Nationality in Burundi is regulated by the 2005 Constitution, as revised in 2018, and the revised Code de la Nationalité adopted in 2000. These two texts have conflicting provisions. While the Constitution provides for equal rights in transmission of nationality by men and women, the legislation discriminates against women in terms of their ability to pass their nationality to their children, allowing a mother to transmit nationality to a child born out of wedlock only if legal descent (filiation) cannot be established to a father, or to a child born in wedlock only if the father repudiates the child. A child born in Burundi of a Burundian mother does, however, have the right to opt for Burundian nationality. A child found in Burundi of unknown parents is presumed to have Burundian nationality. The law provides no rights for the husbands of Burundian women to acquire nationality. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has urged revision of the law to establish equal rights.

Ethnic conflict has led to a number of cycles of conflict which caused hundreds of thousands to flee the country. The largest waves of refugees fled in the early 1970s and early 1990s. Those that had fled in the 1970s were offered the opportunity to naturalize in Tanzania, but some opted to return to Burundi. Those who fled in the 1990s were not given this opportunity and were expected to return. Both groups, however, have faced difficulties in re-accessing full citizenship rights on return. Those that fled earlier because of particular difficulties in repossessing their land (for more information, see “Two People Cannot Wear the Same Pair of Shoes: Citizenship, Land and the Return of Refugees to Burundi”). Those who fled later have faced difficulties related to their presumed affiliation with opposition political forces.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has welcomed efforts made by the government of Burundi to increase birth registration of children, including the 2006 Presidential Decree guaranteeing free birth registration for children under five. However, the committee expressed concern that a large number of births continue to go unregistered, urging the government to create institutional structures to ensure birth registration especially in rural areas and refugee and IDP camps.

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