Forty percent of countries emerging from violent conflict return to conflict within the first ten years of a peace settlement. The Great Lakes region in Central Africa is no exception.
Since 2006, NIMD has been setting up a multiparty dialogue in Burundi as part of its post-conflict programme. In September and November of this year a breakthrough was created when two workshops were held between the country’s five parties in parliament.
Consultations with parties
An apt case for multiparty dialogue, is what future Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza must have thought of his country, when visiting the NIMD offices in The Hague in 2005. After all, even though elections later that year were still to determine the exact distribution of power, Burundi’s 2000 peace agreement had already stipulated the requirement of a government of national unity. Soon after, elections brought Mr. Nkurunziza’s to the presidency and gave his party CNDD-FDD an outright parliamentary majority. That marked the start of the NIMD’s consultations with the five political parties represented in the National Assembly.
In late 2008, these efforts culminated in two multiparty workshops. From 22 to 24 September, and again from 24 to 26 November, high-level delegates of all five parties assembled in the northern city of Ngozi. During these days, the participants carved out a number of themes that all consider essential in the run up to the 2010 elections. Revision of the constitution, the electoral code and the law on political parties will have highest priority during their future discussions. Security before and during the elections, as well as the establishment of a permanent platform for multiparty dialogue, are also considered eminent issues.
In the coming months the NIMD aims to organise regular discussions on these topics. It will do so in cooperation with its Burundian partner organisation, the Burundi Leadership Training Programme (BLTP) which has long experience in organising leadership trainings for Burundian politicians. Through both technical working groups and meetings between party presidents, the NIMD and BLTP will establish a number of preconditions. In future these should produce legal amendments and other activities to support a stronger multiparty system.
But first the parties will have to create greater trust. Burundi’s history of conflict and the fragile political environment it finds itself in has led to enormous distrust between political actors. Establishing a permanent dialogue platform therefore requires continuously reiterating the advantages of a multiparty dialogue and taking away the suspicion that many political opponents feel toward each other. Burundi is still in the midst of a post-conflict phase and walks a thin line between violence and peace. To slowly enhance trust, both among parties and between parties and the NIMD, the NIMD’s dialogue programme will therefore proceed not faster than Burundi’s fragile political situation allows for. Nonetheless, a fruitful start has now been made.