Rebuilding war-torn communities in Burundi

Rebuilding war-torn communities in Burundi
Raheri, a war widow in the village of Gitukura, in northern Burundi.

The village of Gitukura, in the northern Burundi province of Cibitoke, has experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of two decades of ethnic conflict and civil war. Located on the Rwandan border, its inhabitants, mostly women and children, live in almost complete isolation and deprivation.

With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Burundi has initiated a post-conflict reconstruction programme along the northern border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo aimed at peacefully reintegrating ex-combatants into a society made vulnerable by war. Survivors from different sides of the conflicts are coming together to rebuild infrastructure and initiate environmental programmes.

Highlights

  • A UNDP-supported post-conflict reconstruction programme is working to peacefully reintegrate ex-combatants into Burundi's war-torn society.
  • The programme is hiring survivors from different sides of the conflicts to work together to rebuild Burundi's infrastructure.
  • Workers receive approximately $US3 a day, enabling them to provide for their families and invest in new income-generating activities.

For three months, beginning in May 2010, workers received approximately $US3 a day, enabling them to not only provide for the immediate needs of their families, but also to invest in new income-generating activities, such as buying livestock or purchasing land. In Gitukura, war widows and war veterans, both of them marginalized and under-employed, have come together to build a school for the village’s children.

Across the province, participants are being employed by the programme to rehabilitate everything from latrines and irrigation canals to public buildings and bridges. They are also making bricks, replanting forests and working to fight erosion caused by environmental degradation.

Yet, aside form providing economic support and reconstruction, the programme also brings about social cohesion, as different factions of society work together on projects for a common cause.

Reheri, a war widow, is encouraged by the ability of village residents and war returnees to work together on the school construction project.

"The fact that we spend entire days working together in perfect harmony is a good sign," she said. "I am sure that our children will be just as proud as we are to attend a school that exists thanks to our collaborative effors."

Other positive signs include the willingness of Gitukura’s butcher to distribute meat to the school-builders on a credit basis. In a gesture of trust and generosity, he doled out meat from a newly slaughtered cow equally, confident that each recipient would reimburse him on payday.

“The butcher trusts us, this is a sign that people are getting along well in our area,” Raheri said approvingly.

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