By 2003, nearly a tenth of Burundi's 6.8 million people had fled the country. Although tens of thousands of refugees repatriated in the years following, returnees faced widespread poverty, as well as difficulties in tracing land rights and locating missing family members. Burundi's people face the complex task of building a society not only for Hutu and Tutsi, but one that reaches across other divides -- geographic, economic, urban and rural. Traditional social structures have been severely undermined and many of the population suffered directly from the murder of loved ones, displacement, and the theft and loss of land during the years of war. In many ways, they are rising to the challenge by returning home, integrating their police and military, and building a stronger civil society.
In 2005, Burundian voters approved a power-sharing constitution and elected a new parliament. The new government instituted free elementary school for all Burundians, introduced free health care to pregnant women and children under five, and adhered to the requirements for ethnic and gender balance. But many of the political elite in Burundi come out of a military background and have responded to criticism within civil society by cracking down on journalists and human rights advocates. The government has been accused of violating the rule of law, committing human rights abuses, and establishing a system of patronage and corruption. The last remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Force, signed a formal ceasefire in September 2006 in talks mediated by South Africa. Since then, however, hostilities between the national security forces and the FNL have resumed and threaten to destabilize the nation.
The UN Peacebuilding Commission, created in December 2005, chose Burundi as one of two beneficiary nations for a $35 million grant to support the transition from the immediate post-conflict phase to longer term development. In June 2007, the Burundi government and the Commission agreed on a peacebuilding framework with four priority areas: governance, security, human rights, and land issues.
Incidents of violence in either Burundi or Rwanda have sent radicalized and traumatized refugees across the borders of central Africa, aggravating internal conflicts. Burundi's civil war became intertwined with the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa's "world war". Burundian Hutu rebels cooperated with and operated alongside Rwandan Hutu rebels, some responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, who established bases in DR Congo and in Tanzania. The Burundian government army cooperated with and fought alongside the Rwandan government and Tutsi rebels in the DR Congo, although its role in Congo was smaller and more limited to protecting its borders than was the case for Rwanda.