had allegedly harassed residents. Apparently, the
vigilante-style killings took place after a local administrator
refused to take the persons into custody, telling the crowd to
turn them over to the gendarmes. Subsequently, local Hutu
residents killed six additional persons in the southern portion
of Bubanza. The reported refusal to act by the local
administrator contributed to heated rhetoric by both UPRONA and
FRODEBU. The specifics of these allegedly politically
motivated killings had not been determined by the time of the
October military coup attempt.

b. Disappearance

There were hundreds of persons reported missing in the violence
and dislocations, but the continued instability prevailing at
year's end precluded any formal tracing or accounting of the
missing or dead.

Significant numbers of Hutus disappeared before, during, and
after the November 1991 violence. Some may have been (as the
Government claimed) among the 40,000 Burundians who fled from
the country to Rwanda or Zaire as a result of the violence.
There were, however, documented cases in which persons
disappeared after having been seen being detained by, or in the
custody of, the security forces and in which there was no
available record of their detention or release. While the
Government had announced that it intended to establish a
commission of inquiry to determine the causes of the violence
and deaths resulting from the events of November 1991, no
commission was formed, and no reports were issued prior to the
advent of the Ndadaye administration.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment

These practices are expressly forbidden under the 1992
Constitution. During the October violence, civilians of
opposing ethnic groups committed the most vicious examples of
cruel and inhuman treatment. Both Hutu and Tutsi civilians,
armed with pangas, machetes, and spears, customarily hacked
victims to death and reportedly tied up and forced some victims
to witness the murders of their own spouses and children before
killing the bound victims. In some cases, the attackers killed
only the men, but severely wounded or dismembered women and
children with spears or machetes. Military personnel were seen
beating civilians on the street in Bujumbura shortly after the
coup attempt.

Prison conditions were life threatening and characterized by
severe overcrowding and inadequate hygiene, clothing, medical
care, food, and water. Four or even five persons were forced
to share a poorly ventilated cell 2 meters square. Prisoners
had to rely on family members to ensure an adequate diet, and
officials acknowledged that digestive illness was a major
problem in the prisons. Women were held separately from men.
By mid-October, most of those eligible under President
Ndadaye's amnesty law had been released.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Regular police and gendarmes with arrest authority are
permitted to make arrests without a warrant but are legally
obligated to submit a written report to a magistrate within 48
hours of the detention. The magistrate can order the suspect
released or confirm the charges and continued detention,
initially for 15 days and then subsequently for periods of 30
days as necessary to prepare the case for trial. The law
allows unlimited pretrial detention. The Surete is obligated
to follow the same laws but is known to have detained some
persons for a number of months without having their cases
certified and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice as required.

Daily police operations were severely disrupted during the coup
attempt (as were most government operations). In normal
circumstances, legal procedures are generally followed in
criminal cases, though time limits prescribed by law are often
exceeded. Proceedings are constrained by the lack of a
well-trained and adequately supported judiciary. At the
beginning of the year, the Government arrested between 40 and
60 political activists, principally from the predominately Hutu
parties, apparently without ever charging them. Government
officials subsequently said the charges ranged from stealing a
national flag to being implicated in activities in support of
the Hutu-insurgency group PALIPEHUTU (Party for the Liberation
of the Hutu People). These arrests were considered by
political parties to have been politically motivated actions to
impugn the stature and to weaken FRODEBU in the eyes of voters.

Political exile is forbidden in the new Constitution, and the
Ndadaye Government did not use forced exile as a means of
political control. Former President Bagaza and his wife
returned to Burundi from exile on July 28 after 6 years in
Uganda and Libya. According to Ndadaye administration
officials, no negotiations were held or conditions set for
Bagaza's return.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The legal system, like much of the Government administration,
was severely disrupted as a result of the coup attempt. When
operating normally, it is divided into civil and criminal
courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex. Military courts
have jurisdiction over crimes committed by members of the
military or those involving actions against the military. The
new Constitution provides for a High Court to try the
President, Prime Minister, or the President of the National
Assembly in the event of high-level crime while in office. It
also established the Constitutional Court to review all new
laws (including decree-laws) and to preside over other
constitutional issues.

Trials in civilian and military courts are technically public,
though the public has traditionally not had regular access to
information about cases (including court dates). The law and
the Constitution provide for accused persons (whether tried in
a civilian or military court) the right to a defense. In
practice, only a small percentage of defendants are able to
afford legal representation, and consequently most defendants
are not represented by counsel.

Under the Constitution, the judicial system is independent, but
in practice, it is dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group. The
President has the authority to appoint judges as well as the
power to pardon or reduce sentences. Most Burundians assume
the courts still promote the interests of the dominant Tutsi
minority. Generally, defendants are Hutu, while the judges and
magistrates are, almost without exception Tutsis.

Other major shortcomings in the legal system were the frequent
lack of defense counsel for the accused; the lack of adequate
resources to allow the system to function effectively; the need
for better training of judicial and enforcement officials; and
the need for revisions in the Legal Code to bring it into
conformity with the new Constitution and international
standards. For example, confessions made during torture were
accepted as evidence in 1992 trials.

There were two trials involving 133 Hutus arrested in Ngozi
province and accused of crimes in the November 1991 violence.
In one of the trials, the Government prosecuted 57 persons; the
assigned defense counsel (Tutsi) failed to defend even
minimally his Hutu clients, and the court handed down stiff
sentences, including 5 life sentences, and 22 sentences of at
least 15 years.

Upon President Ndadaye's assumption of office, two former
ministers and several former government officials from the
former Bagaza regime were released from prison provisionally in
July. The Government also released in July, on a "temporary"
arrangement, former Foreign Minister Cyprien Mbonimpa, who was
on trial before the Supreme Court. In July the Government also
released and dropped charges in the case of 50 military
enlisted soldiers out of the original 150 military enlisted men
allegedly implicated in the March 1992 coup attempt.

President Ndadaye pledged in his inaugural address to submit
draft amnesty legislation, and the National Assembly passed an
amnesty law on September 19. The law provided amnesty for all
crimes committed before July 1, 1993, with the exception of
arson, cannibalism, murder, poisoning, drug trafficking, and
group or armed robbery. About 5,000 persons were reportedly
affected or obtained release from prison as a result of the
amnesty. With the amnesty law, all political detainees and
prisoners had been released.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or

The right to privacy is provided for in the Constitution, and
the law requiring search warrants was generally respected by
the authorities. However, persons suspected of antigovernment
activities, which in the past has been broadly interpreted by
the Government and the courts, have been subject to
surveillance by security forces.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian
Law in Internal Conflicts

Since the assassination of President Ndadaye, there were
massive human rights violations by all sides. Elements of the
Tutsi-dominated military attempted the coup and killed the
President and several other officials. After that, members of
both ethnic groups killed, maimed, and burned members of the
opposite group. For example, over 25 Tutsi civilians were
herded into a gas station in Kabimba and burned alive. In
Ruyigi, several Hutu civilians were arrested for violence and
then handed over to a Tutsi crowd, which attacked and beat them
to death. About 20 other arrestees were shot by the military.
In Gitega province, the military reportedly fired on civilians
from helicopters. In the ethnic upheaval, attackers burned
homes and crops, slaughtered livestock, and vandalized schools,
churches, and private homes.

Belgian physicians with Doctors Without Borders were among the
first in the field, assisting those caught in the waves of
violence. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
reacted urgently to fly in teams of medical personnel, medical
supplies, and relief items. The ICRC surveyed hospitals and
clinics in Bujumbura, Kayanza, Ngozi, and Kirundo to assess
medical needs and begin organizing field hospital assistance.

At the end of the year, Burundi remained a society severely
polarized along ethnic lines. Violence and interethnic killing
had begun to subside, but sporadic incidents continued and the
situation remained unstable.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The new Constitution provides for free opinion and expression
as long as these rights are expressed "in a manner consistent
with the public law and order."

The current press law, promulgated under the Buyoya government
in December 1992, gives the Government wide latitude in
restricting all media. Under the Buyoya regime, it was never
fully enforced, and papers essentially wrote whatever they
wanted, including articles critical of the Government. In late
December, the Minister of Communications used the law to
suspend an extremist Tutsi newspaper for undermining national
unity. Radio and television are government-controlled, and
some observers believe that control tightened under the FRODEBU

The December 1992 law, designed to correct restrictions in an
earlier law deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional
Court, retained restrictions on permissible criticism of
government policies, the person of the President, and
statements that could be construed as contrary to national
unity or injurious to the national economy. The law also
provided for government review and possible censorship of all
media prior to distribution. In practice, private newspapers
published without prior government review, and no cases of
seizure were recorded.

Newspapers independent of government control demonstrated a
willingness to report and comment on issues that the
government-controlled press had previously been hesitant to
cover. This trend, begun in 1992, continued until October, as
did the consequent willingness of the government-controlled Le
Renouveau to open its pages to issues previously ignored, in
particular political matters.

Newspaper readership remained limited, and the majority of the
population relied on the government-controlled radio
programming in French, Kirundi, and Swahili for information.
Reporting in both radio and television reflected government
policies, but some air time was reserved for opposition party
activities, both prior to and following the elections.

Prior to the elections, the Government promised all political
parties equal access to the official media and began to produce
radio and television debates with participation by
representatives of the various political parties. At the same
time, journalists and editors for the government-controlled
media continued to practice self-censorship. This included
canceling programs which the Government found unacceptable and
altering texts or footage to correspond to the Government's

Following the June elections, the Minister of Communication
fired the Director-General of Radio-Television Nationale du
Burundi for failing to adhere sufficiently to the Government's
editorial preferences. Many observers felt that the control of
the public media became stricter and less tolerant of diversity
of opinion following the elections. At the same time, the
independent newspapers, of admittedly limited influence,
remained outspoken and openly critical of the Government,
without interference.

Academic freedom has not been tested because the predominantly
Tutsi faculty was supportive of the previous government, and
the new Government had not been in power long enough for
conflict on academic issues to arise. Schools closed at the
onset of violence in October and had not reopened by year's end.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

In December 1991, the Government promulgated a decree-law
establishing guidelines for granting permits for public
meetings or parades. During 1993, the newly formed political
parties regularly held well-attended meetings in Bujumbura but
reported facing harassment and bureaucratic obstacles when they
applied for permits for meetings, particularly in rural areas.

c. Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion in Burundi. More than 60 percent of
the population is Catholic, and the Catholic church plays an
important role in the lives of both rural and urban dwellers.
A number of Protestant churches have significant followings.

Religious organizations are subject to the same rules and
restrictions that apply to secular organizations. They must
obtain approval from the Government to operate in the country,
and a Burundi citizen must be designated as the legal
representative of each organization. Prior to 1993, there were
continuing incidents of temporary detentions and harassment of
Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to comply with local and school
officials' demands that they recognize secular authority and
participate in state-sanctioned practices, such as singing the
national anthem. In 1993 Jehovah's Witnesses reported less
harassment than in the past, and, by the end of the year, the
group had received government approval as a religious

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

During periods of rumored PALIPEHUTU incursions in the past,
the Government closed land and water frontiers; generally the
Bujumbura airport remained open in those instances. However,
during the first week following the October 21 coup attempt the
airport was closed to traffic. Internal movement was
obstructed immediately after the coup attempt by the
destruction of bridges and trees felled for roadblocks to
prevent feared military attacks. By year's end, internal roads
had been cleared.

Repatriation of Hutu refugees was a major issue in the FRODEBU
election campaigns since over 200,000 refugees were estimated
to be living in Tanzania, Rwanda and Zaire. Upon the FRODEBU
victory, refugees began returning in record numbers, many
without waiting to be processed through the repatriation
system, most coming with no means of support.

The new Government's goal was to repatriate each returnee to
his or her original property and provide a 6-month food ration
for each, but the Government found itself unprepared for the
volume of work and resources the program demanded. The most
problematical aspect was land restoration to refugees who had
been gone for over 20 years from property that had often
changed hands several times in good faith. The Government's
refugee commission authorized settlement of cases with no legal
references or standards, depending instead on local committees
who they said "would know to whom the land belongs." Disputes
arose immediately, and local committees were accused of being
simply FRODEBU partisans with biased judgments. In late
September, the repatriation commission was obliged to table
decisions until local committees could be checked and
guidelines set for dispute settlements.

As a result of the attempted coup d'etat on October 21, nearly
600,000 Burundians, including many recent returnees, fled to
Tanzania, Rwanda, and Zaire. At year's end, approximately
170,000 internally displaced persons, mainly Tutsis, were
estimated to be sheltered in camps within Burundi. Several
hundred thousand more, mostly Hutus, were dispersed, hiding in
various locations in the countryside.

Prior to the coup attempt, Burundi hosted approximately 300,000
refugees, mostly Rwandans, about 80,000 of whom were assisted
by the UNHCR. Many Rwandan refugees from a camp in northern
Burundi joined their compatriots in and around Bujumbura to
escape recent violence.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government

For the first time in Burundi's history, citizens exercised
their right to change the national Government by democratic
means in free and fair elections in June. Three political
parties nominated presidential candidates, and 7 parties ran
candidates for the National Assembly. Following a very heated
political campaign which brought age-old ethnic biases to the
fore between UPRONA and FRODEBU supporters, President Melchior
Ndadaye, a former banker, was elected and sworn into office.
He promptly announced the appointment of Sylvie Kinigi, a Tutsi
woman, as Prime Minister, and a 23-person Cabinet, in which 60
percent of the members were Hutus and 40 percent Tutsis. These
members represented FRODEBU, UPRONA (opposition), Peoples'
Party, and Assembly of Burundi Peoples' parties, as well as
members of the military. The new National Assembly was sworn
in shortly thereafter and held its first extraordinary session
on July 19.

The elected Government remained in office despite the
assassination in October of President Ndadaye and the President
and Vice President of the National Assembly. The Assembly
reconvened and elected a new parliamentary leadership. Most
ministers reported regularly to their offices though some still
returned for safety to a guarded hotel at night. The
Government began replacing missing local administrators and
began examining the constitutional options for the installation
of an interim President.

Women are still poorly represented in the political process and
in government, including in the legislature and the judiciary.
In addition to Prime Minister Kinigi, the Minister of Social
Action, Human Rights, and Protection of Women, is also a woman.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights

Under the Buyoya government, the two independent human rights
groups (ITEKA and SONERA) faced bureaucratic obstacles, such as
inordinate delays by Ministry of Justice officials in
responding to requests for information on specific cases or for
permission to visit prisons, but they were not actively impeded
from carrying out their activities. These activities included
investigations and reports on individual human rights cases and
civic education programs. The two organizations undertook a
joint investigation of the violence of November 1991.

The outgoing Buyoya government and the new Ndadaye Government
welcomed contact with international human rights
organizations. The African American Institute organized an
international civilian/military conference in February to
discuss a broad range of topics concerning the military's role
in democracy. The ICRC continued to visit prisons and
hospitals throughout the year and played a major role in
assisting the wounded in the violence after Ndadaye's
assassination in October.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status

The new Constitution explicitly provides equal status and
protection for all citizens, without distinction based on sex,
origin, ethnicity, religion, or opinion. In practice, de facto
discrimination against women, Hutus, Batwa or Twa (Pygmies) was
apparent throughout society and institutions despite government
efforts to discourage it.


Women hold a secondary place in society and face both legal and
societal discrimination. For example, the explicitly
discriminatory elements of inheritance laws and those relating
to obtaining financial credit remained unchanged. Although
assured of the same pay as men if they held the same job, women
were far less likely than men to hold mid- or high-level
positions in either the public or private sectors. President
Ndadaye appointed some women to high government positions; he
brought two women officer candidates into military cadet ranks.

Nevertheless, conditions for women did not undergo appreciable
change. In particular, the traditional distinction between
male and female roles in Burundi remained institutionalized in
rural areas, where women are responsible for hard labor in most
food-crop production. In rural areas, females also had little
opportunity for education. Overall, females get only one-third
of the schooling of males.

Violence against women occurs, including wife beating and rape,
but there is no documentation of its extent. Police do not
normally intervene in domestic disputes, and the press does not
cover incidents of violence against women, including rape.
There were no known court cases dealing with abuse of women.


The Government has not expressed a particular commitment to
children's human rights as distinct from those of all other
citizens. During the October violence, children were victims
of the violence along with adults of both ethnic groups. At
year's end, the number of orphans created by the violence had
not been determined, and the Government had not yet formulated
a response to this problem.

Indigenous People

The indigenous Twa (Pygmy) minority, which comprises perhaps 1
percent of the population, remained almost completely
marginalized, economically, socially, and politically. While
the former Buyoya government stated its commitment to serve all
Burundians, most Twa continued to live in isolation, without
attending school or having access to government services,
including health care. There were no known efforts by the
former Government or other political parties to discriminate
against Twa in the elections.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Burundi's fundamental problem is the ethnic conflict between
majority Hutus, who gained political power only with the
election of Ndadaye in June, and minority Tutsis, who have
historically held power and still control the military and
dominate educated society. In practice, de facto ethnic
discrimination against Hutus--85 percent of the
population--colors every facet of society and institutions,
including the military and the judicial establishment, despite
constitutional provisions and some policies introduced under
the Buyoya military administration to attract Hutus into the
professions. These late efforts had not had a significant
impact, but Hutus, under Buyoya, had made inroads into the
civil service, and by 1993 the number of Hutus exceeded the
number of Tutsis entering secondary school.

The Ndadaye administration upon assuming office began a more
concerted effort to put its FRODEBU faithful into the
government bureaucracy. Those policy changes led quickly to
increased tensions between long-term Tutsi professionals
(civilian and military) and the new FRODEBU Government.

People with Disabilities

Burundi's rudimentary economy effectively excludes the
physically disabled from many types of employment. Some
sheltered craft workshops exist in Bujumbura but the most
frequent occupation for the physically disabled is street and
market vending or begging. The Government has not enacted
legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibilty for
the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Government promulgated a revision of the Labor Code in
July. Both the Constitution and the revised Labor Code protect
the rights of workers to form unions. However, only about
15,000 workers in the wage economy (about 20 percent)
participate in the new system of voluntary checkoffs put into
place to help finance union activities. Most workers are from
the ranks of urban civil servants. The military, the
gendarmerie, and certain expatriates working in the public
sector are prohibited from forming or joining unions.

The national umbrella trade union organization, the
Organization of Free Unions of Burundi (CSB), is financially
dependent on this same system of voluntary checkoffs. CSB
represented labor in drafting negotiations for the new Labor
Code revisions and has also participated in specific collective
bargaining negotiations in cooperation with individual labor
unions. The CSB includes all labor unions except the teachers
union and is the only existing labor federation. The Labor
Code permits the formation of additional unions or union
confederations outside the CSB.

The Labor Code also provides workers the right to strike. The
revised Labor Code affirms, but does not greatly alter, the
right of workers to form unions and to strike. Restrictions on
the right to strike and lockout are: 1) the action must be
taken only after exhausting all other peaceful means of
resolution, 2) negotiations must continue during the action,
mediated by a mutually agreeable party or by the Government,
and 3) 6 days' notice must be given. Retribution against
workers participating in a legal strike is prohibited.

One strike occurred in the first half of October at the
National Data Processing Center, where workers who chose to
leave the organization upon privatization did not receive the
required indemnity payment. At year's end, the strike was
still in effect, and negotiations still in progress.

CSB maintains international affiliations with the Organization
of Central African Workers, the Organization of African (Labor)
Unions, the International Confederation of Trade Unions, and
the World Confederation of Labor. CSB has also sponsored
seminars and training programs with the African-American Labor

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1993 Labor Code revision recognizes the right to collective
bargaining which had formerly been acknowledged only by
ordinance. Since most workers are civil servants, government
entities are involved in almost every phase of labor
negotiations. Public sector wages are set in fixed scales in
individual work contracts and are not affected by collective
bargaining. In the private sector, wage scales also exist but
individual contract negotiation is possible. In principle,
private sector wage scales can also be influenced by collective
bargaining, though this is infrequent.

The Labor Code also gives the Labor Court jurisdiction over all
labor dispute cases, including those involving public
employees. Labor negotiations are still conducted largely
between unions and employers under the supervision of the
tripartite National Labor Council, the Government's highest
consultative authority on labor issues. The Council represents
government, labor, and management and is presided over and
regulated by the Minister of Labor.

The 1993 Labor Code revision prohibits employers from firing or
otherwise discriminating against a worker because of union
affiliation or activity. A three-step process was available to
resolve complaints regarding labor practices or policies toward
a union or union member: Direct employer-employee negotiations
under the auspices of the CSB; an administrative hearing before
a government labor inspector; and a legal proceeding before the
Labor Court.

There are no export processing zones, though a decree-law
making the entire nation a free zone for many nontraditional,
export-oriented activities was promulgated on August 31, l992.
The decree-law requires, inter alia, that wages meet the
minimum interprofessional standards fixed by law but allows
employers more latitude in negotiations with employees. The
law also makes it easier for qualifying enterprises to hire
foreign workers.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced and compulsory labor are prohibited by law and not
practiced. The Committee of Experts of the International Labor
Organization (ILO) noted the repeal of some decrees and orders
which were inconsistent with the commitment to abolish forced
labor but reiterated its concern about other decrees or orders
requiring obligatory community development and not excluding
political prisoners from prison labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The current Labor Code states that children under the age of 16
are not allowed to be employed by "an enterprise," even as
apprentices, though it also states that they may undertake
occasional work which does not damage their health or
schooling. Young children are, in fact, often seen doing heavy
manual labor, including transporting bricks on their heads, in
rural areas in daytime during the school year. Children are
legally forbidden from working at night, though many did so in
the informal sector. As a practical matter, children are
obligated by custom and economic necessity to help support
their family by participating in activities related to
subsistence agriculture in family-based enterprises and the
informal sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The nationally established formal minimum wage for unskilled
workers is $0.54 (140 Burundi francs) per day in Bujumbura and
Gitega and $0.34 (88 Burundi francs) in the rest of the
country, with a graduated scale for increased skill levels.
This amount does not meet the daily needs for a family.
Employees working under contract, particularly in urban areas,
generally earn significantly more than the minimum wage. All
employees in the public sector work under contract, while the
CSB estimates that 70 percent of employees working in the
formal private sector are covered by a contract.

The Labor Code revision calls for maternity and health costs to
be taken over by social security, once it is established,
rather than to be borne by employees. Most families live
outside urban areas and are involved in subsistence
agricultural production which allows them to supplement their
income with homegrown foodstuffs. Many urban households rely
on more than one wage earner or supplement earnings by
participation in petty commerce.

The Labor Code imposes a maximum 8-hour workday and 45-hour
workweek except in cases when workers are involved in
activities related to national security. Supplements must be
paid for overtime in any case.

The Labor Code establishes health and safety standards
requiring an employer to provide a safe workplace and assigns
enforcement responsibility to the Ministry of Labor. However,
enforcement suffers from a shortage of staff and resources.
Health and safety articles in the Labor Code do not directly
address the workers' right to remove themselves from a
dangerous work situation. (###)

Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

I especially value the networking events listing and the CPSR annual conference when I get to attend.