Burundi: Displaced Concubines Share Harrowing Experiences

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A crackdown on cohabitation has been underway for several months as part of a “moralization of society” initiative spearheaded by the country’s authorities. This policy, initiated by the presidential couple, targets concubinage, which they deem a severe sin hindering Burundi’s development. Two women from the Ngozi province, expelled from their homes, recount their traumatic and violent experiences.

Georgette, at 40, had lived with her partner for half her life until authorities accompanied by police arrived at their home two months ago. The decision was swift and severe.

“We had seven children together, but one died, leaving us with six. When the crackdown on concubinage began, both my husband and I were arrested and detained in a Buye cell before being forced to separate. The children stayed with me. I managed to get some of them back to school, but not all,” she recounts.

A Traumatic Separation

Virginie, who had lived with GĂ©rard for eight years, faced a similarly traumatic separation, albeit through different methods. “For those like me, it was devastating. They took us to the commune to check if we were registered as married. ‘You’re not on the register?’ they would ask. Then they would say ‘leave immediately!’ without any further process. You were then separated from the man you considered your husband, who was taken back to his first wife,” she reports.

Heartbreak for the Children

The authorities didn’t stop there. “My oldest child is eight, the second is six, and my youngest is three. I kept the youngest, but the authorities forcibly took the other two to the first wife. It was heartbreaking because these children were used to living with their mother. They are struggling with this separation!” Virginie continues. According to a Burundian jurist, “these are political measures that violate the country’s personal and family code.”

Leading this campaign is Ngozi province in the north, where the governor reported that since the beginning of the year, 900 women have been expelled from their homes. This action has left some women homeless and caused their children to drop out of school.

This account underscores the profound personal and societal impact of the crackdown on concubinage in Burundi, revealing the deep emotional and practical challenges faced by those affected. As the campaign continues, the international community and human rights organizations will likely scrutinize the legality and humaneness of these measures.


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