TFF has been engaged on and off in Burundi, the little heart-shaped country in Africa with 8 million inhabitants, since the year 1999.â€¨â€¨
Burundi is a good, pro-peace story out of Africa, in the wake of war and genocide. Nevertheless, the world over, neighbouring Rwanda has received most of the attention and every year the genocide there is commemorated. The documentaries, history books, Hollywood movies and novels are about Rwanda. Rwanda's leadership is authoritarian and the country remains involved in violence in Congo. Yet, it still receives substantial development aid and investments.
Bussuro in the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura
Remembering genocides is one very important means of ensuring that these tragic events do not happen again, of course. So those who know Burundi could ask themselves: Why never a word about Burundi? In the genocide there in the 1990s, at least 300,000 were killed; isn't that worthy of commemoration in the media?
Rwanda and Burundi used to be one country, their ethnic composition is identical, the political violence displays the same dynamics. The difference is that in the genocide in Rwanda about 3 times more people were killed. â€¨â€¨However, there is another, more positive, significant difference, namely, that Burundi, since the Arusha Peace Accords of 2000, against all odds and most expert predictions, has moved quite far down the road of reconciliation towards peace, albeit not yet a stabilized peace.
Hutus and Tutsis live much better together in Burundi than ethnic groups do in Bosnia and Kosovo, for example.
â€¨â€¨Apart from an excellent but very small United Nation mission, the international so-called community's
efforts to help Burundi to consolidate peace has been woefully inadequate. Burundi consistently receives less than 50% of the requests it makes for international aid; although the sums sought are tiny compared to what is given to bigger neighbours or squandered on wars. The annual per capita income in Burundi remains around US$150, which makes it the third poorest country on earth.
It's all about their future, isn't it?
There is still a lot to do to consolidate peace in Burundi: corruption is rampant at all levels and periodically there is quite some instability. One armed movement, now based in Congo, continues to spread fear and hatred inside Burundi; it's the only non-signatory of the Arusha Peace Accords out of 17 armed movements that took part in the negotiations.
Today, the government is increasingly clamping down on people in the NGO community, human rights movements, media and on opposition politicians - some are arrested, other chased and killed. â€¨â€¨
In this amazingly beautiful country, the land/people ratio remains frightening. If there is one single issue that could make the whole country blow up again, it is land.
The huge majority of Burundians are peasants that live on what can be produced up and down the 'collines' - hilly landscape - and sold at the local markets. A great majority of the people live by cultivating their small plots, and the only significant export products are coffee, tea and bananas. So land is extremely important for the consolidation of peace as well as for the satisfaction of basic human needs and overall economic development.â€¨
Jules, student, Bujumbura