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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

BURUNDI: Defuse land time bomb, ICG urges Bujumbura

NAIROBI, 8 October 2003 (IRIN) - The International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict prevention think tank, has urged the transitional government in Burundi and the international community to prioritise the issue of land for hundreds of thousands of refugees due to return following Wednesday's power sharing agreement between the government and the main rebel group in the country.

"If they do not make it an immediate priority, it [the land issue] risks destabilising the transition from the day that a definitive ceasefire is signed," the ICG reported on Tuesday.

The signing of a final ceasefire and the permanent suspension of hostilities carry the risk that many Burundi refugees will rush home to a country unprepared to receive them, the ICG reported.

Among other recommendations, the ICG urged the Burundian government to revise its land code immediately, in order to harmonise it with existing land law and to "ensure that the right of women to own land is explicit".

It urged the government to suspend all grants of estates to people and to revoke all allocations made since the beginning of the three-year transitional process.

At the same time, the ICG urged the National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims to form, immediately, a subcommission for land issues, with rebel representation.

The government and the commission must undertake a programme to reintroduce the "Bashingantahe" institutions - elders' committees operating at village level - "so that on each hill there is a managing committee for the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.

Noting that there were at least 800,000 refugees in Tanzania and 281 "permanently displaced" people inside Burundi, the ICG urged the government and the commission to create a trust fund to finance the re-establishment of the institution of the Bashingantahe, the creation of land tribunals in each province and compensation and reparations for expropriated families or those unable to reclaim their land.

The ICG urged the donor community to finance the commission's trust fund to guarantee the body's administrative and financial independence from the government.

The commission, the ICG recommended, should engage in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church over the reallocation of part of unused church lands for resettling refugees and displaced people.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



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