In Burundi in 2014, ACCORD saw the ending of one programme and the start of a new one. After ten years of operation, the Legal Aid Clinic Project (LACP) ended, due to shifts in the funder’s areas of focus, and the consequent reduction of project funding. The close-out phase involved the closing of the four ACCORD rural offices that were involved in the implementation of the LACP (for more detail on the history of ACCORD’s work in Burundi, see further below). Activities over the period included providing mediation services and dialogue forums, conducting conflict transformation and peacebuilding trainings, research and analysis (in collaboration with ACCORD’s Great Lakes Project) and providing technical and strategic support to the Bureau for Strategic Studies and Development (BESD) on governance related issues.
ACCORD has commenced with a short-term project on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of National Solidarity of the Government of Burundi, and in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The overall objective of the project is to ensure the voluntary return of the IDPs in these areas, and to contribute to the monitoring and verifying of the government’s evaluation process, with reference to the Kampala Protocol on IDPs. In addition, the work will assist UHNCR and other partners to put in place programmes or activities of reintegration that will ensure sustainable solutions for IDPs. Throughout its involvement in Burundi, ACCORD has been working closely with locally-based Burundian structures, both at a governmental and non-governmental level. ACCORD’s overall focus in Burundi is to contribute to peace, reconciliation and effective governance by engaging with different sectors of society to consolidate peace efforts and to build conflict management capacity.
ACCORD is an impartial conflict management organisation that thrives on the 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.
History of ACCORD’s Burundi Programme
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. From 1995 to 2014, ACCORD’s work in the country focused 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 concentrated on skills development to build the capacity of community leaders, civil society, political actors and other relevant role-players in conflict prevention, management and transformation. Lastly, ACCORD contributed to ensuring that the ongoing process of the repatriation and reintegration of Burundian refugees took place in a smooth and conflict-free manner by providing legal assistance and mediation services to both returning refugees as well as welcoming communities.
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 focused on consolidating peace 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, ACCORD worked closely with locally-based Burundian structures, both at a governmental and non-governmental level. The idea of working with local structures ensured that the process of contributing to peace in Burundi became a joint initiative between ACCORD and local organisations in the country to ensure sustainability. Evidence of the sustainability was that following capacity building workshops in conflict management that were conducted for community leaders ACCORD noted more than 250 cases that were successfully resolved by community leaders without assistance from the ACCORD Burundi Intervention staff.