Ending the armed conflict in Burundi


International mediation efforts led by South African President Nelson Mandela and the deployment of African Union and UN peacekeepers helped to end the war in Burundi after 13 years of armed conflict.

In response to growing international condemnation of government-sanctioned violence against civilians, the Government of Burundi (which had come to power in coup d’état) agreed to hold elections in 1993. The elections resulted in a victory for the opposition, however the new president was assassinated by army officers, and the country rapidly descended into civil war. By 1996, the military had retaken control of the government.1 In 1998, representatives from the military government and one of the main opposition groups met in Tanzania for peace talks. The negotiations culminated in August 2000 with the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, which formed a transitional administration and invited international observers from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to monitor the process.2 The success in Tanzania encouraged South Africa to deploy 700 troops to provide security to Burundian politicians as they participated in the peace process, however a more inclusive agreement was needed before a multilateral peacekeeping mission arrived.3

The most powerful opposition group, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD–FDD), came to terms with the transitional administration in 2003, following negotiations mediated by South African President Nelson Mandela which culminated with the Global Ceasefire Agreement.4 With the worst of the fighting over, the international community dispatched peacekeepers to monitor the cease-fire and consolidate the peace. The initial effort was led by the first peacekeeping mission deployed by the AU, the African Union Mission in Burundi (AMIB).5 A year later, the United Nations Operation in Burundi (Opération des Nations Unies au Burundi, ONUB) took over from AMIB with a much broader mandate, including carrying out Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration programmes, monitoring Burundi’s international borders, and helping to strengthen the Burundian electoral process.6 In March 2005, a transitional administration promulgated a new constitution and a few months later, under UN supervision, nationwide elections were successfully and peacefully held. The following year, the newly elected government came to terms with a handful of armed groups that had hitherto remained outside of the peace process, bringing a formal end to the armed conflict.7 In December 2006, ONUB left the country. After thirteen years, the war in Burundi was over.


2 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi, 2000. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/node/1207 (Accessed 09/11/2020)

3 Annemarie Peen Rodt. “The African Union Mission in Burundi.” Civil Wars, Vol. 14, No. 3. (2012) p.378

4 The Global Ceasefire Agreement, 2003. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/node/163 (Accessed 09/11/2020)

5 Rodt. “The African Union Mission in Burundi.” pp.378-9

6 UN Peacekeeping. Unityed Nations Operation in Burundi. (UN, 2009) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/onub/ (Accessed 09/11/2020)

7 Short. “Assessing International Statebuilding Initiative Effectiveness at Preventing Armed Conflict Recurrence.”

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of South Africa, the UN, and the Organisation of African Unity




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