By Margaux Narbey, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
German sociologist Georg Simmel said: « War and Peace are so tied up together that the conditions for war raise up from peace and the conditions for peace raise up from fight ».
Georg Simmel defines here the notion of transition. Transition is a bridge, a crucial period that has to lead toward a « great reduction in the probability that political actors will resort to violence to achieve violence ». This is Simmel’s definition of peace.
About ten years after the end of the civil war in Burundi, president Pierre Nkurunziza came to the ICD to talk about the importance of reconciliation in the process of peace building in Burundi and generally speaking in Africa. He points out the great difficulty that reconciliation brings when a civil war starts in a country and when this war brings so many massacres. The need for justice, the incomprehension, the need to accept the other, to accept common rules, to accept to trust the other, recognition and forgiveness; all these elements still represent challenges in a country like Burundi.
Pierre Nkurunziza reminds us that outsiders cannot impose reconciliation, it has to come from the inside. And this is even more important since conflicts in African countries have proven to be very diverse in origin. From ethnicity to dictatorship, the reasons for a civil war tend to be very varied. Moreover, we cannot say that conflicts only arose in the poorest countries. A few years ago, no one would have believed that in countries such as Mali, Tunisia or Egypt, where the standards of life are generally higher than in the rest of Africa, the conflicts we know would have been initiated. In this regard, we must forget our prejudices. Most of the revolutions witnessed by our societies began when lifestyles tended to get better and not when they got worse.
But back to Burundi… reconciliation is a process… and a long one. One that should be taken seriously and carefully dealt with. In this regard, Cultural Diplomacy becomes an essential component of reconciliation efforts. Initiatives have to be taken from the inside. Enemies have to meet and come to an understanding that they are acting for the same country. This is a start. Pierre Nkurunziza himself, when he was elected president in 2006, went through an experience of team building with his ministers and vice-presidents. He recognizes that this experience permitted him to get closer to his colleagues, to work on a common vision.
These kinds of meetings were generalized from 2003 on to encourage actors from the civil society to meet and a close following was then established. The government has understood the importance of Cultural Diplomacy in the process of reconciliation. Festivals and sporting events have been organized on a regular basis within Burundi but also on a regional scale. These initiatives permit to bring together people from the same country but also neighbors from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda through the organization of the East African Community for instance. These events permit to build friendships but also professional relations.
What we can say from this is that about ten years after the end of civil war, Burundi has engaged in a slow but steady path toward reconciliation and peace.
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication