When you are in contact with the general population or hear them talking, the impression you get is that they think soldiers are only capable of acts of war. This is undoubtedly because of the war, which lasted a long time here in Burundi and in the region. But, this is far from being true: the soldiers do not always use force in the activities they undertake. That latter impression is confirmed by their day to day work, in which one finds soldiers working side by side with civilians be it in the resolution of the conflicts, in the rebuilding process, or other activities. Thus, the soldier is no longer a person whom we should flee; we can approach him, chat with him and seek his counsel.
Moreover, there are even officers today who have already learned and have even taught others the modern techniques of peaceful conflict resolution. Within the National Defence Force of Burundi there are more than 150 officers who have already benefited from a very high quality training in conflict resolution and in mediation. These trainings have been held in several locations. Some officers participated in a training in Nairobi (Kenya), others at the Catholic Seminary of Burasira (Burundi). Each group was comprised of more than 30 participants. Examples of the techniques learned by these officers include:
Raising awareness about the existence of conflict;
Understanding perceptions of the other;
A knowledge of communication skills;
The resolution of problems using the 4 quadrant tool;
An analytical framework for negotiation;
The role of the mediator.
These techniques were taught by specialists who frequently work with the Burundi Leadership Training Program (a local NGO). Among them those are who work with the Institute of research and teaching on the negotiation in Europe. Others collaborate with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars based in the United States.
Following the advice of the Chinese proverb that teaches it is better to teach a person how to fish, rather than giving him the fish it, the authorities of the Ministry for National Defence decided they should not remain forever dependent on these external experts. They immediately proposed a training of trainers. Hence, 10 officers of the army and 6 officers from the National Police force learned these techniques and have improved their skills. Today they are well-trained in these techniques, having participated in a training and then a training of trainers in March 2006, in Ngozi (north of the country). At the end of February 2007, the officers continued their learning process, participating in a follow up training in Bujumbura.
It is important to know that this teaching continues and will continue until the day when each soldier will acquire the sufficient capacity to solve conflicts peacefully. The officers trained in these techniques will have the task to share this knowledge with every soldier.