International Alert has been working in Burundi since 1995 when peace negotiations were beginning. We have helped provide space for conflict transformation and built capacity for this among some of the main protagonists.
Alert has provided training in conflict resolution to women throughout the country and supported women in the political arena seeking access to the negotiating table. We have supported the creation and development of a civil society organisation for monitoring government action. We have worked with the media to disseminate this monitoring work, as well as findings from a number of research projects, directed to national and international actors. Subjects addressed include the inclusive reform of the coffee sector as well as community perceptions of corruption and of security sector reform. The Burundi team also contributed to Alert’s Great Lakes regional research on women’s political participation and that on the impact of rumour, prejudice and stereotypes on relations between peoples in the Great Lakes Region.
Alert has worked with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, one of whose first interventions was in Burundi. We have supported women’s organisations contributing to a Strategic Peacebuilding Framework and to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects under the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). Currently, Alert is working with civil society organisations to promote a peacebuilding focus for Burundi’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy, using a conflict- and gender-sensitive approach. We are also studying the effectiveness of the World Bank and the UN in consolidating peace in Burundi as part of a global study.
The Burundi programme operates at the national level, reaching out through partners to all of the provinces – and most of the 129 communes – in Burundi. We also target the international community, notably in London, Brussels and New York.
After more than a decade of war, Burundi is experiencing a fragile peace. Although 2010 saw elections which re-elected the CNDD-FDD, the conduct of the elections reflected an exclusionary and unaccountable political culture which continues to be an obstacle to long-term stability. Although former rebel groups have been incorporated into the army, rumours abound that some have opted out of the political process as a result, leading to speculation about the potential for new challenges to the current government. Poor governance (characterised by impunity, lack of accountability and the absence of transparency) generates popular resentment and results in the scarcity and inequitable distribution of economic resources.
Since independence, and until the elections in 2005, there was continuous political and economic domination by the minority Tutsi group over the Hutu majority, which gave rise to uprisings, genocidal massacres and brutal repression over a period of forty years that led to inter-ethnic fear and antagonism. Despite the emphasis on ethnicity in the way people often talk about the conflict, it is not the only cause of conflict in Burundi, which has been mainly driven by competition over access to the state as a means of self-preservation, power and economic advancement.
Significant hurdles to long-term peace remain. The majority of Burundians, and women in particular, are offered little scope to participate in the political process. In addition, despite real - albeit imperfect - improvements in security, the population has not yet felt any significant economic peace dividend.
Alert’s approach has been to promote socially and politically inclusive participation in peacemaking and in political and economic reform for peacebuilding. We have provided support to civil society from the beginning of the peace process in 1995 and continue to promote its efforts. We also conduct research and evidence-based advocacy. Our advocacy has two main strands: on the one hand it promotes a conflict-sensitive approach to economic reform, and on the other it supports women’s role in peacebuilding, in line with UN Resolution 1325 which promotes gender mainstreaming in national peacebuilding - in planning, policy and practice.