Burundi´s political background
Burundi has witnessed decades of violent civil conflict between ethnic groups. Despite the fact that a peace process has made democratic transition possible, strong political distrust and a lack of inclusive dialogue between different groups continue to pose significant challenges.
The approach of NIMD in Burundi
NIMD started to work in Burundi in 2008. The implementing partner organization in Burundi is ‘The Burundi Leadership Training Programme (BLTP)’. In the run up to the 2010 elections, NIMD and BLTP worked on getting the political parties to talk to each other and develop themselves as democratic parties. However, since the 2010 elections – which many opposition parties boycotted – Burundi has experienced several years of serious political deadlock, including a period when the different parties would not meet each other and several opposition leaders lived in exile.
In 2013 and 2014, as part of a strategy for unlocking this political deadlock, NIMD and BLTP managed to engage the main 13 political parties in an 18-month capacity building project. This was a series of training sessions on how to develop a political party programme, including topics such as how to write a programme, how to develop policy positions and how to involve members in the provinces in such a process. These were multiparty training sessions so representatives of all the main 13 political parties attended the programme together. So at the same time as providing training on very useful technical information and skills, it was also a significant move towards building trust between the parties. In addition to the different multiparty trainings, NIMD also facilitated the process of parties holding internal party discussions, including consulting with their members in several provinces, and helped them to translate these discussions into policy positions on key issues.
2014 saw the last 6 months of this project and the start of a second project focusing on helping the parties to prepare for participating in the elections in 2015. This consisted of training sessions on topics such as how to select candidates, how to observe elections, how to work within the new electoral legislative framework and how to develop communication strategies for getting messages across to the electorate. These activities were executed both in the capital as well as in provinces esteemed to be potentially risky during elections. NIMD and BLTP also arranged for the independent electoral commission to participate in some of these sessions to enable them to exchange information with the political parties and to increase trust in the management of the electoral process.
Since 2011, NIMD and BLTP have also been running democracy schools in Burundi. The school programme started in two provinces and was aimed at training community leaders in democratic knowledge and skills. Currently, there are schools in 8 provinces. We constantly work on furthering developing the set up of the schools and the curriculum. For instance, the training modules now also address security problems because that is an important issue in Burundi at the moment. This means that the schools are now also open to policemen.