A succession of interethnic conflicts produced mass displacements in Burundi in the 1990s, while peace agreements that began in the early 2000s then fuelled a return of many refugees back home. This return created tensions among the returnees and those who had never left. Youth, who make up 66% the total population, have become vulnerable to the calls of political factions and violence. To stabilise communities, RET International put in place a responsible citizenship programme covering themes such as conflict resolution to promote durable peace in the country, as well as literacy programmes, language programmes, remedial courses and infrastructure improvements, which have benefitted young returnees and the local population alike.
The Crisis Affecting Burundi
Its Impact on Young People
How RET Protects Them
1. The Crisis Affecting Burundi
Burundi remains a fragile country following a succession of conflicts, which resulted in large-scale interethnic massacres and mass displacement both inside and outside the country.
Since the 2000 peace agreements and especially since 2008, over 500’000 Burundian refugees have returned to their country. Almost a third of these have moved into the southern provinces where they represent 15% of the total population. This situation creates tensions between returnees and the population that had stayed in the country after the conflict.
2. Its Impact on Young People
Young people make up 66% of Burundi’s total population. As such, they have a massive role to play in the country’s development. Due to this delicate situation, however, youth have become vulnerable to the calls of political factions and violence.
Young people without hope for the future, education or a positive sense of citizenship are more likely to resort to violence. With the current political unrest, exploitation of the youth by extreme political groups would be catastrophic for the country’s precarious peace.
Young people (both returnees and those who stayed in Burundi) must not only have access to education, but should also be able to learn about the principles of a culture of peace, social cohesion and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
3. How RET Protects Them
RET International, whose mission is to protect vulnerable young people through education, plays an important role in Burundi. Since its arrival in the country in 2008 RET has (after having long worked with young Burundians in refugee camps in Tanzania) put in place literacy programmes, language classes and remedial courses for returnees as well as supplied schooling infrastructure benefitting local populations.
In order to allow young people to play a positive role in these transitional times, RET has also put in place a responsible citizenship programme covering themes such as conflict resolution and mitigation in order to promote durable peace in the country.
RET is working to strengthen life skills, as well. This allows youth to be autonomous and become positive actors, leading their communities through this fragile situation and towards development.
RET’s projects adopt a participative and inclusive approach. Young people are themselves actors in the projects and partnerships with youth associations allow for durable results.