The Commision Nationale des Terres et Autres Biens was established recently by the Government of Burundi to address widespread conflicts relating to land and other properties that have arisen following Burundi’s independence 45 years ago.
For most Burundians, land is both history and livelihood. In a densely populated country where almost nine out of 10 citizens are subsistence farmers, land ownership is a desperate need and a flashpoint for conflict exacerbated by ethnic cleavages and waves of migration and return.
During a genocide in 1972 and a civil war in 1993-2005, Burundi witnessed the exodus of hundreds of thousands of its citizens (Lemarchand, 2008, 1996; Bhavnani & Backer, 2000). Much of their land was given to others (Uvin, 1999). Refugees who returned – again by the hundreds of thousands – faced “new owners” working the land that had once been their livelihood (Johnson, 2014).
To address land disputes, the government, in line with the Arusha agreement ending the civil war, created the National Commission on Land and Other Assets (Commission Nationale Terres et Autres Biens, or CNTB) in 2006.