The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) has been active in Burundi since 1995, playing a second-track diplomacy role in the Arusha peace negotiations that led to the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi in 2000. In November 2004, ACCORD established its Legal Aid Clinic Project, supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Legal Aid Clinic Project’s objective is to “provide the local population, and specifically the returning refugees, with assistance to deal with the challenges faced by both the welcoming communities and the returnees in the repatriation process”.
Mediating Land Conflict in Burundi: A Documentation and Analysis Project was an assessment and evaluation project undertaken by ACCORD between July 2009 and February 2010. The purpose of the project was twofold. First, it explored how land conflict mediation addresses or relates to other more long-term challenges for peace in Burundi –principally, the utilisation of land and increasing access to sustainable livelihoods. In this context, emphasis was put on the triple-R challenges of the repatriation and reintegration of returnees, and reconciliation between different Burundian societal groups. Second, the project documented and analysed ACCORD’s land conflict mediation practice in the two Burundi provinces of Bururi and Ruyigi. To this end, the following two questions were answered:
2. What effect does ACCORD’s mediation work have on the reintegration and the reconciliation process in Burundi?
Part I of this report highlights the multiple challenges that Burundi experiences in terms of the repatriation and reintegration of refugees, as well as reconciliation between different societal groups. It underlines the importance of land tenure for triple-R, while outlining critical structural factors – notably, shortage of land and fast population growth – that affect not only returnees, but the majority of Burundians. It finds that in the context of these challenges Burundi’s state institutions – though involved in the repatriation process
– lack resources and efficiency to address Burundi’s various triple-R challenges adequately.
Moreover, land disputes are not appropriately resolved, due to overlapping and problematic traditional and legal regulations as well as inefficient conflict resolution institutions and mechanisms.
Part II of this report first presents how ACCORD addresses triple-R challenges through its Legal Aid Clinic Project by means of listening and sensitisation missions, mediation missions, CBWs and legal assistance. Its activities in Ruyigi and Rumonge are then evaluated, assessing the effects on the sustainable resolution of land disputes, and on the reintegration of refugees and reconciliation. The analysis shows that ACCORD reaches most of its stated objectives; its Legal Aid Clinic project contributes to the sustainable resolution of land disputes on an individual level. Moreover, ACCORD’s mediation missions and CBWs contribute to the sustainable resolution of land disputes. Where successful, mediation results in the division, compensation or restoration of the original conditions before exile, and most beneficiaries are satisfied with these solutions.