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They Were Like Roaring Lions
Alfred Ndoricimpa, a Hutu living in Rutana Province of Burundi near Tanazania.
Interviewed by Florence Ntakarutimana, HROC program manager, Burundi.

Three Burundian families who had fled to Tanzania in 1972 came back to Burundi in May 2012. When they arrived back at their ancestral lands in Rutana, they found that their land had been occupied by other families who refused to give it back. The conflict escalated into violence. The returning family went to fight for their property twice and burned down one of the houses. As people who had participated in HROC, we saw that it was becoming dangerous. There are many land conflicts in Burundi now. We knew that many people had been killed by grenades in such circumstances.

We decided to intervene, so that same things would not happen to these families. We focused on the returning family who was in a weak position and was in great need of a solution. We visited them many times. We shared soda with them and pursued all other strategies to create a friendship with them. We then introduced the issue, and gave them a possible solution.
The first consultation we did was discouraging, they said: “How can we accept that their children eat what should be eaten by ours? The only thing we can do is to throw grenades at them. They would die as others die. We know we would only spend three days in prison and then give beer to the authorities to free us.”

They were so angry. They were like roaring lions.

We tried again and the third time both parties accepted to come together and discuss the issue. We presented the consequences of the violence for themselves and their families if they did not find an alternative and we facilitated their discussion. They agreed that the returning family would receive a third of their land back. This was a wonderful compromise because according to Burundian law, they had no legal claim to the land after a 30-year absence.
Now they live in peace and are good friends of ours. We continue to follow-up with them to make sure they keep their promises. When I remember many people who died because of land issues, I praise God that we saved lives.