To say that Burundi isn’t well understood would be something of an understatement. Even as a long-term Africa specialist I had to look up the capital before my interview for The Advocacy Project. So, just so everyone knows what I’m talking about….
A potted history of Burundi:
Following independece and a coup by the Tutsi-led military in 1973, ethnic tensions gradually increased, culminating in the murder of the democratically elected President in 1993. Although the coup was officially called off, the constitutional crisis took months to resolve – and just as agreement had been reached, the new president died in the same plane crash as Rwandan president Habyarimana, sparking the Rwanda genocide. These events sparked massive massacres of both Hutu and Tutsi, and a myriad of armed groups emerged in the ensuing war. Peace talks in Arusha in2000 produced agreement, but it was not until 2006 that this was fully implemented, when the final rebel group joined the peace process. Since then, demobilisation has been underway, but violence has not been eliminated. Elections are scheduled for 2010.
The country is often compared with neighbouring Rwanda; both countries have undergone decades of ethnic violence between Tutsi and Hutu – but whereas Rwanda’s civil war ended fifteen years ago, Burundi’s only came to an end in 2006, when the final rebel group agreed to join the peace agreement. While Rwanda has been flooded with aid (and it shows in the state of the roads), Burundi is still very much ‘off the map’ – something that also shows in how little it has been studied. Rwanda is seen as an important US ally in Africa, while Burundi isn’t very important to anyone. And while Rwanda’s war ended in military victory for the RPF under current president Kagame, Burundi’s ended in a negotiated peace, and the country is taking steps to restoring democracy. I’ve studied Rwanda a lot in the last few years, and I’m pretty familiar with the history and the issues there – but I know very little about Burundi. Finding out more so that I can compare the countries better is going to be part of the adventure!
Where do I fit in?
I am travelling to Burundi as a Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where I will be working with Survivor Corps Burundi. Survivor Corps are active all over the world, primarily working with disability rights and on campaigns to ban specific weapons, but in Burundi they are widening their reach to work with female ex-combatants who have been victims of gender based violence. This fits in with loads of stuff I’ve studied in my degree, especially the ways in which women can be marginalised by donor communities, and the extra difficulties female ex-combatants face in reintegrating into their communities, so I’m really excited to be working with an organisation that tries to make their voices heard. I’ll be profiling some of these survivors on this blog, as well as some of the community organisations that Survivor Corps work with, and hopefully I’ll be able to tie it in with some wider issues to do with aid management, post-conflict reconstruction, and donor priorities.
Please feel free to come back or make comments; pour les gens de IHEID, ce blog est un éspace bilangue, donc les commentaires en français sont bienvenues!
Posted By Laura Gordon
Posted Jun 4th, 2009