The Aspirations of Young People for the Future of Burundi

July 3, 2018

In 2017, the Conflict Alert and Prevention Centre (CENAP) and Interpeace carried out a research to understand the priority concerns of Burundi’s young people regarding the future of their country.

Inspired by the various crises experienced in Burundi, in which the youth have always been involved, the research was conducted in all the 18 provinces of Burundi. It collected the view of over 4,000 young people of varying origins and affiliations, all aged between 15 and 29 years. The youth constitute the majority of Burundi’s population.

The study took into consideration various aspects of national life in Burundi that could serve as a reference in the development of national policies concerning the youth. It had both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, and also addressed topics relating to gender, the education system in Burundi, regional integration as well as access to information. The research findings were validated on 21-22 December 2017 at a national stakeholders’ conference  in the country’s capital, Bujumbura.

A key finding was that Burundi’s young people consider peace their main priority. Of the youth sampled, 57.3% prioritized the need to live and prosper in a peaceful environment, without having to worry about their security.

In terms of affiliation, many youths expressed a lack of interest in active politics. The research revealed that over 70% had no desire to join a political party. Conversely, 81.4% of the young people are open to joining various types of non-political associations. “This means that the decision-makers have to think 1,000 times to regain our confidence, and to no longer consider us [easy targets] during election periods,” remarked Levy Nelson, a young member of the Burundian non-profit, New Generation Association.

The great challenge of material well-being

In the study, the youth raised issues of unemployment and concerns over their material wellbeing, which they said often exposed them to manipulation by political actors. One interesting finding of the study is the widespread inclination of young people, especially those from the rural areas, towards careers in the health and educational fields. Some participants attributed this to a pervasive sense of insecurity for the future, which pushes many young people towards the more “job-driven” sectors, when they could try in other areas.

Jacques Nelson, Chairman of the National Federation of Associations Engaged in Children’s Welfare in Burundi (FENADEB), encouraged meritocracy in employment. “For the benefit of the nation, recruitment should be done on a merit basis, to choose the best candidates,” he said.

Understanding the past, for a better future

The study also showed that the youth place premium value on the need to understand the history of Burundi. In the opinion of many respondents, the fateful, undocumented and “taboo” parts of the country’s history are a critical reason for the vicious cycle of violence in Burundi. “Before turning the page of history, one must first read it and understand it. Then we will have the strength to turn it,” noted one young student consulted in the study.

This aspiration to understand the country’s past received encouragement from the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Bishop Jean Louis Nahimana.  “I am very pleased to see that young people can talk about history objectively and without emotions,” Bishop Nahimana said at the stakeholders’ conference. “The road is still long and CENAP should put its expertise in the field of transitional justice, at the service of the TRC.”

On his part, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior ministry, Déo Ruberintwari, lauded the study as a useful resource for the country’s future orientation. “[This is] a real dashboard through which all political decision-makers and NGOs working with youth must now draw inspiration,” the Permanent Secretary said in his remarks at the conference.

Read the full report (in French, PDF)

Adapted from CENAP’s account of the national stakeholders’ conference, available here (in French)

s