Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


Since early 2000 violence increased against persons and property in many neighbors of Bujumbura. In some cases the assailants apparently had political motives: rebels based in the hills overlooking the city raided to intimidate and show their presence as much as to acquire goods. Groups of soldiers attacked neighborhoods which they suspected of sympathizing with the rebels and "punished" residents for these supposed loyalties by killing, injuring, or stealing from them. In some cases armed rebels or soldiers were accompanied by crowds of civilians who joined in carrying away the booty. Given conditions of extreme poverty and inadequate police protection, armed criminal bands also operated freely, apparently for profit and with no political agenda.

In mid-2000 local officials in the northern zone of Kinama, inhabited mostly by relatively poor Hutu workers, established an urban variation of the Guardians of the Peace program. They recruited about one hundred young men who were unemployed or who had worked only occasionally. Some, but not many of them, had been former rebel combatants. The youngest were sixteen years old, but most were in their late teens or in their early twenties.75 The recruits were trained by soldiers or national policemen for two months and learned to fire Kalashnikovs. They then patrolled their section of the city at night, using arms collected from the local military post and returned there in the morning. They supposedly operated under the authority of the local administrative official but in fact were more typically under the supervision of soldiers with whom they patrolled, often walking in front of them. Soldiers frequently returned to their posts in the early part of the night, leaving the auxiliaries to continue patrolling alone.76Authorities instituted a similar program in Buterere, also a poor working class neighborhood, in late 2000, where some fifty recruits began patrolling the area both during the day and at night, armed with automatic weapons.77

In Kinama, authorities asked residents to contribute 500 Burundian francs (about U.S. 60 cents) per month so that participants in the program could be paid a salary of 5,000 Burundian francs. The amount assessed, the cost of several pounds of rice or bunches of bananas, represented a considerable burden on the poor. Several residents complained that their payment had not brought improved security.78 "There are two major military camps and other small posts throughout the zone," remarked one resident. "Why can't those responsible for providing security do the job?"79 Officials claimed that the presence of the patrols had increased security in Kinama, but in the initial period of its operation, approximately the same number of criminal attacks were recorded as for the period immediately before. Nor was there any greater success in apprehending assailants.80

At about the same time military officers revived the weapons training for Tutsi civilians which they had offered sporadically since 1997. Some of those so trained also joined soldiers in patrolling their neighborhoods or patrolled on their own initiative, sometimes under the leadership of a former or retired soldier who himself lived in the neighborhood.81

75 See below for information about children aged fifteen years old and younger participating in the program in 2001.

76 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, July 20, 21, and 28 and August 22, 2000.

77 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, March 6, 2001.

78 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, August 22 and September 6, 2000.

79 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, July 28, 2000.

80 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, August 8, 2000; Jamaa Info, "Situation Sécuritaire en Alerte," no. 6, July-August 2000.

81 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, June 15, 2001.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page