Social engineering for reintegration: Peace villages for the ‘uprooted’ returnees in Burundi

Jean-Benoit Falisse*, Rene Claude Niyonkuru

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 2000s, the government of Burundi and the United Nations created villages to permanently reintegrate over 5,000 uprooted families. Most of these ‘Peace Villages’ soon became areas of socio-economic instability. The dominant narrative blames inefficient aid coordination, while returnees deplore their marginalization in the process and in local communities. The idea of villages epitomizing ‘development’, economic interests in building villages and the rhetoric of Burundi as a successful peace-building story may explain why villagization kept being presented as a solution. Above all, the problem is conceptual: the Peace Villages programmes (i) mixed up the causes and consequences of sustainable economic development and reintegration and (ii) recognized land as identity-giving but mistakenly assumed that it would also provide for the livelihood of the returnees. Durable solutions for uprooted returnees need to allow them agency in their own reintegration process, capitalize on their socio-economic skills, and engage with local communities and development initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-411
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number3
Early online date15 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2015


  • Burundi
  • villagization
  • uprooted returnees
  • reintegration
  • transitional justice
  • migration
  • politics


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