Since its independence in 1962 Burundi has experienced frequent periods of violent conflict. The root causes of this violence are a combination of:

  • Poverty
  • Division and polarisation within and between communities
  • Unresolved trauma
  • A lack of trust and cooperation between the government and communities, and
  • Impunity for crimes committed during the country’s civil war

This has subsequently undermined the country’s social and economic development.

In May 2017, in collaboration with three other international NGOs (Red een Kind, American Friends Service Committee, and Mensen met een Missie) and ten Burundian organisations, Cord launched a new five-year project that is designed to respond to this challenging context, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The name of this new project is Building Bridges in Burundi (BBB), given its focus on bridging the gap between divided communities and helping young people from different backgrounds to flourish.

From our own work with the Batwa in recent years, we recognise the importance of helping young people and their wider communities to develop skills that will enable them to become more self-sufficient, and that allow them to find work or start their own businesses. Disputes over land access, combined with competing political, social and ethnic loyalties risk exacerbating local conflicts, which then sometimes deteriorate into violence. We have learned how important it is to provide space for communities, whose relationships with each other have been undermined by conflict, to come together and recognise the common challenges that they face as a first step toward identifying mutually acceptable solutions.

As part of BBB, Cord and its international and national partners will be adopting a similar approach with Burundian youth in six provinces across the country. Self Help Groups will be established that will enable young people from different, often polarised communities, to better understand the needs and fears of others, solve problems, reach decisions, and communicate non-violently with each other. In these same groups, they will develop crucial vocational skills as well as the confidence to resist the temptation to resort to violence when faced with insecurity and uncertainty. In 2017, Cord’s work will help more than 3,000 young people in this way.