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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—April 8, 1999

Presider: Barnett R. Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations
Speakers: Richard Bogosian, U.S. Department of State, Eric Nelson, The World Bank, and Rene Lemarchand, University of Florida
Facilitator: Susan Collins Marks, Search for Common Ground
April 8, 1999
Council on Foreign Relations


[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]

This Great Lakes Policy Forum meeting focused on recent peace and reconciliation efforts in Burundi with reports from Ambassador Richard Bogosian, Special Coordinator for USAID Greater Horn of Africa Initiative René Lemarchand of the University of Florida and Eric Nelson, Senior Country Economist for Central Africa and the Indian Ocean, The World Bank. Barnett Rubin of the Council on Foreign Relations was the discussant, and Susan Collins Marks of Search for Common Ground facilitated the discussion.

In order to address the conflict in Burundi, it is important to analyze both the grassroots economic problems of land distribution, development, and unemployment and the problem of power sharing and political mobilization around state resources during the post-colonial period. Any sustainable solution to these problems must, therefore, focus on both the economic and political questions and their regional relevance.

Political question

The Arusha Process and the Internal Partnership were established to address different aspects of the conflict in Burundi. The Arusha Process is an internationally sponsored negotiation among the major parties of the conflict, while the Internal Partnership seeks to provide a forum for Burundian civil society to express their concerns. The speakers emphasized the importance of both processes in moving toward a political settlement and sustainable reconciliation in Burundi.

The Arusha Process and the Internal Partnership

With the broad purpose of finding a way out of Burundi’s current political crisis, the Arusha Process is the most structured and inclusive international effort to resolve the Burundian crisis through peaceful dialogue and negotiation. The Arusha talks engage various Burundian parties in an effort to find a solution to some of the most intractable problems facing the country.

In order to assure that any agreement can be sustained over the long term, the process has recently focused on four crucial issues: the nature of the conflict, democracy and good governance, peace and security, and economic reconstruction and development. The plenary session is now broken up into these four committees to give adequate attention to each of these issues.

Even though there is much room for encouragement, the Arusha Process has come across major obstacles, foremost of which is the deep mistrust that remains among some of the parties (i.e., Frodebu, UPRONA, and CNDD). Competition has also arisen between this process and the Internal Partnership.

Economic situation

In 1998 a World Bank study reported that the conflict and resulting economic sanctions have had a devastating effect on the population of Burundi. Health, malnutrition, primary education, and vaccination indicators show a significant deterioration in the quality of life of Burundians. Even the lifting of sanctions has unduly affected the poor, who have been forced to sell their agricultural product for a much lower price than they had purchased the original materials.

The World Bank’s program in Burundi focuses on support for the poorest sector of the population by developing employment in rural areas. This program, in conjunction with the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), aims to empower the people to formulate their own priorities and take ownership of the development process. The purpose is to create genuine participation among the people in their own economic and political development, rather than have an outside government or agency impose it upon them.

In order for the World Bank’s program to succeed, the appropriate Burundian ministries or agencies must be chosen to administer the projects, and a high level of transparency and accountability must be maintained. There should also be collaboration with the Arusha Process.

Any comments please contact Veronique Aubert

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