Since independence, Burundians have suffered various cycles of violence, characterized by the targeted massacre of civilians along ethnic lines. In 1993, revenge killings between the Hutu and Tutsi communities culminated in a civil war that lasted for over a decade. Prospects for lasting peace rose with the Arusha Peace Accords, which ended the civil war in 2005 and led to democratic elections. Sustained negotiations saw the last rebel group sign the Peace Accord in 2008. Subsequent elections in 2010 however led to yet another political crisis. The ruling party retained power in an election boycotted by the opposition. More recent developments have clearly demonstrated just how fragile the country’s peace still remains. Chief among them is a tussle over presidential term limits and the democratization process in general. Other critical factors include the challenges of reconciliation, dealing with the past, land reform, economic development and security.
Interpeace’s Burundi Peacebuilding programme, implemented in partnership with the Conflict Alert and Prevention Centre (CENAP), aims to reinforce the capacity of Burundian society to consolidate lasting peace. It does this through inclusive dialogue, accountability, reconciliation and the gradual development of a culture of democracy. CENAP’s position as one of the few Burundian civil society organizations with the capacity to bring together actors from across the political divide has helped foster dialogue. CENAP managed to keep open and sometimes initiate critical lines of communication across the political divide. Facilitated by CENAP, these dialogue initiatives have involved government representatives, the ruling party, opposition parties, civic groups and the people.
The joint Interpeace-CENAP peacebuilding programme was inaugurated in 2007 with the aim of conducting a research-based dialogue process that reinforces Burundian peacebuilding efforts. In addition, the programme’s goal is to contribute to a culture of dialogue and trust that engages all sectors of Burundian society so that they can collectively address the challenges of building peace. The programme also aims to establish a broad consensus on key peacebuilding priorities and on the basic principles, strategies and goals to address them.
The programme is creating important bridges between the different sectors of society and a dialogue process focused on recovery and the consolidation of peace. It uses participatory research methods which include focus group discussions, interviews and polling on the vision for a peaceful Burundi. By disseminating results and success stories the programme hopes to inspire others to join the nationwide dialogue process. The programme puts particular emphasis on ensuring the participation of young women in the dialogue groups. In order to reach out to young people, the team organizes sports and cultural events to start a dialogue with them. Radio panel discussions are additionally used to make the results of the dialogue and research accessible to a wider audience.
The programme’s overall vision is to contribute to the reinforcement of a culture of democracy through the values of inclusive dialogue, accountability, peaceful coexistence and sustainable development. To achieve this vision, CENAP and Interpeace primarily work with local political leaders, national political leaders, youth affiliated with political parties and the communities at risk of conflict in its programme. The positive contribution of these four groups is essential towards achieving long-lasting peace in Burundi.