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Burundi since the genocide

1 April 1987

In 1972 Burundi suffered one of the most shocking, but least-known genocides of this century. For generations, the Tutsi people had ruled over· the majority Hutus, a pattern confirmed by Belgian colonial rule and which continued after independence in 1962 when the Tutsi-Hima faction consolidated their dominance in the inner circles of government and the army. The purging of its political opponents in the early 1970s provoked an attempted Hutu rebellion. Government reprisals were savage and systematic: within a few months, it is estimated that up to 150,000 people, mainly Hutu, were slaughtered – around 5 % of the total population. Those chosen as particular targets for revenge included Hutus with government posts, money or education. A whole generation of Hutu school and university students were killed or “disappeared”.

Today, many years after the genocide, Burundi is still ruled by a Tutsi-Hima elite and while widespread killings no longer occur, there is a new threat to human rights. The Catholic Church has come under particular pressure – as have the smaller Protestant sects – to limit their influence and deny the population the right to freely practice their religion. Ethnic discrimination continues – in the education system, employment, the army and the civil service.

Burundi since the genocide, Minority Rights Group report 20, provides an accurate portrait of a divided society. Written by Reginald Kay, a journalist with vast experience in central Africa, it outlines the background to the 1972 genocide and its continuing effects on Burundi today. It poses important questions for those western nations and institutions who cooperate with the Burundi government and asks if more can be done to work towards a more just and less discriminatory future for this small African nation with its tragic past.

An important report on a little-known subject, Burundi since the genocide provides a useful briefing for all those interested in African studies, human rights and the future of Burundi and its people.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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Reginald Kay