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Burundi is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Africa that is struggling to overcome the consequences of a civil war that lasted more than ten years. In 2005, the new government of national unity led by President Pierre Nkurunziza began rebuilding all the country's institutions and strengthening the rule of law and improving the quality of life for its citizens. In April 2009, the last rebel group in Burundi, the FNL (National Liberation Forces) renounced the use of force and was disarmed, creating a stable peace in the country. With the wide involvement in the national unity government of former rebel groups, the situation seems encouraging.
Since the end of the 12-year civil war, Burundi has made considerable progress in terms of social standards and open political space. If the judiciary faces many shortcomings, the representatives of law enforcement, as well as those judicial openly acknowledge the problems, and demonstrate a willingness to solve them. Great strides have been made with the adoption in April 2009 of a law to reform the Penal Code explicitly criminalizes the use of torture.
More than half of Burundi's population lives below the poverty line and the end of the civil war has left behind a trail of young men, poorly educated, and trained in military combat alone. This means that true social reconciliation remains a distant goal. Profound institutional weaknesses, poorly trained staff, and lack of resources undermines the effective implementation of new laws and access to justice for millions of people.
According to the Bar of Burundi, the country has only 106 lawyers for a population of 8.1 million, which means that only one lawyer to 76,000 people. The prison population reached a peak of 11,000 prisoners, requiring national authorities to take urgent action. Of the total number of prisoners, more than 64.5% are awaiting trial. Most defendants are unable to afford counsel. There is no legal aid system funded by the state. In the absence of juvenile penal system, more than 420 children are detained in prison cells with adults making them vulnerable to many abuses. Strengthen the rule of law in Burundi is an absolute emergency.
- 2009 Prison Population: 9,114, 104 people per 100,000