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Mission Report
TFF's Second Mission to Burundi
November 2003.
With Co-Operation Agreement



Christian Harleman
Chairman of the Board

Jan Oberg



Christian Harleman and Jan Oberg conducted a fact-finding mission to Burundi between November 26 and December 6, 2003. (See websites about the country here). The first TFF mission took place in March 1999. Unfortunately, since then it has not been practically possible to implement the co-operation with Burundi's Ministry of Education and Burundian NGOs that was planned at the time.

The 2003 mission had three purposes. First, to do fact-finding in general about the situation and, in particular, the progress under the Arusha Peace Process. Second, to explore the possibilities for co-operation between the government and relevant NGOs on the one hand and TFF on the other, in order to develop and deepen the existing competence in fields such as conflict-understanding, reconciliation and peace-building. Finally, third, to find out whether it would be possible, in co-operation with the Swedish Rescue Services Agency (Statens Räddningsverk), to establish a health care unit that - in addition to satisfying some of the evident, urgent needs in the country - could promote a very practical, on-the-ground development of such competence.

As is stipulated in the Arusha Agreement, the present government is transitional, and elections shall be held in about 11 months from now. By coincidence, a government reshuffle took place only four days before we arrived; Minister of Education, Prosper Mpawenayo, who four years ago had suggested that TFF come to Burundi, left the government. Given these developments, Harleman and Oberg did not attempt to establish any direct co-operation with that Ministry.

Furthermore, there seems to be a general perception among international NGOs and humanitarian organisations in the country that the best way to be helpful in this situation is to engage serious Burundian NGOs, rather than the government or ministries. Thus we concentrated on general fact-finding and identification of NGO partners that TFF could build a coalition with around the mentioned themes.

We had 39 meeting/interviews with organisations representing, e.g. women lawyers, youth, conflict-resolution, social science, reconciliation and media; we also met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Health, a presidential adviser as well as organisations such as UNESCO, CARE, UN-OCHA Burundi, Search for Common Ground and International Alert.

These meetings and interviews, each of 1-2 hours duration, gave us a fairly good understanding of the enormous problems that face the country at this point, both in general terms and in relation to the peace process. The Arusha Agreement leaves much to be desired in terms of basic approach and provisions and, when it comes to implementation on the ground, may imply considerable risk-taking by several actors.

At the same time, it is absolutely evident that - compared with four years ago - the general situation is more stable and, crucially, that the people are tired of war and rebel activity. It is clear that there is a new attitude and there is hope. We met many with good will and energy to set the country on a course toward peace and development.

But Burundi ranks as number 171 of the 175 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index and faces very serious problems with poverty, social and sexual violence, refugees abroad and internally displaced persons, foreign debt, infrastructure, education, AIDS, rebel activity, corruption, etc. The list of problems seem inhumanly long…

If one uses basic needs as the overriding criteria, there is all reason to get engaged in Burundi. Without international government and NGO assistance, the country will not stand a chance to move forward, and the risk of descending into new direct and deeper structural violence will increase. Much is at stake for this country of 7 million people.


Co-operation Agreement with Burundian NGOs

Until further, TFF has selected 8 Burundian NGOs with which we have written a Letter of Understanding (English edition& French edition) concerning a well-structured, future co-operation, pending the TFF Board so decides and that such a project will eventually obtain the needed funding. (The Board decided in favour of this endeavour on December 8, 2003).

With these eigth organisations we have created the TFF Amahoro Coalition in Burundi. "Amahoro" means peace. The Coalition aims to create synergy among these civil society organisations and promote horizontal working relations, something that is somewhat lacking in today's Burundian NGO community. Further, TFF shall assist the Coalition members in developing a common program with sub-projects within the broad field of conflict-handling, violence-prevention, reconciliation, human rights and related themes.

Such a broad, multi-competent NGO coalition - all experienced and having dynamic leaderships - shall serve to make a difference for the Burundians now when the peace process needs to be anchored and solidified as well as carried to all corners of the country (90 per cent of the people live in the countryside).

The organisations have declared themselves willing, within a few weeks, to try to create a broad multi-year program with subprojects that TFF shall be able to deliver inputs to but which it shall not steer; it is essential that the NGO partners in Burundi feel that it is their project, not TFF's. Later, TFF will present the Amahoro Coalition's project proposal with a funding plan to Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and possibly other potential donors.

Party to the Letter of Understanding is also Dr. Adolphe Sururu, Burundi's National University, who will serve as program co-ordinator and Ms. Chantal Mutamuriza who will be our liaison, practical assistant, interpreter and translator. We are happy that they have both accepted to become TFF Associates and play these very important roles.

At least for the moment, TFF does not intend to establish an organisation in the country. Until further, we believe that our two Associates can provide an excellent support for the Coalition and a bridge-builder for TFF. With relevant officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we have investigated what formal requirements the government applies vis-a-vis foreign NGOs working in Burundi. For the type of activity we aim to conduct as part of the Amahoro Coalition, there is no need for formal registration of TFF with local authorities. However all our partners are, of course, registered under Burundian law.

During our conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we were asked whether we would be willing to take up contact with FNL militia representatives living in Denmark and Sweden in order to encourage them to put pressure on the FNL back home. We simply said we were willing to do whatever could be helpful at the moment, and the minister promised to come back to us if he obtained the acceptance by the President.


The health care unit

During our meeting with the Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs, we presented the Swedish Rescue Services Agency (Statens Räddningsverks) health care unit project. The Minister of Health expressed his gratitude and interest and emphasised that the unit must be seen as part of an integrated approach; he was ready to explore how the unit could be set up both in co-operation with a humanitarian NGO as well as with e.g. UNICEF, or with both. What is required to implement the project is a formal agreement with the Ministry of Health and a bilateral one between the Swedish and the Burundian Ministries of Foreign Affairs.


Proposals for future activities

1. In all possible way to assist our Burundian partners in the Amahoro Coaltion to develop the common program, including a budget proposal.

2. To present the Program to Sida and other relevant donors.

3. Report to the relevant officials in charge of Africa/Great Lakes/Burundi at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Afairs and Sida, in particular those who participated in the official Swedish delegation which visited the Great Lakes Region in November 2003.

4. Write a series of TFF PressInfos about the situation in Burundi that can serve, in the best of cases, to attract positive attention to the country, to the Arusha Peace process and contribute to an increased international awareness and understanding of the fact that NOW is the time for the international community to engage in this country.

5. Create a photo series on TFF's website; Jan Oberg took many pictures during the mission.

6. Take up contact with FNL representatives in Denmark and Sweden if asked to do so by Bujumbura.

7. Do follow-up with the Swedish Rescue Services Agency (Räddningsverket) concerning the health unit discussed.

8. Write a series of articles for the Nordic and international press about Burundi, the country that works, against almost all odds, to consolidate the peace and only is likely to succeed if given the necessary minimum attention and assistance from abroad - now.

We want to thank the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the economic support that made it possible to conduct this mission which is part of our larger project on Reconciliation and Forgiveness.


Christian Harleman & Jan Oberg

Bujumbura - December 5, 2003


© TFF 2004  



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