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Path towards lasting peace in Burundi - Burudians prioritize what's next on the peacebuilding agenda

25 mars, 2010
Est. Reading: 6 minutes
Crédits photo : CENAP

150 people representing all sectors of Burundian society came together in Bujumbura for a three day conference this week to collectively agree on the next steps for peace.

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Organized by Interpeace local partner in Burundi, the Centre d’Alerte et Prévention de Conflits (CENAP), the meeting was focused on presenting solutions to the obstacles to peace that were identified by the National Group in October 2008. These obstacles had been identified and collectively agreed on following country-wide consultations involving 2,200 Burundians that had been carried out by CENAP and Interpeace during the previous 12 months.

The four priority peacebuilding obstacles collectively selected at the 2008 National Forum were:

  • Elections
  • Disarmament of the population
  • Unemployment of the youth
  • Transitional Justice

From October 2008 to March 2010, the CENAP-Interpeace Programme engaged 996 Burundians - a cross section of Burundians, from the local, commune and provincial level to the national level and the diaspora – in the search for solutions to the four priority peacebuilding challenges.  Participants in this latest phase of consultations included civil society representatives, representatives from religious and ethnic groups, academics, business leaders, military, demobilized soldiers, youth, police, politicians, government officials, diaspora, as well as working groups made up of experts specialized in the specific four areas of focus of the Programme.  Using ‘Participatory-Action Research’ those involved in the process were asked to draw on their daily realities as the groups discussed and developed solutions to the four challenges.

Representatives of those involved in the consultation process then participated in the conference in Bujumbura. The three day conference was officially opened by the Minister of Good Governance at the Celexon Assembly Hall, Bujumbura on the 23rd March, 2010. In his opening speech Martin Nivyanbandi emphasized his support to the Programme and reminded the audience that he opened the first meeting of the National Group in 2008. He mentioned that he was eager to know the findings of the meeting and that he would support these findings going forwards.

Addressing the participants of the conference Matthias Stiefel, Interpeace founder and Vice Chairman of the Interpeace Governing Council stressed the importance of the role Burundians have taken in the process,

“Peace cannot be imposed from the outside. It must be developed by Burundians, for Burundians so the solutions are rooted in the daily realities.”

He praised those present for their participation in this inclusive process that will be another step forward for the country as the move towards lasting peace.

The participants went on to discuss, validate and rank the proposed solutions to the four priority issues.

Participants discussed the different themes at length in the plenary sessions where everyone was given a chance to contribute to the discussion. Video films projected on all themes brought the voices of the people consulted in the research process to the floor of the meeting and stimulated constructive discussion.

Following the presentations of the results, the accompanying film and plenary discussions, participants were divided into four groups that continued to discuss and analyse the proposed recommendations in depth. After the groups reported back to the plenary, additional debate followed around the proposed solutions.  Finally a vote was organized in order to determine which of the recommendations should be given priority in the next phase of the CENAP /Interpeace peacebuilding process in the country.

Collective agreement on the final prioritization

The participants were asked to prioritize the recommendations for each topic according to the criteria of relevance, feasibility and anticipated impact on the issue at stake. The recommendations that reached the 1st ranking will provide the focus for the upcoming phase of the Programme, with the objective to mobilize all actors concerned in order to bring the recommendations into action.

Executive summary from the working group in   anglais | français
Regarding elections, the research focused on strategies that would lead to elections focused on policies and programs designed to tackle the present problems and meet the new expectations of today’s voters. Ethnicity is still a determining factor in Burundian politics and political parties tend to mobilize the voters around ethnic and regional arguments. Now that the conflict is over and the ethnic issue is fading, the population is beginning to exert more pressure on their elected representatives. It is time for the leaders to promote policies that will encourage the electorate to cross party and historic barriers.
  1. Set up a dialogue mechanism and a training programme for political parties
  2. Set up mechanisms fro public evaluation of the leaders' performances
  3. Allow public funding of political parties but only if they base their action on political programmes answering the population's concerns


Disarmament of the population
Executive summary from the working group in   anglais | français
The research on disarmament focused on the problem of legal and illegal weapons, and the strategies on how to disarm civilians. Despite the cessation of war and the implementation of integrated defence and security institutions, the physical security of citizens has continued to be disrupted by the use of weapons in acts of banditry, settling of scores, even foul crimes. The perpetrators of such acts are found not only among civilians, including demobilised former combatants, but also in the army and police. Despite incentive programs to encourage voluntary disarmament and measures of forced disarmament implemented by the government, arms remain a serious threat on the Burundians’ security.
  1. Declare a new grace period for voluntary surrender of weapons without granting compensation. Support this action with a strong community outreach initiative involving religious denominations, administrative officials and local elected officials
  2. Implement cells of community security to support community policing and administration in the hills
  3. Strengthening the security of weapons in the hands of the defence and security bodies and to continue training for these bodies in order to make them institutions that are professionally reliable and that provide reassurance for the population
  4. Set up education clubs for young people and promote non-violence in the Communes


Youth unemployment
Executive summary from the working group in   anglais | français
The research on youth unemployment detailed the challenges and main possible solutions to addressing the issues surrounding youth, unemployment and underemployment. Young people, the main asset of any society, are the most affected by unemployment and underemployment. Idle youth is seen by the vast majority of Burundians as a threat to peace as they are vulnerable to political manipulation and can be easily recruited in militias. Several factors explain the high rate of unemployment in Burundi. Structural weaknesses of the labour market include inadequate job training for the needs of the job market and a formal private sector that is in an embryonic stage. Cultural barriers also limit  young people’s access to the labour market, such as weak entrepreneurial skills, lack of innovation and the expectation to have public sector jobs.
  1. Establish close relationships between education system and the corporate world (by promoting entrepreneurship in schools, organizing visits from entrepreneurs in schools and competitions to award the best students projects, creating youth clubs for entrepreneurship where students would learn how to develop projects, carry out market research, draft CV, etc.)
  2. Create the National Job Observatory (that would be responsible for establishing a dialogue framework on the challenges that undermine the labour market; an effective information system on job and professional training for youth; and serving as support for decision-making, contributing to the definition, evaluation and improvement of job policy measures)


Transitional justice
Executive summary from the working group in  anglais | français
The research on Transitional Justice focused on finding ways to lead to the truth about the painful past of Burundi, and the divides that exist that are preventing the transitional justice process from making progress. 1965, 1972, 1988, 1993, are the periods about which the Hutus and Tutsis disagree in their writings and testimonies. There is divergence around the areas of the origin of the crisis and the number of victims. Both groups continue accusing each other without being able to collectively establish the truth. Each group continues maintaining a selective sensibility and partial knowledge on what happened, and the crimes committed have never been clarified or punished.

Divergences between Burundians do not stop at how they deal differently with the past. Some support the idea to reconstruct the truth in order to build national reconciliation on a solid basis as it was done in other countries. Others, however favour oblivion and amnesty. There are also those who, in addition to the truth, favour trial and punishment, and others who prefer oblivion combined with reconciliation.
  1. Transitional Justice Collect and protect the traces of past events (through collection and protection of archives, recording of testimonies)
  2. Identification and protection of common graves
  3. Identify and institutionalize a day of commemoration of all victims and a common memorial


Closing statements highlighted results of the conference

In his closing remarks on the last day of the conference the Director of CENAP, Charles Ndayiziga, emphasized, “These three days of meetings have been a clear demonstration of good collaboration between Burundians despite the differences and tensions regarding the approaching elections.” He also confirmed that all stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that the recommendations of this process are implemented and that this will require a concerted effort.

The first Vice President of Burundi, Dr. Yves Sahinguvu, thanked CENAP for its important work and requested Interpeace to continue to support the implementation of the recommendations. He further said that all recommendations chosen were good and that the government would do its best to implement the recommendations whenever possible. He also emphatically expressed his personal support to the recommendation that gathered the majority of votes regarding disarmament.

“This was a unique event”, according to one of the participants who came from the countryside and who praised CENAP which “managed to bring together a very diverse group of people and then guided them towards a consensus.