People in conversation

Building Trust after Civil War in Burundi

In the country of Burundi, Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa villagers and townspeople were recovering from extreme violence and a recent civil war.

Political difference, displacement, refugees, land inheritance issues, and class systems were all significant barriers as they endeavored to rebuild trust, foster community, and promote socio-political development.

"Self-segregation, gender differences, and divisive conflicts between survivors and perpetrators of the violent civil war were all challenging aspects of Burundi’s legacy," said Essential Partners Senior Associate Dave Joseph. "Burundi is a nation full of dignified people trying to live together across significant differences."

What is Deep in Their Heart

The United States Initiative of Peace provided funding for Essential Partners (then known as the Public Conversations Project), the U.S.-based Conflict Management Partners (CMP), and the Burundi-based Community Leadership Center (CLC) to partner on dialogue training and conflict resolution in Burundi.

During a five-day workshop, Essential Partners trained 18 CLC Burundian master trainers to design, facilitate, and evaluate dialogues.

"I realized that by using EP's dialogue approach," said Etionette Nshirmirimana, Burundian Master Trainer, "people could talk of what is deep in their heart, especially things that have harmed them."

The groups then jointly designed and led six pilot dialogues in small towns and villages. More than 100 residents participated. CLC trainers and EP together produced a brief guide as well, which adapts the tenets of structured dialogue to the local context.

"Before, I thought all dialogue that does not culminate in solution was considered equivalent to failure," said one participant. "Now I see that dialogue is a stage complete in itself."