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Despite political instability and violence, All We Can’s partners are continuing to help people in one of the world’s poorest countries to fulfil their potential.
Burundi is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. In 1993, civil tension between ethnic groups came to a head in a conflict that lasted for 12 years leaving an estimated 300,000 people dead. This conflict resulted in displaced people, abandoned land, destroyed homes, and families torn apart.
This year has seen a renewal of political tensions caused by disputed presidential and parliamentary elections. On 24 July, Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza, won a landslide third victory in an election that was marred by disputes and protests. With Nkurunziza’s share of the vote fifty percentage points ahead of his leading opponent, countries including Britain have stated that the election was not credible. Many claim that the process was corrupted by harassment and intimidation of voters, the opposition, journalists and human rights activists. The country continues to suffer from political and military instability and outbreaks of unrest, and some fear a return to the kind of violence seen during the 12 year civil ethnic conflict.
All We Can has been working with local partners in Burundi since 2011. Each partner has a big vision to see their communities move out of poverty but the recent turmoil in the country has meant an unstable situation for everyone. With some Burundians fleeing potential violence and escaping to refugee camps in neighbouring Rwanda, and constant speculation in both local and international media, the country has been tense.
All We Can’s four partners in Burundi are all working to support vulnerable groups, including widows and young people. Our partners feel that it is more important than ever to continue this work, as a peaceful and productive future for the country relies on communities being able to work their way out of poverty.
In Burundi’s past, young people have been particularly vulnerable to being drawn in to militia groups or violent protests. All We Can’s partner AHD believes it is therefore vital that young people have opportunities to use their energy positively by gaining new skills and learning a trade so that they can support themselves. AHD’s Director, Gaston Niyonzima, sees it as an important to help young people avoid being caught up in the violence and making poor choices for their future.
Gaston Niyonzima has also asked that All We Can supporters continue to remember the people of Burundi in prayer. He said, “I firmly believe in union of prayer. Continue to take a minute to pray for Burundi and invite your friends to become members of people who pray for peace in Burundi. God listens and always hears when we pray with faith.”
All We Can’s partners are currently committed to continuing their long-term development activities, and at the moment are able to travel to project sites to support those they work with. However, there is potential for further unrest, especially during the period leading up to the start of the President’s new term in office at the end of August, and international bodies including the United Nations have expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Andrew Edwards, All We Can’s Partnership Manager responsible for Burundi, commented: “Political developments in Burundi have pushed it to the brink of a crisis, but for now our partners are able to continue delivering their projects. We are proud to work with partners who are so committed to the communities they serve and are going to be doing all we can to support them during this uncertain time. Collectively our priority is ensuring that the programmes that are changing vulnerable lives in Burundi are able to continue where possible.”
Simeon Mitchell joined All We Can in 2009 and works as Director of Communications and Marketing and Deputy Chief Executive. Simeon holds a BA in History and Politics and an MBA. He is a Methodist local preacher and is involved with his local church in Oxford, where he lives with his wife and three young children. He tweets at @simeonjmitchell