Since the end of Burundi’s decade-old civil war in 2000, the country has faced a problematic land legacy, with the need to resettle hundreds of thousands of unfairly deprived refugees and displaced persons. Restitution is essential to consolidate peace, but amid acute land tensions due to demographic growth and the scarcity of available arable lands, the current policy is weakening peacebuilding efforts and reviving ethnic resentment. It gives advantage to repatriated citizens to the detriment of current land owners, who were not all complicit in land thefts during the civil war. In order to avoid restitution being perceived as revanchist, a new land reconciliation policy is required, more aligned with the spirit of the 2000 Arusha peace agreement.
This report, the second in a two-part series on failures and deficiencies of land reform in Burundi, analyses the dilemma between reconciliation and restitution. If these two national objectives are not properly balanced, restitutions can lead to a revival of past ethnic tensions and, by repairing one injustice through another, create frustration and resentment.