Wilson Center Holds Capacity Building Workshop for the Highest Tier of the Newly Elected Burundian Government

"This is about a stronger cohesion and common vision of the challenges the country faces. The knowledge and skills acquired from this workshop will certainly permit us to be of greater benefit to our country."

---President Pierre Nkurunziza

These words were spoken by the newly elected President of the Republic of Burundi, H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza, when he closed the training workshop organized by the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington), in collaboration with ESSEC IRENE, and CMPartners (Cambridge). At the opening of the workshop, the President related the important role played by Ambassador Howard Wolpe, formerly the Presidential Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region during the Clinton administration, in bringing Burundi through this peaceful elections cycle.

The President explained that Wolpe was active in the Arusha peace negotiation process from 1995-2000 and had helped him, as the leader of an armed rebel group, to negotiate his group's inclusion in the process. Through the BLTP, which Wolpe was instrumental in starting, the President noted that Burundian politicians, members of the armed forces, as well as leaders of civil society were encouraged to participate.

This summary of the BLTP was indeed accurate. Started in 2002, with funding from the World Bank initially, and later the Office of Transition Initiatives of USAID, Britain's Department for International Development, and the European Community, the BLTP has trained almost 400 key Burundian leaders from all sectors of society in negotiations, communications, collaborative decision-making, institutional management, and conflict resolution skills.

The Government workshop, held between September 26th and October 1st, 2005, was the latest, albeit highest ranking example of this on-going effort to build Burundian leadership capacity to manage its recovery and development.

Present for this five-day workshop were the President, the two Vice Presidents, all 20 Cabinet Ministers, and the senior advisors and assistants to the executive branch. The workshop was focused on reinforcing the management skills by creating cohesion among the members of this newly elected government who represent the full spectrum of ethnic, regional and political divisions in Burundi.

The workshop was organized by Wolpe and his management team from the Woodrow Wilson Center and BLTP. The facilitation was led by Professor Alain Lempereur of ESSEC IRENE and Elizabeth McClintock representing CMPartners. Participants were taught the tools and techniques for effective communications and negotiations. Through interactive exercises, role-playing and simulations, they conducted several negotiations under the guidance of the facilitation team which exemplified the need for active communication and listening skills, as well as collaborative decision-making abilities.

One simulation in which the members of the government participated was called SIMSOC ("Simulated Society," created by William Gamson) which creates real life situations in a society divided by vastly different resource bases. At its conclusion, the President characterized SIMSOC as "remarkable." The SIMSOC underscored the need for leaders to address population needs while taking into account prejudices, conflicts, and relationships that are molded by an unfair distribution of wealth.

On the last two days of the workshop, the government officials were invited to apply the communications and negotiations skills - and the cohesive and trusting relationships they had developed – to the key challenges facing this government. They identified three specific priority challenges:

  • national reconciliation;
  • economic reconstruction; and
  • reform of the civil service.

Then, first in small working groups and finally as a plenary, they analyzed these challenges within the problem-solving framework they had been taught and suggested ways forward in dealing with each of them.

At the end of the workshop, participants applauded the organizers for the cohesion and skills they had acquired and asked for further training to reinforce technical capacities in all their ministers, and to ensure better coordination at three different levels: inter-ministerial; intra-ministerial; and international, with a particular focus on stronger partnerships between the government and international donors.

In his closing speech, President Nkurunziza, besides praising the success of the workshop, asked that the Woodrow Wilson Center follow-up with regular shorter workshops to reinforce the skills and cohesion of the Cabinet Ministers and to extend this training to both the leadership of the newly elected Parliament and to the leadership of all the political parties.

For further information, please contact:

Mike Jobbins
Program Associate
Africa Program
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Telephone: (202) 691-4158
Email: mike.jobbins@wilsoncenter.org
Website: www.wilsoncenter.org/africa