Maud Roure On Burundi

Interpeace had been working in Rwanda on a dialogue and research programme for three years when in 2004, the Burundian Ambassador asked them to start a similar programme in Burundi. After the 2005 elections in Burundi they started looking for a partner organisation.

The essence of the programme was to work with civil society organisations to build trust and collaboration within Burundian society, and help people identify and find solutions to problems standing in the way of peace.

Open minds

Maud Roure says Interpeace had an open mind about who to work with as long as they had the same approach and goals as Interpeace, were neutral and seen as such and had “convening power” from top to bottom of society. Interpeace is an unusual organisation, in that it can either work as an NGO or as a UN organisation. In this case they chose the former.

“It took about a year to find the Centre for Alert and Conflict Prevention (CENAP), our eventual partner. Our search involved trying to meet as many people as possible – Burundian authorities, donors, civil society organisations and others – both in the capital and outside it. Once we’d identified a shortlist, we sought views on their capability from people who knew them.”

But, says Roure, Interpeace was mindful of sensitivities while searching for a suitable partner.

“It can be difficult to deal with organisations that aren’t chosen, so we were careful not to focus explicitly on our search for a partner when we met local organisations. Some of those not chosen have nevertheless played a valuable role in the programme.”

CENAP was established in 2002 and initially focused on strengthening the role of media in conflict prevention but evolved to conflict resolution relating to demobilisation and land issues.

Checking lists

“We read their reports analysing the political situation, and thought they were very balanced and straightforward. We also spoke to their donors and another international organisation they were working with. CENAP was small – only 5 permanent staff – but there was a good fit because they were already doing dialogue work and research.”

CENAP and Interpeace carried out a mapping phase, holding consultations across the country, at different levels, about obstacles to peace. The results were presented to a ‘national group’ made up of 200 people from government, civil society and universities as well as representatives of the local groups consulted.

This group prioritised 4 out of 15 peacebuilding challenges :

  • Disarmament of civilian population
  • Transitional justice
  • Unemployment
  • The Presidential elections
The CENAP team then began to work with four groups, one for each priority, tasked with finding and testing possible solutions with a wider audience, in the hope of finding proposals that would be acceptable to the majority of the people of Burundi.

Success

Roure says Interpeace was fortunate to find such a genuinely impartial and established organisation as CENAP:

“This is especially difficult in post-conflict contexts where the crisis has often polarised society. For example in Rwanda (2000 – 2001) we did not manage tofind an organisation that was seen as neutral. There we adopted a different approach, identifying individuals who were interested and open, who then, over the next two years, formed a new NGO with whom we are still partnering.”