Strid om jord i Burundi

Forfatter billede

Mangel på jord vanskeliggør flygtninges tilbagevenden til Burundi. Erstatningsfond efterlyses.

After living abroad as refugees for years – in some cases decades – many of the half-million people who have returned to Burundi since 2002 are having to cope with a severe shortage of one of the tiny country’s most precious commodities: land.

– The issue of access and entitlement to arable land on which to undertake subsistence farming and of securing shelter for the returnees are among the most acute hurdles which continue to confront returnees, Hugues van Brabandt, associate external affairs officer for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, told IRIN.

He added that those returning home – especially those who fled in 1972 after a rebellion prompted mass killings of Hutus – often found that the state had taken over their property.

– State-occupied land is sometimes used for exploitation of palm oil, sugar or other more lucrative crops, making land claims more difficult, he said.

Célestin Sindibutume, the general manager in charge of repatriation, resettlement and reinsertion of IDPs and refugees in the Ministry of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender, said the landless returnees were the most vulnerable and difficult to reintegrate.

More than 20,000 disputes over land have been registered by the National Commission on Land and Other Properties, of which some 13,000 had been resolved, often amicably.

Manassé Havyarimana, chairman of the Bujumbura section of the commission, said his team faced the difficult task of reconciling the law and fairness.

– We have, on the one hand, the law protecting the occupant after 15 years of regular occupation if the property was acquired in a legal way, or 30 years of regular occupation whichever way the occupant got it, Havyarimana said.

– On the other, we have a returnee who could not come to claim ownership of his property because his absence was not voluntary. You have to take the two into account, he said.

According to Havyarimana, a compensation fund is vital.

– Some houses were sold by the government, how you can tell the occupant to evacuate them? he said.

– The compensation fund will allow Burundians to get reconciled, he added.