Ozong Agborsangaya, Director, Sub-Saharan Africa Programs, Search for Common Ground (SFCG); Howard Wolpe, Director, Woodrow Wilson Center's Africa Program and former Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region; and Glenn Slocum, former USAID Mission Director in Burundi and expert on the development assistance and conflict management.
Agborsangaya, Wolpe and Slocum spoke about ways in which development assistance can help to build peace in Burundi.
Agborsangaya outlined the SFCG philosophy in conflict transformation and spoke how the organization has adapted this philosophy to the situation in Burundi. Having been active in that country since 1995, SFCG is pursuing a long-term approach to peacebuilding by working with indigenous staff to shift the discourse from an adversarial towards a collaborative one. In doing so, the organization works on various levels, employing bottom-up, bottom-down and sideways approaches to transformation. According to Agborsangaya, SFCG's work in Burundi is exemplary for this integrated approach.
Wolpe shared his experiences from the Burundi Leadership Training Program, an initiative by the Wilson Center's Africa Program to promote civil, non-confrontational discourse in the interest of problem-solving. The program, based on input from Burundians, brings together a group of one hundred Burundian leaders from a variety of ethnicities and sectors on a regular basis. Framed as leadership training, it is aimed at teaching the skills needed to cooperate with each other across ethnic and other divisions instead of focusing directly on the issues that are contentious in post-conflict Burundi. Based on the success of the program, Wolpe argued that a more integrated post-conflict approach is needed in which statecraft and diplomacy cooperate more closely with those who are engaged with conflict resolution and assistance on the ground.
According to Slocum, U.S. development assistance in Burundi faces a difficult situation due to the Federal Assistant Act's restrictions on assisting the Burundian government directly and on assistance for military purposes. As a result, development assistance cannot be used for some of the crucial tasks in Burundi's transition to peace, such as military reform, disarmament and demobilization, good governance and institution building. Slocum raised doubts as to whether the development assistance that is provided at the micro level can be successful absent a commitment to address the underlying causes of conflict in Burundi. In addition, Slocum identified numerous problems with interagency coordination within the U.S. government. Therefore, despite the existence of a well-articulated overall USAID program for Burundi, USAID may not be adequately prepared to support Burundi's return to peace, democracy and economic well-being.
Drafted by Susanne Martikke with Anita Sharma, Director, Conflict Prevention Project, 202/691-4187