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Letter about Burundi to BBC



Jan Oberg - TFF director


Lund, Sweden - October 27, 2005


Dear friends at BBC

I am the director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF. I have just returned from Burundi where I have worked on and off since 1999. I believe it is fair to say that, so far at least, the Burundian peace process is remarkably positive and promising - while it is also true that it can still go madly wrong. With the exception of the FNL that keeps on fighting, all other movements in the bush have, as I am sure you know, gone civilian and joined the political process - president Nkurunziza being the foremost example.

If the present government should engage in a full war against the FNL, it would be catastrophic for the country. Elsewhere, warlords and other military actors have been successfully disarmed by tough UN peacekeepers - such as Eastern Slavonia, Croatia in the 1990s.

May I add that I think you are completely right that Liberia and Burundi are good examples. I have never understood why, in general, Burundi has so little media attention worldwide while Rwanda gets it all. It is my experience that people also want good news, and that's indeed what the story of Burundi the last 2-3 years is.

Finally, with 7 million people wanting peace, democracy and development, NOW is the time for the international community to support Burundi. It needs a new thing - peace aid. Countries who want to start wars get arms aid, others get humanitarian or development aid, but we don't even have the concept of peace aid: human assistance with peace education, reconciliation, training in nonviolence, economic development that also promotes trust-building, etc. The world's big organisations are not geared to it - far too little institutional learning.

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The UN and its organisations does a marvellous job in Burundi - that's by the way the real UN, not that in New York - but it is appalling to see that its Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal for Burundi - a tiny 130-150 million dollars - year after year is being met by rich countries to less than 50 per cent. How on earth should Burundi's government and people EVER succeed with peace if we don't help them to make peace more attractive - also to demobilised soldiers - than war?

If there is a new genocide in Burundi in the future, it will mainly have been caused by the neglect and wrong priorities of the international community. Burundi needs our help today, not tomorrow!

And if we do it right, the last guerilla movement will also see it in their own interest in peace rather than continuing the killing.



Jan Oberg

PhD, TFF director


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