Since January 2021, Burundi has established a council of hill notables responsible for peacefully resolving conflicts that arise in the community. These notables are not tasked with resolving disputes but rather play the role of advisors. Although necessary for the cohesion and smooth running of society, this institution today presents many challenges that remain to be met.
Hill notables are governed by law, the adoption of Law No. 1/03 of January 23, 2021 supplementing the provisions of the code of civil procedure relating to the reinstitution of the council of hill notables. This institution is coming back in force in 2021 after being suspended by the Burundian government in 2005.
Three years after its creation, Côme Ndikumana, one of the notables of the Mirango district in the Kamenge zone of Bujumbura Town Hall, says that the five notables out of the fifteen elected officials, who must sit, work in synergy with the administrative staff. However, their action is limited to the role of advisor, being obliged to refer any disputed legal matter to the courts of residence.
The missions of hill notables differ from those of administrative officials.
Emmanuel Nizigiyimana, head of district 7 of the Buyenzi zone, affirms this perfect collaboration between these hill councilors and the administrative staff given that their specifications differ. According to him, the former deal with disputes that may arise in the community while the latter have the mission of being with the population in all situations.
“200 contentious cases have already been dealt with by the council of notables of the Mirango district, but among these, are those which were referred to the residence court because of the non-reconciliation of the parties in conflict, after the grant of the minutes of this council,” says Côme Ndikumana.
It nevertheless specifies that even in the event of reconciliation, a report is provided to the newly reconciled parties, so that the court of residence places its seal on this document within 15 days, thus giving it legal value, while allowing the file to be classified. ‘affair.
Lack of knowledge of the law, one of the challenges of the council of hill notables.
For Me Emmanuel Burakuvye: “this council was put in place to reduce the very high number of contentious cases in the courts. It allows the parties to the conflict to be reconciled without them having to go to court.” This makes it possible to reduce the number of cases processed by the residential courts, which contributes to the rapid processing of these cases. For him, ignorance of the law is one of the major challenges that haunts this institution of hill notables.
On this, Théophile Ndarufatiye, director general at the Ministry of the Interior, said that the law creating this council of notables contains the missions of this hill council. He further adds that capacity building is organized for these notables in order to improve the quality of their work.
Insufficient infrastructure and equipment.
Côme Ndikumana and Emmanuel Nizigiyimana, both respectively notable and head of district 7 of the Buyenzi zone, denounce the lack of offices and supplies as the main challenges to the proper functioning of their work. According to the head of district 7 of the Buyenzi zone, “they are sometimes obliged, during periods of rain, to find premises for them to work”.
The DG at the Ministry of the Interior finds that all these challenges are also linked to the fact that this institution is still young. He recommends working closely with administrators in order to find short-term solutions, but also specifies that the State will do everything to resolve these problems.