BURUNDI, Great Lakes Region
Much of Burundi’s post-colonial history has been marred by politically-motivated inter-ethnic violence. Burundi established a constitutional monarchy with Prince Mwami Mwambutsa IV at its helm at independence from Belgium in 1962. Shortly thereafter, the nation descended into a series of coups and counter-coups as the nation’s two dominant political parties vied for political power and access to scarce resources. During the post-independence period, experts estimate that 250,000 people perished as a result of this infighting – two episodes of which are officially recognized as genocides by the United Nations.
The nation’s first democratic elections were held in March 1993, but decades of violence had already divided communities and torn apart the country’s social fabric. Eight months into his term, Hutu President-elect Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated in a failed coup d’état orchestrated by the Tutsi-dominated army, propelling the country into a brutal 12 year-long civil war (1993-2005) that claimed an additional 300,000 lives, and left lasting physical and psychological scars on communities across the small, landlocked nation of 8.7 million.
WOMEN AND MEN AS PARTNERS IN PEACEBUILDING
Karuna Center for Peacebuilding recently worked in close partnership with three Burundian organizations, Fountain-ISOKO and the Female Journalists Association (FJA), and Umoja Now, as part of the Women and Men as Partners in Peacebuilding program that we co-facilitated with Men's Resources International from 2012 through early 2016. By engaging Fountain-ISOKO, FIA, and 5 other regional partners from across Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo, this program piloted a new paradigm of cross-gender partnerships that will more effectively address the interconnected cycles of community-based and gender-based violence that affect Burundian communities.
The violence and trauma visited upon the population during the war years served to reinforce the patriarchal gendered norms that legitimize sexual and domestic violence against vulnerable men, women, and children. Nearly 1,400 women reported being sexually assaulted in Burundi in 2010, and domestic violence is widely considered to be a serious problem in many households. Youth para-military gangs armed and trained by members of Burundi’s ruling political parties also pose a serious threat to stability.
In 2015, organizations participating in the Women and Men as Partners in Peacebuilding Program formed a regional alliance to continue to advance violence prevention through female-male partnerships: Alliance Femmes/Hommes pour la Paix (Alliance of Women and Men for Peace).
Learn more about the Women and Men as Partners in Peacebuilding Program.
Karuna Center traveled to Bujumbura, Burundi in December 2006 at CARE International’s request to assist the multi-national humanitarian development organization in launching a two-year grassroots campaign to combat gender-based violence (GBV) in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We launched CARE’s program with a training on conflict-sensitive design and program management for senior staff based in-region, equipping them with the skills and competencies needed to ensure that all campaign actions would be both conflict- and gender-sensitive.