The first time I visited Burundi, its rolling hills, green valleys, and friendly faces genuinely charmed me. It was hard to imagine the decades of pain and violence that plagued this small country. The conflict between Hutu and Tutsi—in Burundi as in neighboring Rwanda—has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and to the displacement of more than two million people in the Great Lakes region.

The Africa Program's Burundi Leadership Training Project (BLTP) seeks to bring together those individuals who have the greatest influence on Burundian society to break this cycle. Because of the deep-seated mistrust between Hutus and Tutsis, government and rebels, the participants in the Africa Program's workshops probably would never have had an opportunity to work together.

These workshops provide participants with invaluable leadership and negotiation skills, which they in turn are using to create innovative independent future projects. But for me, most remarkable are the relationships that are developing and the network being created among people who normally would never have communicated so openly with each other.

The key to breaking the cycle of violence and hate is finding what makes us all human. The BLTP has helped Burundians do just that. Not only are participants in the BLTP forming strong political relationships, they are forming strong social bonds on a personal level. Not only are they calling each other personally on critical issues of state, they are calling each other to announce the births and marriages of their children.

Networks emerging from the BLTP are just the beginning of what I believe will be a trend. As Burundi enters a new period of transition, these networks can ease political tensions and further strengthen a new partnership for a peaceful Burundi.