Emillienne Sinabikeka is sitting on a chair at the Justice Department of Kayanza as she awaits her turn to formally submit her claim on her late husband’s land. Her brothers-in-law have been trying to deny her of her inheritance.
I am constantly intimidated by them, and I often receive death threats.”
“I am constantly intimidated by them, and I often receive death threats,” she said.
Sinabikeka believes her in-laws might have induced her husband’s death through witchcraft – a commonly held belief in Kayanza.
Florence Ndikumana is the Coordinator of Family and Community Development Centre in Kayanza and says that cases like Sinabikeka’s are common. A man’s family members can kick a woman out of a house directly after her husband has passed away, and then claim that the woman no longer has ownership of the property.
Land possession has always been a prestigious indicator of a family’s wealth in the Burundian culture, which is one reason why constant fighting for land ownership persists amongst Burundian families. Kayanza is the most populated province in Burundi, and unsurprisingly, it has the highest percentages of complicated land fighting court cases.
In Kayanza’s commune of Gatara, where the population density is 961 inhabitants per km2, land cases are also widespread. Kayanza’s commune has a population density of 1,000 inhabitants per km2 and the same cases of widespread feuds over land ownership are also very common.
Killings, revenge amongst families and targeted witchcraft hunts are all a result of land disputes The Governor of Kayanza says that over 90 percent of the cases he receives in his office are related to land disputes.