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Community dialogues

When people have opportunities to discuss issues that matter to them, conflicts can be resolved peacefully

Written by Leila Ngabirano 2023

A young Burundian man in a pink t-shirt smiles at the camera

Reverien Rwasa is a Peace Champion in Burundi. Photo: Paul Mbonankira/Tearfund

In Burundi, a smiling man stands in the middle of a group of seated women who are dressed in colourful clothes

From: Peace and reconciliation - Footsteps 121

Actions we can take to help build peace and foster reconciliation in our homes and communities

‘I realised that getting angry or quarrelling is not the solution. But humility helps you to come to an agreement with the person you are in conflict with,’ says Reverien Rwasa, a Peace Champion in Burundi.

Reverien was trained by Tearfund’s partner, Help Channel Burundi, to encourage people to reach agreement on difficult issues by talking to each other – an approach known as ‘community conflict transformation dialogues’. 

After the training, Reverien facilitated a series of workshops to help his community reflect on the conflicts that affect them, and equip them to transform these conflicts. 

After many weeks of dialogue sessions, Reverien’s community identified various things they could do to help reduce the amount of conflict in their area. They formed a peacebuilding committee, started to run football matches to improve community cohesion, and provided the time and space for people to talk through their disagreements with a neutral mediator.

Over time, Reverien was delighted to see a reduction in the number of arguments being brought to the local government authorities. 

He says, ‘People used to bring grievances to the local authorities two days each week, but these have reduced significantly. When people have opportunities to discuss issues that matter to them, conflicts can be prevented and resolved peacefully.’

A view of rolling hills in Burundi, partly covered with trees

Landscape in Kimate, Burundi. Photo: Paul Mbonankira/Tearfund

Learning through drama

During a Peace Day event organised by the Peace Champions in Burundi’s Bururi province, community members, religious leaders and government and police representatives gathered to hear testimonies and learn more about the benefits of community dialogues.

The event included a drama telling the story of two sons. In the drama, each son gives their father alcohol to persuade him to give them a cow as part of their inheritance. After his death, the sons discover that they have inherited the same cow, and they almost kill each other. The neighbours intervene and the case is brought to the village elder.

The elder studies the case and then declares one of the sons the winner. The one who loses declares revenge on his brother. The winning brother, fearing for his life, speaks to a Peace Champion about it. She listens to both of them and encourages them to try to understand the root cause of the conflict. In the end, both sons admit they were wrong to get their father drunk in order to inherit the cow, and they agree to share the cow as brothers. 

A group of Burundian men and women in colourful clothes act in a drama

Peace Champions take part in a drama at a Peace Day event in Burundi. Photo: Ildephonse Niyokindi

Preaching peace

At the end of the event the Governor of Bururi said, ‘The drama has shown us that the key to resolving a conflict is to listen and understand the conflicting parties.

‘Where there is peace, there is unity, collaboration and development. I would like to invite the peacebuilders to continue preaching peace and showing a good example to others.’

Written by

Written by  Leila Ngabirano

Leila Ngabirano is a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer with Tearfund in Burundi

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