Local mediators facilitating the peaceful resettlement of communities in Burundi

Type: Author: Interpeace/Cenap

When civil war broke out in Burundi in 1993, many communities fled the mountainous regions to settle in the commune of Muhanga in Kayanza province. Although the war ended, new tensions arose. Landowners wanted to reclaim the land where displaced communities had taken refuge. In 2021, the National Commission on Land and Other Assets (CNTB) granted their request for restitution.

However, not all displaced families were ready to return to their region. These mountains were a reminder of a past forever marked by violence for many. Moreover, many could not imagine living alongside those who had taken part in the massacres targeting their ethnic group. Their request was simple: that the families be relocated to a place where they felt safe.

That’s when the insider mediators stepped in to help the host and displaced communities find a solution that worked for everyone. “We were aware that the problem was very complex. So we had to proceed with caution. It was crucial to seek alternative solutions from both communities,” explained one of the mediators.

Thus, the mediators brought together representatives of the displaced and the landowners so that everyone could express themselves. Together, they discussed possible solutions that would also preserve peaceful coexistence between the two communities.

Once an agreement was reached, the mediators briefed the governor on the risks of a forced return and the solutions both communities proposed. “If we forcefully displace these families, we risk provoking violence. This will not benefit either side of the conflict,” explained Andr√©, an insider mediator.

It was a success. Of the 38 displaced families, 31 were given other land to settle on. For those displaced families who wanted to return, the local government provided financial assistance to rebuild their homes.