Conflict and peace in Burundi : exploring the cause(s) and nature of the conflict and prospects for peace
Mokoena, Benjamin P. O.
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the cause(s), the nature, and characteristics of the conflict in Burundi, and 10 explore the conditions for sustainable peace and prospects for peace. The study is intended as a descriptive analysis of conflict and peace in a case study of Burundi. Since independence in 1962, intermittent conflict has characterised the state of Burundi. There are various accounts of the conflict, of which a popular, but superficial, relates an 'ethnic' conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. Equally disparate, is the prescription of solutions, the most dominant of which is power sharing based on ethnic quotas. The conflict is played out in the context of a failing state with sharp structural weaknesses. In addition, Burundi is mired in the wider instabilities of the Great Lakes region and the communicable effects thereof. The study breaks away from the tendency to analyse only the current (since 1993) bout of conflict. It is proposed that the various incidences of conflict mark different phases in the life cycle of a single conflict. The study also breaks away from the tendency to view the conflict as only opposing Hutus and Tutsis. These two tendencies in analysis generate serious distortions and omissions and may account for the wrong conclusions regarding the conflict in Burundi. Another contribution of the study resides with the proposal of the necessary and sufficient conditions for peace in Burundi. The contention brought forward by this study is that exclusion would appear to be the strongest theoretical approach to understand and describe the conflict in Burundi. In this regard, one particular contentious issue has remained constant throughout all the incidences of conflict involving different groups. The central issue has been about the political economy of Burundi that has systematically denied social mobility for the 'other'. The Burundian state is a repository of political, economic and social security where the 'other', defined in ethnic, intra-ethnic, clanic, regional, elitist (and historically dynastic) terms, is excluded and subordinated. Exclusion (and the consequent inequalities and injustices) is a source of acute grievance and motivation for collective violence. The resultant conflict has manifested in a struggle for the control of the state. Inter alia, the conflict has been pemicious, genocidal, protracted and intractable. The notion of institutionalised power sharing, based on ethnic quotas, has been put forward by the actors in the peace process as the fundamental principle guiding the search for a solution to the conflict in Burundi. The study concludes that power sharing may be necessary, as a confidence building measure, however, power Sharing in itself is not a sufficient condition for sustainable peace, and may well in fulure prove to be Ihe weakest link in the peace process. Inter alia, the conditions in Burundi are not amenable to institutionalised power sharing as such, e.g. the presence of an overwhelming majority, and deep socio-economic inequality along ethnic lines. Further, the current power sharing structure in Burundi tilts the democratic framework in favour of Tutsi participation and security, awards the Tutsi with a de facto veto power, fixes the ethnic balance of power, and thus perpetuates conflict generating Tutsi domination of the political economy of Burundi. This study proposes the reconstruction of the state (state building) as a necessary precondition for peace. II is concluded that political representation, economic opportunity and social mobility, must transcend social categories in Burundi. The continuing instabilities in the Great Lakes region are also a point of concem. Thus, peace in Burundi is also contingent upon greater efforts to curb the communicable conflicts in this region.
Please cite this item using this persistent URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2394
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