Kris Berwouts

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A precious work to bring Burundi out of the shadows

For more than ten years, a conflict has torn apart the social fabric of Burundi. It has lasted too long! The destruction caused is evident in the daily life of the majority of Burundians. Following the conflict, 300,000 Burundians, most of them civilians, have died since 1993, half a million have fled abroad, mainly to Tanzania, and more than 280,000 people have been internally displaced. In terms of health, the war destroyed several hospitals and many health centers. The nursing staff is reduced to 1 doctor for 24,898 inhabitants. The trend towards privatization of care has made them inaccessible to a large majority of the population. Access to water is also problematic: only 42% of the rural population has access to drinking water, again with serious consequences for health. At the level of education, it should be noted that school drop-outs are numerous. During 2001-2002, more than 50,000 students left primary school.

The numbers strike us so much they are hallucinating, but do they touch us, do they really challenge us? In 10 years, the conflict in Burundi has hardly attracted the attention of both European and global public opinion. The international media are rarely on the ground and, given the imposed embargo, representatives of the international community visit the country only occasionally. It seems that the conflict in Burundi has become a forgotten conflict that has been going on for too long and seems too complex. But is this a dead end crisis? The Memorandum of Understanding of October 8, signed between the government and the CNDD FDD movement, on the sharing of responsibilities, gives hope. However, the gains are weakened by the absence of the rebel PALIPEHUTU-FNL movement in the negotiations.

The photo exhibition "Burundi on the edge of hope and despair" changes the statistics and dark images of despair. These images challenge us and succeed in presenting Burundi in a positive way by making it emerge from the shadows. Through these faces of smiling children, these young people building a destroyed school, this Burundian youth fully committed to the construction of lasting peace, the clichés plunge us into the daily life of Burundians and show us that there are ways to get out desolation. The work of these young people gives courage. The North South Youth Forum is a concrete and effective tool for reconciliation.  Youth engagement is valuable for the future of Burundian society and for lasting peace throughout the Great Lakes Region.

11.11.11 wishes to promote the chances of peace in the Great Lakes Region, on the one hand, by supporting local partners active in the field of human rights, civic education and development, and on the other hand, by advocating with the international community. In Burundi, 11.11.11 supports the Burundian League of Human Rights ITEKA, the Center for Studies and Policy Analysis: the Government Action Observatory, and the Association of Women Lawyers.

Together with its partners, 11.11.11. plead with the international community to:

- Press all the belligerents so that the war in Burundi stops as soon as possible

- Help Burundi to undertake programs to fight against poverty

Kris Berwouts