A Briefing on Burundi
Fabien Nsengimana - Director of the Burundi Leadership Training
Howard Wolpe - Director Project on Leadership and Building State
Capacity and Africa Program
The Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP) is a major capacity-building initiative dedicated to the promotion of sustainable peace through state leadership capacity building. The program seeks to enable leaders from belligerent parties to address four challenges to the achievement of a durable peace: (1) the shifting of key leaders from a zero-sum mindset to one that recognizes interdependence and the importance of collaboration; (2) the rebuilding of trust and relationships among key leaders that have been fractured by conflict; (3) the strengthening of communication and negotiation skills; (4) and, finally, the rebuilding of consensus on how power should be organized and decisions made.
The objective of the briefing was to inform U.S. policymakers of the current state of the political climate in Burundi, the ways in which the Burundi Leadership Training Program has contributed to the peace-building process in Burundi and address some of the possible challenges that lie ahead.
Fabien Nsengimana, director of the BLTP, described the Burundian peace process as an exemplary model of successful conflict resolution. Emphasizing the key role of leadership training at each step of the process, he outlined the conflict's progression from armed confrontation, to negotiations between rival parties, to the conclusion of an agreement and eventually, to the organization of free, fair, and transparent elections. Based on these experiences, Nsengimana concluded that leadership training has, and will continue to be, central to effective governance in Burundi.
He delineated three central issues surrounding the current political climate in Burundi: ethnicity, governance and the peace process in general. He claimed that the ethnic issue had largely been reconciled by efforts made to integrate each ethnic group into central institutions and organizations, such as the government, military and police. Nsengimana pointed to the successful transfer of power between President Buyoya (ethnically Tutsi) and President Ndayizeye (ethnically Hutu) as particularly illustrative of this point.
Addressing the governance issue, Nsengimana conceded that a lack of visionary and cohesive leadership by newly elected and appointed leaders has been responsible for a lapse in the enforcement of the rule of law, problems with the elimination of corruption and a general overshadowing of other national problems of poverty and development. He said that a pervasive zero-sum, "win-lose" mindset within the ruling party, rather than more collaborative "win-win" mindset, has degraded confidence amongst various political actors and hindered the effective functioning of governmental institutions.
In terms of the peace process, Nsengimana spoke of the importance of the continued negotiations between the FNL rebel group and the government. The FNL refusal to continue their participation in the Joint Mechanism for the Verification and Follow-up of the cease-fire (JMVF) is of particular concern.
The Burundi Leadership Training Program has been a significant contributor to the larger peace process in Burundi. Nsengimana credited the BLTP with fostering trust and confidence amongst leaders by helping them develop their communication, negotiation and collaborative decision making skills. The diversity of participants, both ethnically and regionally speaking, has been well received and several workshops have been organized for the government, the Parliament and various political parties, as well as the army and police commands.
As a result of BLTP workshops, there is an increased sense of cohesion within the Presidential cabinet, political party leaders have been able to agree on a "code of conduct" resulting in free and fair elections and the Integrated Military Command has been able to restructure the army and define the status of former combatants.
The current focus of the BLTP is concentrated on the Burundian National Police. A direct byproduct of the peace process, the National Police is a nascent institution, replacing the old gendarmerie, and it suffers from its infancy. The BLTP is in the process of helping high officers of the National Police strengthen their leadership capabilities, hoping to create a cohesive unit that will be able to further the peacekeeping process and serve as a national institution.
The BLTP faces the challenge of transforming individual-level change into larger socio-political change. This includes not only change in political attitudes but also the need for change in action. During the next three years, the BLTP would like to build on the work it has done so far. In addition to continuing its training in communication, negotiation, and decision-making skills, the BLTP would like to offer supplementary opportunities for trained leaders to reflect on concrete issues related to reconciliation, governance, and development. Furthermore, the BLTP would like to work towards reducing the gap between national and community level leadership. The BLTP believes that additional efforts at the local level are needed in order to promote current reforms and the democratization process.
While a significant amount of work still needs to be done, the BLTP is content with the progress witnessed so far and continues to advocate the role of leadership training as central to effective governance.
Drafted by Mathias Kjaer, Intern and Roseline F. Tekeu, Program Assistant, Africa Program.