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November 2017
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Speeches

D. Ndayizeye: Address to World Summit 2013

Translation of prepared text in French

Burundi became a German colony in 1896, came under Belgian tutelage in 1916, and gained its independence July 1, 1962. Afterwards, it was governed by a monarchy until 1993. In 1992, it opted for a democratic, multiparty regime, and then in 1993 it organized legislative and presidential elections which raised up for the first time a descendant of the ethnic Hutu majority as head of state, president Ndadaye Melchior.

This democracy was aborted three months later because of a military coup d'etat which took over the top positions of president of the republic and president of the National Assembly.

After its independence, Burundi experienced ethnic crises, the most important of which took place in 1995, 1969, 1972, and 1988, that cost the lives of people of the ethnic majority. This coup d'etat against democracy gave rise to an armed rebellion, drawing the country into a fratricidal war which lasted a decade, costing thousands upon thousands of human lives and sending others into exile. This war ended only after the application of the [1992] Arusha Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in Burundi, whose negotiations took two years under the auspices of the international community.

This situation is not unique to Burundi. In fact, it is an open secret that wars as well as ethnic, political, and religious clashes occur daily in the world, but they do a poor job of concealing the economic interests at stake. Individual material interests have replaced the good virtues of the love of neighbor, morals, ethics, tolerance, nationalism, etc.

Most of the leaders of our countries should worry more about the financial stability of their economies, which are essential to the stability of our nations. Knowing that our financial resources are limited, we should ensure good governance and avoid the tendency to extravagance and living above our means.

Poverty is not inevitable for Africa. Let us take note of countries such as South Korea, China, and Japan as examples of nationalism, tenacity, sobriety, and a development strategy based on small steps in education and technological advances.

Managing well the little we have will enable us to better solidify our gains and ensure better sharing of the increased purchasing power of our people, who will then not lack the necessities. Here too the great moral virtues are needed as a foundation.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the politico-ethnic confrontations in central Africa, and the politico-religious confrontations in West Africa and North Africa are the sad reality of intolerance among our own compatriots. And yet, if they understand that they share the same fate, they would benefit by being united, transcending ethnicity and religions, and would develop a multiparty democracy. In fact, we should all, without exception, recognize that our personal interests make sense and are sustainable only when they strengthen the collective interest.

To conclude, as a believer, regarding this issue I offer the following summary: we are concerned about the maintenance of our own body (beauty, health, food, clothing, etc.), but eventually we will leave it underground and carry forward only our soul, our mind, forever. Logic tells us we should promote the well being of our soul and spirit, which will accompany us in the hereafter and based on which we will be ultimately judged. We should uphold the virtues of tolerance, love of neighbor, solidarity etc., for the sake of world harmony and development. This is what gives meaning to one's life. Every leader's actions should be animated by such a spirit, although it is not always easy or obvious.

For example, the people of my country, Burundi, are mostly Catholic Christian. We are often asked how Burundi could descend into such serious security abuses. Well, as in most cases, the words are different from the actions; people are stubborn.

Be that as it may, the accumulation of these serious security crises, the investigations and political debates that followed, and various pressures both internal and external convinced the Burundians of the urgent need for comprehensive and inclusive negotiations involving representatives all political parties, armed political movements, civil society, religious leaders, women, and youth. We discussed four truths for two years and finally sat down to sign the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Burundi, which addressed the following points:

  1. The nature of our conflict, issues of genocide and exclusions, and their solutions.
  2. Democracy and good governance, transitional institutions, and post-transitional institutions.
  3. Security for all, defense and security forces.
  4. Economic and social development, the return of refugees.
  5. Guarantees for the application of the agreement.

We have integrated solutions that enable the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twas to feel comfortable in all areas of national life, unfortunately after the slaughters that could have been avoided. So be it.

The strict enforcement of this agreement during the transition period allowed us to achieve satisfactory results, including a rapprochement between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority, the negotiation of a ceasefire with rebel Hutus with the backing of the Tutsi leadership, a peaceful integration of rebel fighters into the national army, the organization of national elections, and the inauguration of a newly elected President, all this in collaboration with the heads of state of the region.

It is through this spirit of tolerance, openness, honesty, and diligence in the implementation of the Agreement embodied in the Burundian constitution that the country will succeed, not only to put an end to the contradictions that undermine it, some of which have marred our history, but also to embark on the path of balanced long-term development. May the international community and individual countries understand the need for frank dialogue, searching together for internal solutions, and solidarity for the stability of each nation, for peace and security in the world and its harmonious development.

Our survival depends on overcoming the current challenges of development in Africa that include education and technology, the environment, telecommunications, energy, industry, agriculture, water, and so on.

Let us have international cooperation for peace, security, and sustainable human development in the world.