Thank you for giving me the floor.
Before beginning our statement, we would like to inform you that the number of indigenous
Batwa in Burundi now stands at more than 780,000. They have been subjected to
discrimination for a long time in all aspects of national life. Furthermore, to give you an idea
of their location, this community lives in a region right at the centre of Africa.
We support this statement on behalf of the coalition of organisations of indigenous Batwa in
Burundi such as AIDB and UJEDECO. All of these organisations are working for the
promotion and protection of the rights of peoples who have suffered discrimination. Although
it was AIDB who submitted the report to the UPR, UJEDECO supports us in this statement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the national report was produced unbeknownst to us due to the
discrimination against indigenous peoples, the Batwa in Burundi. This is because we are
sometimes excluded from the conduct of public affairs, one of the pre-established principles
of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which was ratified by
Ladies and gentlemen, derived from the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi in December
2008, we have noted that there are no specific recommendations concerning the rights of the
Batwa indigenous peoples. At that time, the Human Rights Council adopted a series of
recommendations on five topics, including:
Equality and non-discrimination against women and sexual minorities;
Right to life and security of person: conditions of detention, torture and extrajudicial
III. Independence of the judiciary, combating impunity, transitional justice and civil
IV. Rights of the child: juvenile justice and child labour;
Economic and social rights: right to adequate standard of living and right to education.
Although the specific rights of our indigenous Batwa community were not a part of the
adopted recommendations, we congratulate the step that our Burundian Government has
already taken to have representation in Parliament, at the State Inspector General, and
Commission on Land and Other Assets.
Concerning equality and non-discrimination against women, we also welcome the fact that
the Burundian Government has enforced the Arusha Agreement, making provisions for
decision-making institutions to be made up of at least 30% females. On the other hand, there
is no provision in this percentage for the representation of indigenous women of Burundi. As a
result, they cannot participate in Burundian life to take measures on issues which affect them,
such as rape, assault, battery and the lack of education for Batwa girls which is one of the
reasons why the majority of indigenous Batwa women cannot read or write.
In the economic field, Batwa women do not have the same means as others to carry out
entrepreneurial activities because their jobs in the pottery trade are currently unprofitable due
to competition in industries.
Concerning right to life and security of person: conditions of detention, torture and
extrajudicial executions, the indigenous Batwa in Burundi are still facing arduous conditions
due to the fact that there are many unjustly accused Batwa. There were around 150 Batwa
recorded in the main prison in Ngozi in 2011. In the main prison in Bujumbura, there are also
Batwa people. As an example, take the case of a Twa soldier currently imprisoned by his
superior while he is accusing him of raping his child. According to studies carried out by four
Batwa organisations in 2010, in some prisons, these accused people are often accused of
robberies and rape without any evidence. There are other alleged Batwa who are in conditions
of detention following thefts but subsequently accused of robberies or rape. Furthermore,
these defendants can spend two, three or more years in prisons, without their cases going to
trial, hence a lack of fair justice for the indigenous Botwa peoples.
Additionally, murder cases are still observed in the Ngozi Province where we have noted 2
Batwa and 10 houses burnt down in 2012, 3 Batwa and houses burnt down in the Kayanza
Province in the Gahombo commune in 2010 and in the Cibitoke province, 2 Batwa were
murdered in the Mabayi and Mugina communes in 2009. Lastly, in the Bubanza province, 1
Mutwa was murdered at the start of 2012.
Regarding Burundian justice, the Batwa do not benefit from the right to equality under the
Law, as is testified by the copies of judgement on the expropriation of Batwa lands in the
Commune of Gahombo and Ntega where we currently have a Twa called Misago who has
been imprisoned after refusing the expropriation of land with more than 15 Batwa households
on the Kamenya hill, Ntega commune, Kirundo Province. In other provinces, namely Rutana,
Bujumbura, Batwa are victims of land rights violations. This is because justice has never
listened to the Batwa because of excessive corruption in Burundi.
Concerning independence of the judiciary, combating impunity, transitional justice and
civil liberties, the non-independence in the judiciary further supports the incidence of
impunity for alleged perpetrators of rape and murder cases with Batwa victims. This is
because, on the one hand, the Burundian judiciary is not independent of the executive power
and on the other hand, it is not inclusive through all parts of Burundian society.
For transitional justice, we commend the Commission which has been set up for national
consultation despite the lack of Batwa representation. This is because some Batwa were
consulted according to the report. We regret the fact that until now the Batwa have been
excluded from all processes of transitional justice mechanisms in Burundi, even though they
have been victims of wars caused by our Hutu and Tutsi brothers from the end of
independence until 2008. As a consequence, we are worried that the Batwa will not be
involved in mechanisms such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Reparation
of Victims for Rehabilitation and Compensation, as well as in the reform of institutions where
Batwa could participate fully in order to contribute to Burundian national life.
During the Special Tribunal, we feared that the Batwa risked carrying the burdens of those
responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity etc. because some Batwa were
exploited during the Burundi conflicts. This is why if the Batwa are excluded from this
process on transitional mechanisms, we will always be victims of injustice.
As for current political reforms from the Arusha Agreement, we commend the Burundian
Government's effort for accepting our representation in the East African Community
Parliament. Although the Burundian Government has made this step, there is still a long way
to go before the integration of Batwa into decision-making agencies. This is because the
Batwa were not consulted in the appointment of the ombudsman or the Independent National
Commission on Human Rights. The Burundian Government has never thought of the
contributions that could emerge from the Batwa community even though we are equally
Burundian. This is demonstrated by legislative texts from the constitution and the Arusha
Agreement which determines the percentage of Hutu and Tutsi representation at 60 and 40
percent. This discrimination exists because the Burundian Government does not respect its
commitment to the first articles of two covenants for the right to self-determination. We
therefore need to raise awareness of this right, as well as the right to free, prior and informed
consent, which enables indigenous peoples, including the Batwa, to participate in decision-
Concerning rights of the child: juvenile justice and child labour, we acknowledge the
Burundian Government’s effort to take care of children under five. Despite this, the Batwa are
far from benefiting from this public policy. This is due to the fact that more than 85 percent of
indigenous Batwa families have not had their marriages regularised, so cannot legally register
their children. Furthermore, Batwa children are committed to searching for a way of life due
to poverty, with many leaving school to beg while others are involved in forced labour from
an early age. In relation to juvenile justice, there are numerous Batwa children who are
imprisoned unjustly, accused of robberies despite the responsibility lying with others. Even
those who are in detention houses do not receive legal assistance because it comes at a great
Some children who continue studying (primary, secondary or university) only receive two or
three books despite the need for school materials surpassing this greatly. For example, as we
speak, there are 40 roaming the streets and 918 constantly seeking support in terms of school
material. If we put this into context, out of a population of 78,000 or more, five Batwa have
reached university-level education.
With regard to economic and social rights: right to adequate standard of living and right to
Following a study carried out by UNIPROBA (Unissons-nous pour la promotion des Batwa),
we would like to highlight the fact that 12,167 Batwa households made use of land in 14 of
the country’s provinces. Nevertheless, these lands are still cramped and rocky, generally not
usable due to the demand for chemical fertilisers. We deplore the expropriation of indigenous
Batwa peoples’ lands which is a current occurrence in the provinces of Bujumbura, Kirundo,
Kayanza, Rutana and others.
For a year, the Burundian Government has adopted a policy for registering landholdings for
the possession of certificates according to the new Land Code of 9 August 2011. Despite
adopting this policy, the Batwa who were using these small plots of land have been
expropriated by the National Commission on Land and Other Assets. Take, for example, the
Commune of Marangara in the Ngozi Province and the Commune of Gitobe in the Kirundo
Province, the Commune of Nyabiraba in the Bujumbura Province during these last two
months of 2012.
Consequently, the right to an adequate standard of living would only be a dream since the
Batwa live below the poverty line. The right to health, education and housing etc. will not be
accessible due to the lack of sufficient lands for agricultural activity. In order to escape this
problematic situation, we have formulated some recommendations for the government,
- Ratify the ILO-Convention 169;
- Implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Integrate the Batwa into the process mechanisms of transitional justice;
- Incorporate articles of law into the Constitution to promote the Batwa of Burundi’s
effective participation in decision making;
- Create a Law guaranteeing positive discrimination in terms of education, work, health,
- Consult the Batwa on issues which concern them in relation to national life.