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Peace Aid to Post-War Zones:
The Case of Burundi


PressInfo # 220

 April 23, 2005


Chantal Mutamuriza, Sururu Adolphe, TFF Associates in Burundi
Jan Oberg, TFF director


Development aid aims to raise the living standards of the poorest. Parties at war are sure to obtain what could be called war aid - i.e. weapons, ammunition, and training - from governments and arms dealers.

Post-war countries may receive peacekeepers, reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

What is missing is peace aid. Peace aid increases the chances that the other types of aid will bring normalization.


What is peace aid?

Peace aid focuses on the human dimensions of violence, the hatred, the wounded souls. It empowers local civil society to monitor a peace process and train people in reconciliation and non-violent conflict-resolution - i.e. future violence prevention.

It supports the development of new schoolbooks, a fair and healing account of history and, above all, a culture of peace. Peace aid does exist in today's NGO community, but it is the weakest link of all and governments generally don't appreciate its vital importance.

It's about learning how to say "I am sorry," letting go of hate and the wish for revenge. It's about building justice into the reconstruction and future development none of which can be achieved by just setting up yet another human rights activity.

Rebuilding houses and roads take little time; healing the souls of a nation may take generations. Places like Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Afghanistan and

Iraq provide tragic evidence of the almost total neglect of peace aid. After a cease-fire and perhaps a peace agreement somewhere, the international community and the media rush to other wars or humanitarian emergencies.


Realism versus idealism

Hard-nosed realists may find it naïve to advocate peace aid, to address the deeply human aspects of recovery after hurt and harm. However, historically quite a few good ideas have been ignored, ridiculed or termed unrealistic by power elites. Take non-violent struggle to change regimes. It worked against the Shah of Iran, the Marcos regime in the Philippines, for Solidarnosc in Poland, in then Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution; it made Serbia's Milosevic and Georgia's Shevardnaze fall and recently gave Ukraine a new President. Indeed, people's nonviolent mobilization was instrumental in dissolving the old Cold War structure.

The problem is that non-violence is neglected, the media and the politicians don't even see it when it changes the course of history. (The interested reader is kindly referred to Jonathan Schell's magnificent book about these and many other cases, "The Unconquerable World"). The principle "prepare for peace if it is peace you want - si vis pacem para pacem - is not at all naïve. It brings means and ends in order - in contrast to the principle of preparing for war to keep the peace.

The international community lacks armies of well-trained, experienced peace aid workers - psychologists, social workers, area experts, religious volunteers, child psychiatrists, solidarity workers, etc - equivalent to peacekeeping soldiers. Iraq has at least 300,000 traumatized children and youth now. Do we understand the challenge?



Take Burundi that struggles to leave war and genocide behind and move to peace and sustainable development (1). Since 1993, Burundi has experienced massive violations of human rights after the assassination of its first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye. More than 300,000 people have been killed - and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees long to get back to their communities

Fortunately, since August 2000 when political opponents signed the Arusha Peace Agreement, Burundians had begun to have great hopes. This good will was strengthened by the agreement signed between the main rebel group and the government in November 2002. More than 90%of the country is now secure.

The Arusha Agreement stipulated elections before November 2004 in order to put an end to the transition period. These elections have been postponed to 2005 and there was a referendum on the new constitution on February 28; about 90 per cent voted and 90 per cent of them voted yes. This is a remarkable result! The Agreement also stipulates that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and an International Commission for the Judicial Inquiry (ICJI) should be created before the elections.

The Burundians want justice and peace. A study done by Observatoire de l'Action Gouvernementale (OAG ) shows that 83% of the population want a TRC to be created, 82% want a special tribunal for crimes against humanity.

Burundi has demobilised the majority of its fighters and former child soldiers are being cared for. Refugees have returned home. Leaders in exile return, former rebels form parties. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been decided. These and other step towards peace are huge - given the history and situation of the country (2).

But, alas, the peace process itself costs money and requires many types of independent expertise.


Why does the international community let Burundi down?

People walking the road to peace should be rewarded. But where in this world shall Burundi's government and NGOs find the human assistance and the peace aid to meet all the Arusha goals in time?

The United Nations 2004 Consolidated Appeal for Humanitarian Aid to Burundi amounted to US$ 119 million or 7 US$ per inhabitant, not a big sum by any standards in the international community. The de facto percentage covered was a meager 46%. Due to this and to adverse climate conditions, hunger is now widespread in the northern provinces; the donor community has reacted very slowly, particularly after the Tsunami catastrophe.

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It's tough surroundings. Burundi is number 171 out of the 175 countries on UNDP's human development index. The GNP per capita is US $145. There is one doctor per 100,000 citizens and one single psychiatrist in the whole country, and 40,000 die annually because of AIDS. That is 13 times the victims of September 11!

To tell a dying patient that when he has recovered on his own, he may get a little medicine is plain cruel. However, this is how we deal with many post-war cases outside the media limelight - like Burundi. No one really invests in peace (3). But ask yourself, what would a new African genocide cost? What would be the price for not giving peace - and other - aid in time? And who would pay that price?


Get the priorities of the world right !

Here is an African country that ought to hit the headlines for its struggle towards development and peace. It's a story of hope, it makes good news. What human folly, what wrong priorities in our world, to ignore the places where peace is deeply desired and perfectly possible! What cruel injustice to the 7 million Burundians - while the Bush administration spends US $1 billion a week in Iraq where it's unwanted?

Peace aid aims at indigenous conflict-management, violence prevention and reconciliation in one. It reduces suffering inside and between human beings. What better place to begin giving peace aid but Burundi?

If Burundi's struggle for peace these years is not worth supporting, which peace process is? And what better way to show others that peace pays?



1. For much more about Burundi, see the TFF Burundi Forum.

2. TFF recently posted a series of links about Burundi where you can learn more about the situation in Burundi right now.

3. TFF has approached the ministries of foreign affairs of Norway, Sweden and Denmark asking whether they would be willing to consider a funding proposal for our project with the 11 civil society organisations that work hard in support of the peace process. Stating various reasons, none of them were willing to consider a meeting or receive such a proposal.

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