Working towards peace in the Great Lakes region, in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda


Working towards peace in the Great Lakes region, in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda


This programme started in 2000 from personal initiatives and contacts forged by the two leaders of the Congolese project. The project was built around prominent African figures in the region who worked to craft a strategy aiming to identify and reach the key players in the region. On the ground, a Congolese team is functioning but has not yet formed a formal organisation. An organization has been formed in Bujumbura, Burundi. For the moment this has not been planned for Rwanda.

Activities since 2000

In Burundi

1st round table in March 2003 in the IofC centre in Caux, Switzerland: bringing together members of the government, parliament, army and delegations from the CNDD-FDD (P. Nkurunziza) and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Agaton Rwasa) – the first time the latter party had participated in inter-Burundian negotiations. Two CNDD-FDD leaders confided to the organisers that without this round table they would not have managed to assimilate the political process. The international community hailed the initiative, referred to as the 'miracle of Caux' by Aldo Ajello, the European Union special envoy for the Great Lakes.

May 2003: mission in Bujumbura to support the political transition (the Tutsi president was replaced by a Hutu, as foreseen in the Arusha agreements).

2nd round table in June 2003 in Caux, Switzerland: bringing together delegates from the government, the army and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL. Hostilities subsequently restarted, but the meeting was nonetheless an important milestone in changing mindsets and setting up a dialogue. Find out more

April 2004: dialogue training given to the Palipehutu-FNL officers during the Kigoma congress.

From summer 2004 to June 2005, support for the peace conference organized by the UN in the Great Lakes region. Various missions on the ground to meet the players in the peace process.

May/June 2005, mission to Dar Es-Salaam (Tanzania) and Bujumbura (Burundi). One of the goals was to organize seminars for the leaders of the political parties and armed movements following the elections. The challenge facing Burundi today is for the three main parties, CNDD-FDD, FRODEBU and Palipehutu-FNL to live and work together.

Spring and summer 2006: the government and the Palipehutu-FNL asked Initiatives of Change to support the Dar es Salaam negotiations, which brought about the cease fire agreements in June and September 2006.

April 2007: 'honest conversation' event in Caux, bringing together 33 political, military, religious and media leaders. Find out more

May 2007 to July 2008: permanent presence on the ground to support the peace-building process. Permanent contact with all the elements of Burundian political and social life and specific support of the Palipehutu-FNL, the last rebel group, with the goal of reintegrating them into the political institutions. Creation of a network of people committed to working together to normalize political life.

28 May to 1 June 2012 Burundian seminar on leadership in Caux, the IofC international conference centre in Switzerland. It was an opportunity for leading Burundian political figures from all sides to come together for a week to reflect on the ethics of leadership and how to develop the skills needed in order to play a constructive role in peacebuilding. More information

2014: In a pre-electoral political context, we can see rising tensions in the political field with the consequence of a certain restriction of political rights and public freedoms. This strained atmosphere pushed political leaders into exile. According to some observers, armed confrontations would be frequent and we fear to see this country fall back into political violence. Some notes of hope can always be found, such as the new electoral code, which includes a certain number of measures to calm tensions.

It is in this context that the Initiatives of Change - African Great Lakes project is continuing its work so that the elections in 2015 are transparent, democratic and peaceful. Its actions are found on several levels:

- Forming relationships of trust between the Burundi political leaders of all kinds but also within the main parties. The opposition is, in effect, weakened due to its multiple internal rivalries.

- Making legislative elections a priority, in order to encourage a certain rebalancing of forces at the National Assembly while minds focus on the presidential elections. This is the only way to save peace and the democratic process in Burundi.

- Raising awareness amongst young people so that they can recognise manipulations they could be targeted with.

- Assisting leaders who have gone back into exile.


In the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Supporting the inter-Congolese negotiations at Addis-Ababa in 2001 and Sun City in 2002.

Supporting the main players in the transition through the local team and organising a round table for political players and civil society in Kinshasa in March 2003.

Great Lakes round table at Caux in august 2003 with important Congolese representation, including delegates from the movements playing a role in the transition.

Mission to DRC in June 2005 to support the players in the peace process when the transition period was completed.

2005/2006: follow up activities to support transition (assessing our local contacts, organising meetings and personalised follow-up).

Support for the leaders during the 2006 election period

The consolidation of peace in Burundi depends in large part on the stabilisation of the Eastern DRC, which serves as a base for the resurgence of armed movements. Two workshops organised in Spring 2013 in Kivu in the east of the country have allowed us to map out several paths of action;

- Reducing intercommunity conflicts to minimise the circulation of arms and restore a central authority likely to control the region.

- Preparing the way for negotiations between the rebel movements and the Congolese government in order to replace the practice of repression that currently prevails.

The idea that political dialogue is the only way of resolving conflicts is making headway. The participants of the workshops in Kivu have witnessed the impact of these workshops on their way of approaching intercommunity conflicts.

This work is being carried out in consultation with the United Nations representative in the East of the DRC and in collaboration with local participants, notably the heads of religious institutions, of territorial administration and traditional chiefs.

This programme is financed by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.


In Rwanda

Prominent figures such as the Anglican bishop of Kigali, the secretary general of the Commission for unity and reconciliation and some members of civil society take part in the summer conferences in Switzerland.


On the regional level:

A series of informal regional dialogues held in August from 2000 to 2002 at Caux in Switzerland brought together representatives of the governments, opposition movements, armed rebellions and civil society from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Organisation of Diaspora Day for the African Great Lakes at Caux on 9 August 2003 to provide information on Initiatives of Change’s activities and to discuss the role of the Diaspora in the region’s future.

Training for journalists in the region in order to provide a regional perspective and publish articles that will take into account the sensitivities of all of the parties and neighbouring countries so as to avoid the escalation and demonization that fuel conflicts.


Sahelian Countries come to Caux

From the 7 to 17 July 2014, 28 personalities from Mali, Niger and Chad came to Caux, selected by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs for their position or significant action that has distinguished them. Among them were ministers, former ministers, members of Parliament, senators, academics, legal experts, journalists, heads of various associations or organisations, an imam, and a pastor, with a good proportion of women. They undertook two days of training on 'Treatment of the Past', with the aim of initiating a process of reconciliation in the region, before participating in the session on Good Governance that followed.

One group of the participants have already come several times to Caux and are now identified in their country as "The Caux group”. Caux is a place of reflection for them, a place to find perspective and return to their roots. At the heart of their worries were: the insecurity in the region, extremist movements, the fight against corruption and the arbitrary measures of authoritarian regimes, and the conflict in the Central African Republic.

As he noted in his time, Michel Kipoké, one of the pioneers of the programme in the Great Lakes region, IofC does not resolve problems but creates the atmosphere that allows them to be resolved. This vision marks the first step that our friends from the Sahel can start with.