IRC Burundi Project Description

Originally published
PROJECT PURPOSE: To provide water, sanitation, rehabilitation, and resettlement assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and former refugees in seven provinces of Burundi: Muyinga, Karuzi, Kirundo, Makamba, Bururi, Bubanza, and Bujumbura.
PROJECT BENEFICIARIES: Approximately 260,000 IDPs and several thousand returnees in the seven Burundi provinces will be served through this program. The breakdown of IDPs is as follows: 71,000 in Muyinga and Karuzi provinces; 118,000 in Kirundo; 41,000 in Makamba; 14,000 in Bururi; 14,000 in Bubanza; and 1,000 in Bujumbura.

BACKGROUND: Burundi, like neighboring Rwanda, has been the scene of ethnic conflicts between the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu tribes since the 16th century. After a long history of bloody clashes, it was hoped that the election of a Hutu president Melchoir Ndayaye, in 1993, would begin a more peaceful period for Burundi. However, a Tutsi military group assassinated Ndayaye in October of the same year. After an uncertain period, another Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira was named president in 1994. Later that same year, the plane in which he was riding was shot down causing a violent backlash that continues to this day. Thousands of people, primarily Tutsis, were murdered outright. Consequently, many Tutsis sought protection by moving into camps near government facilities and military installations. Fearing retribution for the massacres, thousands of Hutus crossed into neighboring countries seeking refuge.

Major Pierre Buyoya seized power on July 25, 1996, claiming to be the interim president of a military government. In response, neighboring countries imposed comprehensive economic sanctions against Burundi, which are still in effect.

After more than five years of civil war and two years of sanctions in Burundi, the Government and the National Assembly signed an accord in June 1998, to promote internal dialogue. This accord, which was mediated by the former Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere in Arusha, created a hope for peace and reconciliation. Yet the situation in Burundi and the Great Lakes Region continues to be volatile since the outbreak of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and recent security threats in neighboring East African capital cities.


Operations in the Northeast Provinces: The International Rescue Committee (IRC) first began its work in the northeastern Provinces of Muyinga, Karuzi, and Kirundo in 1996. The objective of the program was to provide emergency water and sanitation services to displaced and regrouped populations. With funding from the Leo Cherne Fund, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Irish Aid, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), IRC assisted approximately 160,000 victims of the ongoing civil war. The situation in this part of the country has since stabilized, due largely to the closing of the regroupment camps in Karuzi Province.

Because of this stabilization, IRC's work in these provinces has shifted from solely emergency services, to a mix of relief and rehabilitation. IRC is involved in projects to increase the local capacity of Burundians repatriating from abroad as well as formerly displaced persons who now wish to resettle in their hills of origin. The rehabilitation of water systems, schools, health centers, and houses destroyed in the war are among IRC's principal projects. IRC is also the lead partner of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) in the distribution of seeds and tools to the most vulnerable populations in Muyinga and Karuzi provinces.

Emergency Program: In 1998, IRC expanded its operations to four new provinces: Makamba, Bururi, Bubanza, and Bujumbura. As these areas remain unstable, the programs here are principally emergency-response oriented funded by OFDA, ECHO, and UNHCR.

The Makamba field office, which also oversees operations in Bururi, was opened in July 1998. The objectives of this program are to provide water and sanitation facilities to displaced and regrouped populations, and to establish an emergency contingency plan in the event of further civil unrest in these and neighboring provinces.

Operations in Bubanza also commenced in July 1998. The objective of the water program is to supply a Therapeutic Feeding Center, one of the largest in the world, with potable water. The sanitation program intends to provide families and communities with emergency latrines. The resettlement program encourages people to return to their hills of origin by providing essential non-food resettlement kits.

As security improves in the capital city of Bujumbura, recent repatriates and IDPs are slowly returning to their former homes. Many of their houses were destroyed during the war, however, and these people are often faced with homelessness. For them, IRC implemented a reconstruction program to assist these families by providing roofing and other materials.


Scott Bartell, Program Coordinator
Marianne Buenaventura, Program Manager
John Keys, Regional Director for the Great Lakes Region
Mary Louise Eagleton, Program Assistant for the Great Lakes Region

Employment Opportunities in Burundi: http://www.intrescom.org/burundi.html

October 1, 1996 Copyright 1996