Building peace in the minds of men and women

Responsible citizens: training young political party and civil society leaders in Burundi

The UNESCO House for the Culture of Peace in Burundi organized a national training workshop for youth section leaders of political parties and civil society in Bujumbura (Burundi) from 14 to 19 July 2014, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Association for the Promotion of the Burundian Girl (APBG), the Scout Association of Burundi (SAB) and the Youth Action Network for Peace, Reconciliation and Development (REJA). This "giving and receiving” event brought together young women and men from 19 political parties, as well as young leaders of youth associations and networks.

As Burundi prepares for the 2015 elections*, the objective of this workshop was to strengthen the capacity of young Burundians, opinion leaders, to make them "role models" willing to say “no” to violence; and enable them to become true agents of change and social transformation through their peers to contribute to the preparation of free, peaceful and transparent elections.

The training focused on eight themes:

  • Responsible citizenship;
  • Promotion and protection of the diversity of cultural expressions;
  • Democracy;
  • Peace and human rights education;
  • Participation in decision making processes;
  • Good governance, fight against corruption and economic mismanagement;
  • Free, peaceful and transparent elections;
  • Gender, peace perspective and development.

The training seminar was attended by Mr Felix Loïtéohin Ye, Director of the UNESCO Multi-Sectoral Regional Office for Central Africa in Yaoundé (Cameroon), which serves ten countries including Burundi. He was accompanied by a team of experts and the representative of the UNESCO House for the Culture of Peace in Burundi who is also in charge of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Programme.

Mr Felix Loïteo Hin Ye co-chaired the training workshop’s opening and closing ceremonies. He stressed that politics must remain a competition of ideas and programs. "We must persuade by the force of argument rather than by the argument of force." Mr Felix Loïteo Hin Ye and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth also recalled a passage from the Preamble to UNESCO’s Constitution becoming important in the context of the training: "… since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."

The peer-to-peer dimension was privileged during this training to allow for more exchange between the young participants. Despite their young age, the trainers accomplished their task brilliantly. The participants appreciated the trainers’ active and participatory methodological approach based on the following strategies: role-playing, debates or panel discussions, case studies, the use of images followed by a review, and brainstorming. Workshop participants who co-existed in perfect harmony despite their differences of all kinds delivered testimonials of good and bad practices. Moreover, it was understood from the very beginning that no type of criticism of the party or association of the other participants, whether benevolent or malevolent, would be tolerated.

A documentary film, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (PNUD) in collaboration with civil society organizations, also raised awareness among young people about the harm brought upon by corruption and poor governance, and urged them to break the silence and denounce “evil” whatever its source, "Change begins with each of us – It concerns us all - Twese biraturaba."

At the end of the workshop, both the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office asked young people to apply what they had learned not only within their respective associations and political parties, but also within their communities. The participants’ representative expressed his peers’ commitment in a message delivered on their behalf: "The training we received has truly enlightened our conscience. We’ve had the opportunity to be trained and informed; trained on what attitudes to adopt in particular circumstances and informed about the realities of our country that we ignored for the most part. We have been sufficiently prepared to become true apostles of peace across our country in general and in our organizations and political parties in particular."

These training initiatives, allowing young people to become true agents of change and social transformation within their communities and across the entire country, will continue to take place inside the country and through other similar activities planned at a regional level, notably in the Centre-East, Southern and Western regions.

With the technical and financial support of UNESCO, a training module on these topics has been prepared in the national language in collaboration with the implementation partner, the REJA. Its content has been improved by taking into account the contributions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Reference Manual on Culture of peace education, human rights, citizenship, democracy and regional integration, published in 2013.

Yvonne Matuturu, y.matuturu(at)


* After several years of socio-political crises, Burundi has embarked on a process of peace and reconstruction. This process, marked by the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Burundi signed on 28 August 2000 and a comprehensive cease-fire agreement between the Government and the armed rebel movements, allowed political actors to define political, social and economic post-conflict consensual principles, which led to the adoption in 2005 of a new constitution and the establishment of democratically elected bottom-up institutions. It was in this context that Burundi held democratic elections in 2005 and 2010 and prepares for those of 2015.