African Solidarity Caravan: COPA, Burundi

The event took place on the 14th of August 2014 at the Hotel Source du Nil in Burundi. It was organised by the Coalition for Peace (COPA) in partnership with ACTION Support Centre. The people in attendance were members of civil society, student representatives from Universities around Burundi, the National Council of Bashingantahe foundation, political party leaders, representatives of the Political Bureau of the Office of the United Nations Burundi and the institution of the Ombudsman.

Drummers formed part of the welcoming committee; the drum is seen as a sign of peace in Burundi. The legal representative (Jean Paul Nthuhurumuryango) of COPA led proceedings.

The workshop activities included the following:

  • Discussion of the local mediators in preventing electoral disputes, which was presented by Pancra Ndabatinye from the Bashingantahe institution.
  • Discussion regarding the establishment of an infrastructure of peace for the prevention and the management of electoral disputes: case of Benin, presented by Nsengiyuma Sylvere.
  • Discussion about the poor governance as a source of violent conflict presented by Pacific Nininahazwe.
  • Discussion about the role of a youth elite in conflict prevention presented by Tharcisse Ndayizeye who is a young University researcher.

The outcomes of the discussions were as follows:

The role of local mediators in preventing electoral disputes

  • Establishing and strengthening justice systems
  • Instilling responsible leadership practices among the various leaders in the country.
  • Defending of Burundi customs and morals.
  • Emphasis was placed on the role local mediators played in 2010 and therefore could play in the election process of 2015. A culture of mutual respect for democratic practices by competing parties, responsibility and accountability by citizens, peacekeeping and peace building was encouraged during the upcoming elections.
  • Recommendation for AU to start an independent special tribunal to deal with election-specific conflict.

 The establishment of an infrastructure for peace

  • Its goal was to inspire actors within Burundi to develop strategies to banish violence.
  • Participants enjoyed the presentation and urged for a structure for peace specific to their context be built, as long as resources permit. The structure would be aimed at reducing already existing conflict and encouraging commitment in the electoral environment.
  • There was a realization that INEC’s role is not to mediate conflict but to oversee elections and make sure they are peaceful and transparent.

 Poor governance as a source of violent conflict

  • Good governance and democracy are fuelled by the respect for rule of law and the constitution.
  • Violent conflicts in Africa are similar because of their origin. The origins are non-compliance in regard to the principles of succession, human rights and economic freedoms.
  • The challenges that face countries that experienced poor governance were listed as poverty and illiteracy; misuse of resources by leadership; greed and selfish behavior by leaders; corruption and incompetence in public institutions.
  • The recommended solutions were listed as enlightenment and responsible practices from the leaders; a culture of patriotism, change the mindset of youth and political leaders; developing effective solidarity strategies, identify youth needs in terms of social projects within different political parties; proactive engagement with public institution and strong institution led by strong leadership.

Role of youth elite in African Development

  • The definition of elite was given to clarify the concept.
  • An example of the learners in Soweto who tasked the government with making reforms in education was given.
  • Youth was tasked with influencing change for development and creating concrete solutions to achieve it; to take the lead in change and refuse manipulation by creating their own employment,
  • Young people must join political parties in an effort to influence policies and develop a culture of democratic competitiveness.