Initiatives of Change (IofC) has been involved in the African Great Lakes region since 2000. It is within this context that in June 2012, IofC offered the opportunity to leading Burundian political figures from all sides to come together for a week in Caux, Switzerland, to reflect on the ethics of leadership and how to develop the skills needed in order to play a constructive role in peacebuilding.
Burundi is a country plagued by political and security crises. IofC's focus has been to provide dialogue and to strengthen the moral values among the leadership who are seeking reconciliation.
Besides the presidents of political parties, a former candidate for the presidential election of 2010, and other representatives and senators, also participating were 18 politicians and two former heads of state of Burundi.
At the beginning of the seminar Professor Eales, Rector of the International Leadership University in Bujumbura, led the reflection on the concept of leadership and issued a number of key messages. He particularly stressed that in order for a leader to be effective he needs to learn to build. The professor has placed great emphasis on the qualities required of a leader: a vision, management abilities, as well as leadership.
The honorary president of IofC International, Ambassador Cornelio Sommaruga, shared with the participants his thoughts on leadership. In his speech, he cited four people who ranked the highest in his opinion. Contrary to what one might expect, they weren't major celebrities in the world but intead: a priest who advised him when he was a scout leader; his wife who supported him in his professional commitments; one of his superiors who encouraged him to trust himself; and finally a nurse in Angola who is committed to working towards banning landmines.
In order to associate the practice with theoretical considerations, the participants focused on the realities of the situation in Burundi. While analyzing the challenges facing their countries, both political, security, social and economic, they sought to create a common vision. This exercise generated a lively, frank and intense dialogue. Points of divergence were obvious but consensus on a number of problems also emerged, as well as some ways to address them.
This meeting, far from the Burundian capital, was an opportunity that will create or reinforce links between the participants. For some it was a reunion after many years. Indirectly, this seminar has helped to strengthen the cohesion of the ruling elite beyond the membership and differences in positions. It has in all cases certainly allowed some to regain hope for their country.
The desire to extend this type of exchange in Bujumbura has been expressed repeatedly by many participants. This could be a result of this seminar, a challenge that could bear much fruit.
The participants and organizers expressed their gratitude to the head to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, which has supported the work of IofC in the African Great Lakes for many years and has enabled the holding of this meeting.