Internally Displaced Persons: Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 1: Definitions

1. For the definition of the term "refugee", reference is made to international conventions, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relative to the Status of Refugees, the 1966 Protocol Relative to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.

2. The term "sinistras" designates all displaced, regrouped and dispersed persons and returnees.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 2: Principles governing return, resettlement and reintegration

1. The Government of Burundi shall encourage the return of refugees and sinistras and resettle and reintegrate them. It shall seek the support of other countries and international and non-governmental organizations in carrying out this responsibility.

2. It shall respect the following principles:

(a) All Burundian refugees must be able to return to their country;

(b) Refugees no longer in their first country of asylum are entitled to the same treatment as other returning Burundian refugees;

(c) Return must be voluntary and must take place in dignity with guaranteed security, and taking into account the particular vulnerability of women and children;

(d) The reception mechanisms must be put in place in advance of the return;

(e) Returnees must have their rights as citizens and their property restored to them in accordance with the laws and regulations in force in Burundi after the entry into force of the Agreement;

(f) All sinistras wishing to do so must be able to return to their homes;

(g) Specific conditions must be provided for sinistras who believe that they can no longer return to their property, so as to enable them to return to normal socio-professional life;

(h) In the return of the refugees and the resettlement and reintegration of the returnees and displaced and regrouped persons, the principle of equity, including gender equity, must be strictly applied in order to avoid any measure or treatment that discriminates against or favours any one among these categories.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 3: Preparatory activities

The Government shall undertake the following preparatory activities:

1. Establishing and constituting a National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Sinistras (CNRS), which shall have the mandate of organizing and coordinating, together with international organizations and countries of asylum, the return of refugees and sinistrés, assisting in their resettlement and reintegration, and dealing with all the other issues listed in the report of Committee IV. To this end, it shall draw up a plan of priorities. The members of the CNRS shall be drawn inter alia from the participating parties and the Government of Burundi, and shall elect the Commission's chairperson;

2. Establishing and constituting a Sub-Commission of the CNRS with the specific mandate of dealing with issues related to land as set out in article 8 (j) of the present Protocol;

3. Convening, in collaboration with the countries of asylum and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Tripartite Commissioner, involving in it representatives of the refugees and international observers;

4. Requesting international organizations and the host countries concerned to conduct a gender and ago disaggregated census of the refugees, including the old caseload refugees (1972);

5. Conducting a multi-dimensional census of the sinistras;

6. Organizing information and awareness campaigns for refugees and sinistras as well as visits to their places of origin;

7. Undertaking information and awareness campaigns on the mechanisms for peaceful coexistence and return to collines of origin;

8. Setting up reception committees where they do not yet exist. The role of these committees shall be to receive and provide support services for all the sinistrés returning to their homes, ensure their security and assist them in organizing their socio-economic reintegration.

Implementation History


Minimum Implementation

Not all major parties to the conflict signed the agreement until 2003. During this three year gap, implementation of the internally displaced persons provision did begin.

In Arusha accord, parties agreed the government should take institutional measures for the return, resettlement and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons. In this regard, the accord called for the establishment of National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Sinistrés (CNRS) for return, resettlement and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons. Within CNRS a sub-commission was formed to deal with the issue of land belonging to the displaced or refugees but being occupied by others. Parties also agreed to provide food aid, health, education, agriculture and reconstruction support for returned refugees and IDPS. According to an estimate, there were 325,000 IDPs in Burundi as of November 2000.1 The number of IDPs increased to 633,000 as of July 2001.2

The number of IDPs declined to an estimated 487,500 in 2002.3 So far, the transitional government and the Burundian parliament have set up institutional mechanisms like adopting a bill to establish the National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons (CNRS) on 8 August 2002.4 But the sub-commission on land was not established.

As of November 2003, it was reported that estimated 281,000 IDPs were in 230 camps throughout the country.5

  • 1. "Profile of Internal Displacement: Burundi," Global IDP (2000-2002), accessed February 22, 2013,
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. "Burundi: Parliament adopts bill on commission for displaced persons," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 10, 2002.
  • 5. "Secretary Generals’ Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2003/1146), December 4, 2003.

Minimum Implementation

While CNRS was working on return, resettlement and reintegration of refugees and IDPs, the sub-commission on land was not established which hindered the reintegration and resettlement of displaced persons.

Notwithstanding the establishment of CNRS, the land related issue was not prioritized, which hindered the peace process. In fact, a submission for land issues with rebel representation had not been established.6 No further information available on return of IDPs. In fact, it was reported that 35,000 civilians were displaced in 2004.7

  • 6. "Burundi: Homeless refugees suffering from lack of basic needs," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, December 6, 2004.
  • 7. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2004/902), November 15, 2004.

Intermediate Implementation

Because of improved security situation, it was reported that estimated 165,000 returned to their communities without any assistance. Nevertheless, it was reported that the Burundian government and the United Nations conducted survey of IDPs in 2004 and 2005 to assess their needs and vulnerabilities for better resettlement in their origin places. In this regard, the government had initiated a program for the rehabilitation of IDPs and refugees, which the Ministry of Resettlement and Repatriates was responsible to implement in coordination with CNRS. Various international organizations and voluntary groups were also involved in providing needs of IDPs.8

  • 8. "Burundi: Improving Political and Security Situation Encourages IDP Return," Global IDPs (2005), accessed February 22, 2013,

Intermediate Implementation

By October 2006, it was reported that Burundi’s IDPs fell a to record low of 100,000.9 Land issue was the main problem for the successful resettlement and reintegration of returnees (refugees and IDPs). To solve land related issues, the government took initiatives and established the national commission on land and other properties with some of the responsibilities of the former land sub-commission established under the CNRS.10

  • 9. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council, (S/2006/842), October 25, 2006.
  • 10. "Burundi parliamentarians ratify bill establishing national land commission," BBC Monitoring Africa, March 30, 2006.

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year. 


Intermediate Implementation

As the Hutus and Tutsi skirmishes took place in May and June, thousands of civilians were displaced in 2008.11

  • 11. "Some 20,000 displaced in recent Burundi fighting," BBC Monitoring Africa, May 10, 2008.

Minimum Implementation

As of 2009, estimated 100,000 were internally displaced in Burundi. It was reported that majority of them do not own their own house or land.12


Minimum Implementation

According to a report, an estimated 100,000 were internally displaced by the end of November 2010.13

  • 13. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2010/608), November 30, 2010.

Minimum Implementation

As of November 2011, the IDP number increased to 157,000.14

  • 14. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council  (S/2011/751), November 30, 2011.

Minimum Implementation

No further developments observed.