Burundi

USAID Field Report Burundi Jun 2005

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Program Description
The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) supports the ongoing peace process in Burundi, as outlined in the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, by strengthening local capacities to benefit from and contribute to the peace process. PADCO Inc., the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the national nongovernmental organization African Strategic Impact implement OTI's Community-Based Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (CPRI) and manage CPRI's field offices in Gitega and Ruyigi Provinces. CPRI's components - the Community-Based Leadership Program, Vocational Skills Training, Community Initiatives and the media - strengthen local-level cooperation for conflict mitigation, help diverse groups generate non-farm income, and increase knowledge and participation in public dialogue on current issues. The four programs work closely with community groups, government entities, media outlets, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, and other USAID offices to maximize the positive outcomes of their efforts. Since February 2004, OTI has invested $3,771,806 in these activities through 210 small grants.

Country Situation

Communal elections successfully held -- The main ex-rebel Hutu group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), won an absolute majority in local communal elections in Burundi. The Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), the party currently in power, trailed in the polls despite intensive campaigning. The vote was peaceful in most regions of the country. However, violence erupted in two provinces, Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza, where the vote was delayed by several days in order to guarantee the security of citizens.

Political campaigns for legislative elections launched -- June 18 saw the official launch of campaigning in the run-up to legislative elections to be held July 4 across the country.

Journalist arrested following remarks critical of the president -- A journalist from Radio Bonesha was arrested days after the communal elections were held. Etienne Ndikuriyo was taken into custody by presidential security officials for having published information on the state of the president's health, speculating that President Domitien Ndayizeye was depressed following the negative outcome of the elections for his party.

Repatriation of Rwandan refugees -- The international community heavily criticized the Burundian government for repatriating thousands of Rwandan refugees from Burundi, stating that the action was a violation of international law.

A. Narrative Summary

During June, the president of PADCO, the main implementing partner of the Community-Based Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (CPRI), made a visit to Burundi. Duane Kissick traveled upcountry with the PADCO chief of party, the Office of Transition Initiatives' country representative and CPRI staff to tour project sites in Gitega Province. The visitors were accompanied by the CNDD-FDD-aligned minister of communications, Onesime Nduwimana, and the FRODEBU-aligned governor of Gitega Province, Tharciss Ntibarirarana. The visit by the PADCO president provided an opportunity to show the size and breadth of the CPRI program, and to demonstrate the local population's appreciation for what it accomplishes.

Also in June, CPRI staff members undertook a series of meetings in the communes of Gitega and Ruyigi Provinces with local representatives from the National Demobilization Secretariat. The staff participated in communal Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration focal-point elections in which one representative from among all returning ex-combatants was elected in each commune. In communes where CPRI's Vocational Skills Training schools were available, they were used to hold the meetings. This provided an opportunity to show the importance of learning a vocational skill and to encourage demobilized ex-combatants to enroll in the vocational schools. The communes visited included Gitega, Giheta, Itaba, Makebuko, Butaganzwa, Mutaho, Ryansoro, Butezi, Kinyinya, Nyabitsinda and Gisuru.

Continuing with demobilization news, the National Demobilization Secretariat organized a reintegration workshop in the capital, Bujumbura. The workshop brought together all those working in Burundi who focus on the reintegration of ex-combatants through their program activities. CPRI was encouraged to continue accepting ex-combatants within its Vocational Skills Training schools and also in its Community-Based Leadership Program training sessions.

An official launching of a CPRI media initiative was held in June to provide a media-monitoring system to the Central African Media Organization based at the Bujumbura Press House. The $75,000 system is fully operational and gives Burundian journalists a resource to provide more accurate and balanced news coverage. The opening was attended by the minister of communications, Onesime Nduwimana.

B. Grant Activity Summary

Program Category
# of Grants, June 2005
Funds Obligated, June 2005
Total # of Grants to Date
Total Funds Obligated to Date
Strengthened local-level cooperation for conflict mitigation
1
$19,590
111
$1,724,227
Diverse groups generate non-farm income
2
$12,500
55
$1,277,479
Increased knowledge and participation in public dialogue on current issues
1
$5,766
44
$ 770,100
Total
4
$37,856
210
$3,771,806

C. Indicators of Success

Increasing tensions over the demobilization program in Burundi have brought about a situation in which thousands of Home Guards (Guardien de la Paix) have organized protests throughout the country. In Ruyigi Province, Butaganzwa Commune, Home Guards manifested their discontent by erecting roadblocks on the national road on June 22. The protest stemmed from the lack of compensation from the government of Burundi to the Home Guards, who had been promised a payment in lieu of entering into the national demobilization program.

The Home Guards acted as an unofficial local militia during the country's civil war, to protect the population from the armed rebel movements of CNDD-FDD and the Forces of National Liberation (FNL). But because they are not considered a part of the demobilization process, they currently receive none of the benefits of other ex-combatants, a situation that they want to see changed.

During the protests in the Ruyigi Province, all traffic was cut off and the affected communes were essentially paralyzed. The only institutions not affected were the local Catholic Church and CPRI's Vocational Skills Training schools. The Home Guards gave specific instructions not to disturb the schools, which are perceived as neutral entities, as well as locations where Home Guards meet to mediate with officials. At least 10 percent of the students in the Muriza Vocational Skills Training school are Home Guards, while 20 percent of the students are demobilized ex-combatants. All students at the school attend the Community-Based Leadership Program workshops and also attend civic education classes, focusing on the peaceful resolution of conflict. The Home Guards who attend the vocational school have emerged as leaders in their group and are able to influence decisions during public demonstrations. These leaders have been advocating for peaceful protests and to establish stronger dialogue with the broader community. The Vocational Skills Training schools have emerged as a serious broker in local conflict resolution.

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

Twenty-three new grants have been submitted to the Office of Transition Initiatives for approval, including the Session III Vocational Skills Training grants. The Community-Based Peace and Reconciliation Initiative is therefore prepared to move forward on the final implementation phase of the vocational-school program.

Additionally, three new Community Initiative grants were submitted for approval, including one for the construction of a primary school that targets the reintegration of internally displaced persons and the host population.

For further information, please contact:

In Washington, D.C.: Donna Kerner, Senior Program Manager, 202-712-0716, dkerner@usaid.gov