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Burundi Ministry of Defense

The Armed Forces, as a newly formed Military Establishment, initially relied heavily on Belgium for advisers, training, and logistical support. At the time of independence in 1962, Burundi's few military personnel had little experience with modern military techniques or equipment. In 1968 military resources were still limited to small infantry units which had yet to gain any combat experience. Most military activities consisted of training and assisting in the maintenance of internal security.

Under a President rather than a king, Burundi in 1968 functionod as it had for centuries - under a combination of traditional or customary laws and degrees from a single powerful ruler. Since his assumption of power in November 1966, and the creation of the Revolutionary Government, President Michel Micomboro generally consolidated his authority. Central ministries, province governorships, and judicial oflices were staffed by young military officers. As a step in this process of improving internal security, the National Gendarmerie (police) was merged into the Armed Forces.

In 1968 supreme authority in the conduct; of domestic and foreign affairs was vested in President Micomboro and a Revolutionary Council of military offirers, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1966, Armed Forces officers occupied civil administrative, judicial, and provincial governor positions. Collectively, they completely dominated the affairs of the nation.

Operational control of the Armed Forces, Nationol Gendarmierie, and provincial Police units was exercised throuirh the Comnmander of the Armed Forces, who was directly subordinate to the President. Technically, the military forces had the dual mission of maintaining public order and security within the country and preserving the initegrity of the nation's borders. In 1968, President Micombero assignied operational control of all police units to the Commander of the Armed Forces, and the process of integration and combat training of poli1ce begani.

With effective internal security established, President Micombero generally refrained from oppressive measures which might damage relationships between the Hutu majority and the Govermnent, in which almost all positions of authority are filled by loyal Tutsi. Military offlcers were also Tutsi, but the enlisted ranks were almost entirely Hutu. Military personnel received good pay and other benefits and were loyal to the Revolutionary Government. The small military force and the Gendarmerie received relatively good training, much of it under Belgian advisers. Both are dependent upon foreign sources for practically all of their equipment.

With the continuation of a strong central authority, the traditional passivity of the Hutu agriculturalists, the great majority of the population, contributed to a relatively orderly political situation.

By 2004 Burundi faced the challenge of reintegrating former child soldiers from the civil war. The Ministry of Defense instructed its officers to punish soldiers who continue to use children to perform menial tasks, such as carrying water and firewood, cooking and cleaning. According to the army's spokesperson, by 2006 soldiers found to abuse children in this manner were among the first to be forced from service as part of the military's demobilization following the civil war. The regular army no longer uses children to perform tasks, and no specific incidents of reprisals against military or security forces had been reported in 2007.

By 2007 PPPresident Nkurunziza was ignoring a rise in Hutu dominance in Burundi's army and police forces, in direct violation of the provisions of the Arusha agreements. The number of Hutus in the army and police has grown to more than 70 percent of the total force, in violation of the 50 percent agreed upon through the Arusha Peace accords. An army dominated by one group and the ensuing question of minority security, led to Burundi's civil wars in the past and threatens to do so yet again.

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