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11 July, 2008

Seventeen Burundese personalities participated in this meeting, one of a series of round tables dedicated to peace and reconciliation in the African Great Lakes Region.

At the request of some Burundese personalities, the French Association Initiatives et Changement, in partnership with the Swiss Caux-Initiatives of Change Foundation and Initiatives of Change-Deustchland, hosted a Burundese round-table from the 15th to the 20th of March, 2003, in Caux, Switzerland.

This initiative was in keeping with some previous round-tables dedicated to peace and reconciliation in the African Great Lakes Region, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, organised in Caux for three years.

Seventeen Burundese personalities participated in this meeting, representing the Army, the Government, the Political Parties of the opposition, as well as the two Hutu rebel armed groups, the Palipehutu-FNL of Rwasa Agathon and the CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza. The Catholic Bishop of Bujumbura also attended the meeting. The purpose was not to negotiate but rather create, in a non-official framework, some relationships based on trust between some of the main protagonists of the latent civil war prevailing in Burundi.

The Burundese personalities that had proposed to hold this meeting wished to gather, in a non-official framework, some of the main protagonists of the latent civil war prevailing in their country in order to find ways of establishing trust and contributing to restore peace.

Their purpose

The participation of the Palipehutu-FNL that had not been included until now in any of the inter-Burundese discussions and had broken contacts with the international community was in itself a first result of this meeting.

One of the leading strand of these conversations, was given in the interventions of a former rebel general of the South Sudan and of two former Lebanese militias members: ' Changing oneself to change the world '. One of the participants described this process as follows : the informal atmosphere of the meeting allowed the participants to open themselves and listen to each other. Some took the opportunity to 'unburden' and express all their sufferings, fears and frustrations. Several points of convergence were raised : for example, the will to escape from the war, the acknowledgement of the responsibility of each of them in the conflict, the will to re-fund the Burundese Nation on new bases, in particular by proceeding to an analysis work and the re-writing of the History, by finding mechanisms to reassure the other and by integrating all the groups of the society, the necessity to overcome ethnism to go towards Nationalism, the acknowledgement of the regional dimension of the conflict. A new state of mind and hope began to prevail among the participants : the defensive attitude, or the inward looking on one's sufferings, gave way to an openness on what the opponents could feel, concluded another delegate.

Some points of divergence were identified and written down as they should be addressed in the future. Some of the participants are working on defining the next steps and rely on the Initiatives of Change team who remains at their disposal to support them, within its capabilities.

Diplomats from several European countries and the European Union came to meet the participants at the end of the round table and were able to discuss with each of the groups. They expressed their appreciation concerning the prevailing atmosphere, based on trust and listening to each other, that they found while in Caux. They also voiced their will to support the follow-up of this initiative.