Burundian authorities maintain that the Guardians of the Peace are civilians and remain subject to civilian laws; there are no regulations specific to these paramilitary groups except for those relating to the functioning of the units set by the occasional administrator for his own district. In one case, for example, a communal administrator declared that any guardian who left his unit without permission would be fined 5,000 Burundian francs and imprisoned for fifteen days in the communal lockup.
Trained by military officers, the Guardians of the Peace also generally operated under the direct orders of the military and often in their company. They received arms, grenades, and ammunition from soldiers of the Burundian army, including a usual allotment of thirty bullets. They ordinarily returned their arms to the soldiers supervising their unit at the end of their daily period of duty and accounted to them for the number of bullets or grenades used.34 They were subject to punishment by soldiers if they disobeyed orders or failed to execute them satisfactorily, but such punishment was meted out arbitrarily rather than according to any set of regulations. One guardian complained that soldiers mocked and beat participants in his group, calling them rebels if they failed to perform as expected. "We do this work," one commented, "but we are humiliated and we are not paid. We would like to quit, but we are afraid of being put in prison."35
The guardians were issued no uniform or identifying insignia, although some received gifts of cast-off military shirts or trousers from soldiers. Some wore uniforms or parts of uniforms taken from rebels slain in combat. One participant proudly displayed a blue beret and said he had taken it from the corpse of a FDD combatant whom he had killed. To promote a sense of solidarity, some guardians named their groups, using either names drawn from Burundian history, like Rugemansazi, or those with modern referents, like the Metaliques. This practice echoes the use of names by earlier militia groups.36
The guardians received no regular pay, although a small number who lived at military posts rather than at home shared in military rations.37 Authorities occasionally recognized the work of the guardians at celebrations where beer and sometimes meat were provided. But as one guardian remarked, his share of one cow divided with 500 others seemed small recompense for having put his life at risk throughout the year.38 In 2001 authorities in Rumonge commune distributed forty pieces of sheet metal roofing to each of 180 guardians. The sheet metal is a valuable commodity in communities where many houses have been destroyed and residents are seeking to repair their roofs. Others received gifts of new sweat suits.39
Authorities provided at least some guardians with medical insurance cards, guaranteeing medical care for them and their families at local hospitals and clinics. Some who were wounded in combat were treated in military medical facilities in Bururi and Bujumbura. But the government paid no death benefits to families whose sons were killed as Guardians of the Peace.40 One father complained:
No military officer or administrative official ever came to explain why my son had died. They gave us no money or help for his burial and no one from the government was present at his funeral. Now I am without a son and someone to help support my family.41
34 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bururi, August 18, 2000 and Bujumbura, August 28, September 28, and October 4, 2000.
35 Human Rights Watch interview, Bururi, August 18, 2000.
36 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bururi, August 18, 2000, Mutambu, June 16, 2000; Bujumbura, June 26, October 4 and October 17, 2000 and July , 2001.
37 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, June 10 and 26, and August 28, October 4, 2000; Kayanza, August 24, 2000; Mutambu, June 16, 2000; Bururi, August 18, 2000.
38 Human Rights Watch interview, Bururi, August 18, 2000.
39 Human Rights Watch interviews, July, 2001.
40 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bururi, August 18, 2001 and Bujumbura, October 17, 2000; July, 2001.
41 Human Rights Watch interview, Bururi, August 18, 2000.