Burundi: Country overview
Up to 300,000 people were killed in a genocide in Burundi between 1993 and 2005, in a Hutu-Tutsi conflict similar to its neighbour Rwanda.
In 2015 Burundi was again plunged into crisis when the president announced he would stand for a third term in the upcoming elections.
Since April 2015, hundreds have been killed and over 250,000 have fled the country. Reports emerged of mass graves, targeted assassinations, and rape being used as a weapon of war. Verging on economic collapse, Burundi remains in a tense and fragile situation.
Preventing violence, tackling hate speech
In this fractious environment, we work with a network of 23 local peace organisations to sound the alarm to stop deadly violence and defuse tensions before they escalate.
Local activists monitor flashpoints at the community level and take action to minimise violence.
In some cases, the early warning network helps prevent the outbreak of conflict. In others, where conflict has already occurred, they devise swift and peaceful solutions to hostilities.
Reports are logged using latest mobile technology and analysed by a committee of seasoned peacebuilders. Experts then pass information to relevant authorities and other organisations so appropriate action can be taken swiftly.
We analyse and share this information with governments, journalists, and UN and INGO representatives around the world through weekly flash reports.
Within Burundi, the violence monitoring work of the Citizen Reporters is used to undertake targeted peacebuilding activities. These include community level meetings to defuse tensions, engaging with government and security representatives, and securing the release of people detained without charge.
“I haven’t seen this kind of information from a local group in any other crisis context in a long time. I know it must be a huge amount of work, so know it’s really appreciated and used.”
Preventing youth turning to violence
In Burundi we also work with Action for Peace and Development (APD), a youth group that aims to engage young Burundians and draw them away from violence. APD sets up peace clubs in high schools where students learn skills to resist political violence.
The peace clubs are a place where young people can develop their own practical ideas for how to achieve a more peaceful, tolerant and democratic society in Burundi. The young peacebuilders share this with their peers, families and communities and to a wider audience through radio shows.
APD is one of three members of the Grow Peace Fund. The Fund is specifically designed to give sustained support as the members grow over the coming months and years.
In their words: Benjamin's Story
“When I was invited to take part to the training on non-violence and reconciliation for young people of different political parties, I was hesitant at first. I could not see myself sitting in a room with people I considered my enemies. Two meetings were arranged by the campaign organisers to convince me to join their initiative. After long hours of discussions, I finally accepted because I was curious to know who would be there, and to hear their views on the ongoing crisis and their plans.”
“My fear and hatred of my opponents is now a bit blurred. Today I can freely walk in any neighbourhoods of Bujumbura, including those that have witnessed protests. This was something I didn’t think possible a couple of months ago. Now I have friends and contacts there and I know nothing bad can happen to me with them around. During talks with others, I realised that we have the same problems. We are all victims of those who take advantage of us for their own interests without worrying about our common future.”
– Benjamin Ncuti, militia member turned young peace activist