Refugees: 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 sinistras, 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.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 4: Guidelines governing resettlement and integration

The CNRS shall decide on the activities for the resettlement and integration of refugees and sinistras in accordance with the priority plan taking into account the availability of resources, in order to achieve the following aims and objectives:

1. To ensure the socio-economic and administrative reintegration of the sinistras;

2. To give all returning families, including female- and child-headed families, food aid, material support and assistance with health, education, agriculture and reconstruction until they become self-sufficient;

3. To provide communes, villages and collines with assistance in the reconstruction of community infrastructures and with support for income-generating activities, paying special attention to women and enhancing their roles in building and sustaining families and communities;

4. To settle all those who believe that they cannot yet return on sites close to home, in order to enable them to go and till their fields initially and return to their land later on;

5. To encourage, to the extent possible, grouped housing in the reconstruction policy in order to free cultivable land;

6. To ensure equity in the distribution of resources between the ethnic groups on the one hand and the provinces on the other, and to avoid overlap between the various parties involved;

7. To promote the participation of the population in the resettlement activities;

8. To help returnees to recover the property and bank accounts left in Burundi before their exile and whose existence has been duly proven;

9. To offer intensive language courses for returnees to mitigate the language problems;

10. To assist returnees in other areas such as medical services, psycho-social support, social security and retirement, education of children and the equivalency of diplomas awarded outside Burundi.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 6: Other actions

Any other action decided upon by the CNRS in accordance with the priority plan and in the light of available resources may be taken.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 7Access and safety of international personnel

The Government shall allow international organizations and international and local non-governmental organizations unrestricted access to returnees and other sinistras for purposes of the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It must guarantee the safety of the staff of such organizations and must also facilitate the provision of short-term aid for repatriation, appropriately supervised and without discrimination.

Protocol IV, Chapter I, Article 8: Issues relating to land and other property

To resolve all issues relating to land and other property, the following principles and mechanisms shall be applied:

1. Property rights shall be guaranteed for all men, women and children. Compensation which is fair and equitable under the circumstances shall be payable in case of expropriation, which shall be allowed only in the public interest and in accordance with the law, which shall also set out the basis of compensation;

2. All refugees and/or sinistras must be able to recover their property, especially their land;

3. If recovery proves impossible, everyone with an entitlement must receive fair compensation and/or indemnification;

4. Refugees who do not return may receive a just and equitable indemnification if their land had been expropriated without prior indemnification and in contravention of the principle set out in sub-paragraph (a) of the present article;

5. The policy with respect to distribution of State-owned land shall be reviewed so that priority can be given to the resettlement of sinistras;

6. An inventory of destroyed urban property shall be drawn up with a view to making it habitable in order to redistribute it or return it as a priority to the original owners;

7. A series of measures shall be taken in order to avoid subsequent disputes over land, including the establishment of a register of rural land, the promulgation of a law on succession and, in the longer term, the conduct of a cadastral survey of rural land;

8. The policy of distribution or allocation of new lands shall take account of the need for environmental protection and management of the country's water system through protection of forests;

9. Burundi's Land Act must be revised in order to adjust it to the current problems with respect to land management;

10. The Sub-Commission on Land established in accordance with article 3 (b) of the present Protocol shall have the specific mandate of:

(a) Examining all cases of land owned by old caseload refugees and state-owned land;

(b) Examining disputed issues and allegations of abuse in the (re)distribution of land and ruling on each case in accordance with the above principles;

Implementation History


Intermediate Implementation

Not all major parties to the conflict signed the agreement until 2003. During this three year gap, implementation of the refugees 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. In terms of return of refugees, 6,843 returned in 2000, another 27,885 returned in 2001 and 53,287 in 2002.1 According to an estimate, about 839,000 Burundian refugees were in neighboring countries including an estimated 200,000 in Tanzania.2

To facilitate the return of refugees especially from Tanzania, the UNHCR, Tanzania and the Burundian government reach an agreement in early May 2001 on the voluntary repatriation.3 In September, Burundian officials visited refugee camps in northwestern Tanzania.4

So far as the setting up institutional mechanism for the return of refugees and IDPs is concerned, the transitional government, the Burundian parliament adopted a bill to establish the National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons (CNRS) on 8 August 2002.5 But the sub-commission on land was not established.

Another 82,409 refugees returned in 2003.6 

  • 1. "2004 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook – Burundi," UNHCR , accesssed February 22, 2013,
  • 2. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2002/1259), November 18, 2002.
  • 3. "Burundi; Refugee Agreement Signed," Africa News, May  14, 2001.
  • 4. "Burundi: Officials visit refugee camps in northwestern Tanzania," BBC Monitoring Africa, September 15, 2001.
  • 5. "Burundi: Parliament adopts bill on commission for displaced persons," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 10, 2002.
  • 6. "2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook – Burundi," UNHCR , accesssed February 22, 2013,

Intermediate Implementation

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

 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.7 Nevertheless, 90,321 refugees returned to Burundi in 2004 from Tanzania and other neighboring countries.8. The UNHCR and ONUB provided support in the repatriation process.

  • 7. "Burundi: Homeless refugees suffering from lack of basic needs," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, December 6, 2004.
  • 8. "2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook – Burundi."

Intermediate Implementation

The repatriation of refugees continued in 2005 with 68,248 refugees returning to Burundi from neighboring countries.9 For the reintegration and settlement of returned refugees, land issue proved to be an obstacle as properties belonged to refugees or displaced families were occupied by others. In fact, the rightful owner lacked documents to prove their ownership of land. The rightful owner land issue remains contentious.10 Returned refugees received basic needs such as foods, shelter, education and health services from the UNHCR, World Food Program and other UN agencies.11

  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2005/586), September 14, 2005.
  • 11. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2005/728), November 21, 2005.

Intermediate Implementation

In March 2006, the Burundian government adopted a bill to establish the national commission on land and other properties with some of the responsibilities of the former land sub-commission established under the CNRS.12 In October, the government prohibited farming on disputed land.13 While the government established land commission was working to resolve land conflict and was providing alternative solutions to land related disputes, land issues hindered the reintegration of returnees. Nevertheless, the establishment of the national commission on land suggested the serious nature of the problem. By November 2006, an additional 38,181 Burundian refugees returned to Burundi.14

  • 12. "Burundi parliamentarians ratify bill establishing national land commission," BBC Monitoring Africa, March 30, 2006.
  • 13. "Burundi: Authorities in northwest forbid farming on disputed land," BBC Monitoring Africa, October 18, 2006.
  • 14. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2006/994), December 18, 2006.

Intermediate Implementation

Refugee repatriation continued in 2007. For better reintegration and rehabilitation of returnees, the government established the Steering Commission for the Repatriation and Reintegration of Returnees comprising representatives from government agencies, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, donor agencies and the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB). As reported in Secretary Generals’ Report, more than 33,000 refugees returned to Burundi until November 2007.15

  • 15. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2007/682), November 23, 2007.

Intermediate Implementation

In 2008 alone, more than 64,000 refugees returned to Burundi.16 Since 172,000 Burundian refugees who fled Burundi in 1972 wanted to settle in Tanzania, the UNHCR in collaboration of the European Commission supported naturalization of 76,000 Burundian living in Tanzania.17

  • 16. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2008/330), May 15, 2008; "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2008/745), November 28, 2008.
  • 17. Ibid.

Intermediate Implementation

The refugee return process continued. By end of October 2009, 31,562 refugees return to Burundi.18 Given the low socio-economic reintegration prospects and security vulnerability, number of returnees had declined in 2009.

  • 18. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2009/611), November 30, 2009.

Intermediate Implementation

The Refugee repatriation program continued in 2010. While significant progress was made as more than 500,000 Burundians returned from Tanzania, the program continued in 2010 with more than 200,000 Burundians still in Tanzania. Also, Burundian refugees were still in DRC and the government had initiated a program for their return.19

  • 19. "Secretary General’s Report to the Security Council," United Nations Security Council (S/2010/608), November 3, 2010.

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year. 


Intermediate Implementation

In 2012, it was reported that over 34,000 Burundian refugees returned to Burundi from Tanzania.20

According to UNHCR, about 40,000 estimated Burundians in Tanzania and DRC are expected to return to Burundi in 2013.21

  • 20. "Over 34,000 Burundi refugees return home from Tanzania," BBC Monitoring Africa, December 14, 2012.
  • 21. "2013 UNHCR country operations profile – Burundi," UNHCR, accessed February 22, 2013,