ACCORD started working in Burundi in 1995, and opened its first in-country office in Bujumbura in 2003. In 2004 ACCORD opened two additional offices in the towns of Ruyigi and Rumonge, followed by the opening of a fourth office in the town of Rutana in beginning 2008. Since 1995, ACCORD’s work in the country focuses on facilitating interactions among key stakeholders in Burundi and between relevant stakeholders and their counterparts in Africa. This included second track assistance during the Arusha negotiations. In addition, activities in Burundi concentrate on skills development to build the capacity of community leaders, civil society, political actors and other relevant roleplayers in conflict prevention, management and transformation. Lastly, ACCORD contributes to ensuring that the ongoing process of the repatriation and reintegration of Burundian refugees takes place in a smooth and conflict-free manner by providing legal assistance and mediation services to both returning refugees as well as welcoming communities (Please see the chronology of ACCORD’s activities in Burundi).
Burundi is a small, landlocked country in Central Africa (27 830 km2), with approximately 7 million inhabitants. The country gained independence in 1962, where after it experienced on-and-off, latent and manifest conflict. More than half a million people died following the crises of 1965, 1972, 1988, 1991 and 1993. The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi which was signed in 2000 as well as the subsequent cease-fire agreements with various rebel movements that did not participate in the Arusha peace talks paved the way for the holding of democratic elections in 2005. This marked the beginning of the country’s post-conflict reconstruction phase which focuses on consolidating the relative peace that the country is currently experiencing by continuing with efforts towards a peace agreement with the one remaining rebel movement, Forces Nationales de la Libération (FNL) and initiating processes to allow the country to come to terms with its past. Naturally, rebuilding the Burundi’s economy after years of conflict is paramount to the success of peacebuilding efforts in the country.
Throughout its involvement in Burundi, ACCORD has been working closely with locally-based Burundian structures, both at a governmental and non-governmental level. The idea of working with local structures ensures that the process of contributing to peace in Burundi becomes a joint initiative between ACCORD and local organisations in the country which ensures sustainability of efforts. ACCORD is an impartial conflict management organisation that thrives on a principle of not taking sides in any conflict situation but rather seeks to assist the parties reach a settlement on their own terms. Indeed it is this philosophy that has earned ACCORD respect in a number of countries where it has worked and continues to work, including Burundi.
The overall goal of the ACCORD Burundi Intervention is to contribute to post-conflict peacebuilding through the promotion of peace, reconciliation and effective governance in Burundi. The Intervention aims to achieve this goal through doing the following:
- strengthening the capacity of civil society and other stakeholders to respond to conflict through conducting capacity building workshops in conflict management;
- promoting dialogue towards peace and reconciliation through dialogue sessions; and building capacity for conflict management on a community level through conducting mediations and capacity building workshops in conflict management and legal matters.
The Burundi Intervention’s long term vision consists of enabling the various stakeholders to internalise the skills provided by ACCORD and utilise them toward sustainable peace in Burundi. One way the Burundi Intervention is already achieving this goal is through the capacity building workshops in conflict management that have been conducted for community leaders. Following the relevant workshops ACCORD has noted more than 250 cases that were successfully resolved by community leaders without assistance from the ACCORD Burundi Intervention staff. Taking into account this experience and others, ACCORD Burundi Intervention will continue to build local capacity throughout the country for the constructive resolution of disputes, as well as the promotion of dialogue and reconciliation.