a memorial for all wars: the Polynational War Memorial


Burundi Civil War

Years: 1991-2008
Battle deaths: 8,614 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 473 [3]
Onesided violence: 10,465 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2024-04-05 06:39:52

The onslaught on the Hutu elites and youth in 1972 (sometimes referred to in Kirundi as ikiza, meaning the scourge) had left over 100,000 people brutally killed by the Tutsi-dominated army and the violent youth militia JRR. This well organised campaign, which was later described by the researcher René Lemarchand as a “selective genocide”[1], led to a massive refugee crisis and the purging of Hutu representation from the political life of Burundi.

Over the following decades several Tutsi-dominated military regimes were in power. In 1976, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza took power in a bloodless coup. He encouraged land reform, electoral reform, and national reconciliation and created a new constitution 1981. Major Pierre Buyoya overthrew Col. Bagaza in a military coup in 1987. Buyoya dissolved opposition parties, suspended the 1981 constitution, and instituted his ruling Military Committee for National Salvation (CSMN). During 1988, increasing tensions between the ruling Tutsis and the majority Hutus resulted in violent confrontations between the army, the Hutu opposition, and Tutsi hardliners. Buyoya formed a commission to investigate the causes of the 1988 unrest and to develop a charter for democratic reform.[2]

The process of democratization led to a new constitution being approved in 1991 that would put an end to the one-party military rule. Hutus that had fled during ikiza in 1972 to Tanzania took up arms under the name Palipehutu (Parti pour la libération du peuple Hutu, Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People) with its armed wing FNL (Forces for National Liberation). Palipehutu challenged the government which led to renewed violence. The democratization process eventually resulted in elections in 1993. Melchior Ndadaye – the first elected Hutu in Burundi - of the Frodebu (Front democratique de Burundi, Burundian Democratic Front) became president. But only months after his victory he was assassinated by members of the Tutsi-dominated army. This led to widespread violence and a civil war that lasted until 2008.[3]

Thousands of Tutsi were killed by Frodebu activists, whilst the army retaliated with equal force against Hutus. An Uprona and Frodebu power-sharing government failed to settle the crisis and in 1994 the conflict reignited, pitting the Tutsi-dominated government against a number of Hutu-based opposition groups, most notably the CNDD (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie, National Council for the Defence of Democracy) and the Palipehutu-FNL (Parti pour la liberation du peuple Hutu-Forces nationals de libération, Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-Forces for National Liberation). In the context of this armed conflict several groups, including the government, made use of one-sided violence. Some rebel groups at times also battled each other.

The conflict raged between 1994 and 2008, when the last remaining rebel faction (of any notable size) agreed to enter the peace process. Most rebel groups had by the early 2000s entered into negotiations with the government and signed on to the Arusha process, which stipulated wide-ranging reforms of the army and society and a return to democracy through elections. Elections in 2005 ushered in the CNDD-FDD’s Nkúrunziza as president of a government based on ethnic power sharing, and efforts to reign in the last remnant Hutu rebels continued. After many unsuccessful negotiation attempts a new peace agreement was signed with the last remaining group Palipehutu-FNL on 4 December 2008. The agreement finally terminated the Burundi conflict. Although the main conflict had ended political violence were noticeable especially in connections to elections. In 2015 when Nkúrunziza sought to run for an unconstitutional third term the country saw both major protests a coup attempt and the growth of a new rebellion.

-- Uppsala Conflict Data Program (Date of retrieval: 2018-07-23) UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University. Country page: Burundi http://ucdp.uu.se/#country/516



[1]    Lemarchand René, The Burundi Killings of 1972 Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: 27 June, 2008, accessed 22/07/2018, ISSN 1961-9898
[2]    Wikipedia: History of Burundi retrieved 2018-07-23
[3]    Uppsala Conflict Data Program University of Uppsala, retrieved 2018-07-23


Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: UCDP23.1 (1989-2022) #287
Low: 7,771 High: 13,762

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2012, 1989-201123.1 including actors: / Government of Burundi / Palipehutu / FRODEBU / Hutu rebels / CNDD-FDD / Palipehutu-FNL
Low: 8,306 High: 20,726

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2014, 1989-2013 (link)23.1 including dyads: / CNDD vs Palipehutu-FNL / ALiR vs Palipehutu-FNL / CNDD-FDD vs Palipehutu-FNL / Palipehutu-FNL vs Palipehutu-FNL - LP
Low: 467 High: 1,081

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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