Women in Peace and Transition Processes: Burundi (1996–2014)
The Arusha peace process for Burundi was an attempt to end a war that had killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million. The process began in 1996, and culminated in all Burundian political parties signing an agreement at Arusha in August 2000. The final ceasefire, however, was only signed in 2008. Women, who had been working for peace since fighting broke out, energetically campaigned for their inclusion throughout the process. With the support of international NGOs and the UN, they formed a strong coalition across ethnicities and proceeded to seek the ear of negotiating parties, mediators, and influential external actors. After consultations with mediators, women’s civil society became formal observers to the process, and more women were included in negotiating delegations. Women’s preferences for peace, justice, and gender equality were included in the Arusha agreement. Women then voted in the referendum marking the end of the transition, took part in public consultations on transitional justice, and made up four of 11 members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. During implementation—between the signing of the agreement and the referendum on the constitution in 2005— women continued to advocate for increased rights. However, their influence appears to have declined, notwithstanding the notable achievement of a 30 percent quota for women’s political representation in the constitution.