Across the Burundi — Tanzania border

Ramadan Michel gazes over his ancestral lands in Makamba, Southern Burundi. His fertile fields are yielding maize, cassava, banana and peanuts. Like most Burundians, Ramadan feels very connected to his land. Besides being his main source of income, it also epitomises his connection to the past and the future of his growing family. But it hasn’t always been this way.

The Burundian — Tanzanian displacement crisis that followed a failed coup d’état in Burundi in 2015 is the latest in a series of displacement shocks that for decades have prevented Burundi, as well as the wider African Great Lakes region, from fully embarking on a pathway towards peace, prosperity, and sustainable development. As is the case with thousands of Burundians, Ramadan was forced to flee to Tanzania, where he and his family remained in refugee camps for years.

Ramadan and fellow Burundians share personal stories on how their lives were affected by the aftermath of the 2015 coup d’état that led to the exodus of 400,000 Burundians to Tanzania, and how they found hope through a joint UNDP–IOM–UNHCR peacebuilding project.

Having patiently waited for instability to come to an end in his home country, Ramadan’s return to Makamba was nonetheless bittersweet: he was unable to access the land that once belonged to him, now being occupied and farmed by his cousin. Rising tensions among the children of the two family members led the case to end up in the local court, which failed to settle the issue.

Unsurprisingly, this outcome is common, as competition over land represents one of the biggest impediments for sustaining peace in Burundi, Africa’s second most densely populated country. Only after going through a professional mediation facilitated by a UNDP-led cross-border peacebuilding project did Ramadan and his cousin come to a peaceful agreement.

A professional mediation facilitated by a UNDP-led cross-border peacebuilding project did Ramadan and his cousin come to a peaceful agreement.

A New Sense of Community

Esperance and her family came back to Ruyigi, Burundi, as internally displaced people. Without access to food or shelter, the family relied on the goodwill of their new hosts. They then signed up to the peacebuilding project with members of the host community, and received seeds and trainings in how to grow new and alternative crops. By working hard in their new cooperative, producing and selling vegetables, both returnees and hosts built mutual trust, opportunities and a new sense of community.

The stories of Ramadan and Esperance are not unique. Over 2,000 people across the border of Burundi and Tanzania benefited from the project, which aims to address the root causes of inter-community and cross-border conflicts. As the UN Resident Coordinator in Burundi, Garry Conille, explains in the video (see above), the UN in Burundi and Tanzania wanted to comprehensively address the complex and varied needs caused by the displacement crisis which were felt on both sides of the border.

The project used a people-centred approach for building resilience through jobs and livelihoods.

Designed in 2017, the peacebuilding project was backed by comprehensive conflict analysis contained in the UN Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework and financing from the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The project assisted individuals from all groups affected by the 2015 displacement crisis in both Tanzania and Burundi: refugees, host-community members, returnees, and internally displaced people. Tailored to accommodate the short- and longer-term needs of the different groups, the project used a people-centred approach for building resilience through jobs and livelihoods.

The project brought the combined forces of UNDP, IOM and UNHCR to offer immediate protection to the most vulnerable people, without losing sight of lasting peacebuilding and development outcomes. Mandated to protect refugees and migrants, UNHCR and IOM ensured safe and voluntary returns for Burundians, who benefited from skills training workshops while living in camps. At the same time, IOM provided joint trainings to border officials from both countries on humanitarian border management and livelihood activities.

The project provided joint trainings to border officials from both countries on humanitarian border management and livelihood activities.

Integrated Delivery

Together with its partners, UNDP established a Community-Based Conflict Resolution mechanism between Tanzanian host communities and refugees. The techniques and trainings strengthened understanding and solved family and wider inter-community conflicts between refugee groups and host communities over access to food, water, and firewood. On the Burundi side of the border, UNDP adopted a 3 x 6 approach combining sustainable income-generating activities with conflict mediation, administrative, and legal support to settle land disputes.

The independent evaluation found that, in many cases, this support allowed communities to become self-reliant, as they invested incomes in productive assets through cooperative savings. The main issue highlighted by the evaluation is that the one-year period of implementation was too little to allow for legal cases to be settled, and the small scale of the project did not allow for structural peacebuilding impact to take solid foothold.

In Burundi, a 3 x 6 approach combines sustainable income-generating activities with conflict mediation, administrative, and legal support to settle land disputes.

Playing a coordinating role, UNDP ensured the integrated delivery of cross border activities and across the three agencies, in line with its SDG integrator role to bring together the UN’s collective resources to push towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Combining humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding ways of working in linking the border communities in Tanzania and Burundi, the project is a clear example of Delivering as One and realising the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus in practice.

Two key lessons from this project, as evident in the video and evaluation, are that:

· To realise truly durable solutions that respond effectively to the shorter- and longer-term needs of people affected by protracted displacement, requires committed coordination and joint approaches amongst humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding actors – at country level and across borders.

· Peacebuilding interventions across borders need time and scale to work, to be effective, and to generate longer term and sustainable impacts.

Text: Mads Knudsen, Cross-border project coordinator, UNDP resilience Hub for Africa. Photos: Photo: UNDP Burundi / Patrice Brizard

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Advancing sustainable human development in 46 Sub-Saharan African countries.

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Advancing sustainable human development in 46 Sub-Saharan African countries.

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