Academic journal article Global Media Journal

The Role of African Women in Peace Building and Conflict Resolution: The Case of Burundi

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

The Role of African Women in Peace Building and Conflict Resolution: The Case of Burundi

Article excerpt

Abstract

African nations have been ravaged by conflict, resulting in destabilization, displacement, and infrastructural destruction, all of which have gender-specific consequences. The impact of conflict on African women has been severe. In Burundi, for example, an estimated 70% of Burundi refugees are women and children. This paper examines conflict and conflict resolution in Africa, with particular focus on Burundi. It addresses how Burundi women have performed important roles as peace negotiators and peace educators in both families and society. In particular, women were essential during the transitional period and the implementation of the 2000 Arusha peace agreement. The paper identifies women's needs that must be met to stimulate post-conflict resolution and peace building and to enact well-informed planning, policymaking, and action to build a culture of peace in Africa. Finally, the paper suggests ideas to integrate a gender perspective into conflict resolution and peace building efforts so that Burundian women's voices can be heard.

Keywords: Burundi, Africa, women, war, conflict resolution, peace building

Introduction

In the recent past, countries in Africa have had numerous conflicts and presently the problem is far from being abated. This has caused untold suffering on the people and also taken a huge toll on the development of the continent. The horn of Africa, particularly the Great Lakes regions, have become locations for some of the deadliest and most protracted of these conflicts.

In 2006 alone, there were 17 conflicts in Africa, which were at varying degrees of forms and intensity. Of all the countries in the Greater Horn of Africa only two (Djibouti and Tanzania) can be said to be relatively stable, although each has its fair share of internal skirmishes (Mpangala, 2004). Kenya was also stable until the post-election crisis erupted.

In Sudan, where conflict has existed since 1956, almost two million people have lost their lives since the early 1980's (Harermans, 2000). In Somalia, the decade-long civil war has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives while there were over 800,000 refugees and over one million internally displaced persons. The ethnic conflict in Rwanda resulted in genocide in 1994 with the killing of over half a million persons from one ethnic group. Since 1960, Burundi has also faced internal conflict resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and also rendered as refugees over half a million persons.

The consequences of this conflict vary in scope, intensity, and nature. Conflict has taken immeasurable toll on human lives, leaving people dead, maimed, and displaced either internally or in other nations. In such calamitous situations, women and girls are often exposed to acts of violence which seriously undermine their human rights and deny them opportunities arising from gender inequality. Studies have shown that women are worst hit in situations of violent conflict and are also affected differently from men during these crises. It is becoming increasingly obvious that women have unique opportunities for conflict resolution and peace building due to the unique role they play in society.

This paper examines the role of African women in peace building and conflict resolution with special emphasis to the role of Burundian women. The paper looks at the root causes of conflict in Burundi at different levels and those institutions and practices that propagate these conflicts.

Background to the Burundi conflict

Until World War I, Burundi was a German colony after which time it was transferred to a Belgian-controlled UN mandate. Belgian colonial administration, governed through indirect rule, reinforced the power of the elite. In contrast to Rwanda, the major social cleavages in Burundi before independence were between different clans, as well as between the more affluent elite and the poorer peasantry. However, this relative harmony crumbled around the time of independence in 1962 (Bunting, Mwansasu, & Bugoya, 1999). …

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