The final stop on Arlene Kelly’s trip to Africa was a day and a half with the Burundi team of the AFSC. In a few short hours a whirlwind of meetings took place with Burundian civil society partners of AFSC-Burundi, with a couple UN offices, government ministries, international partners and Friends (Quaker) partner organizations in Burundi.
Burundi has a large number of Friends (Quakers), with the Friends Church of Burundi (Église des Amis Evangeliqué du Burundi) having celebrated its 75 anniversary in July of 2009. Friends’ organizations are some of AFSC’s main partners in Burundi doing a variety of work around livelihoods, elections, healing, health, reconciliation and peace work. Arlene was delighted with the Friends’ work for peace with justice in the world and said, “The other thing that touches me and gives me pleasure when you describe your witness wherever you are, doing your work while others are doing their part,” The Friends Women Association has implemented, with AFSC financial support, a project on trauma healing in favor of more than 360 women in four communes of Burundi. Presently AFSC has committed to building institutional capacity of FWA, by supporting its efforts to achieve sustainable organization growth. AFSC will be providing financial and technical support to FWA in designing its strategic plan, in restructuring the organization governance and providing technical advice with regard to accounting and legal mechanisms.
The Quaker Peace Network and AFSC also collaborated with other international and local Burundian organizations in various initiatives to contribute to peaceful elections. One of these initiatives was a project entitled Amatora mu Mahoro (Elections in Peace) to systematically survey and report on elections-related violence and peace initiatives countrywide throughout the electoral process. Burundi recently organised five critical elections within a period of five months (May to September 2010).
Ernest Ndabashinze, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation, welcomed Arlene and Dereje to Burundi, on behalf of the Government of Burundi. He expressed the Government’s satisfaction with AFSC’s work, and called on AFSC to do more to help the government overcome the challenges of poverty and contribute meaningfully to the development plans of the Burundi. Arlene reaffirmed AFSC’s support and contribution in its modest way, and thanked Ernest Ndabashinze for a very courteous reception and the government’s welcome to AFSC.
Finally Arlene and Dereje and AFSC-Burundi met with other AFSC partners in work in Burundi and the UN to talk about AFSC’s continued efforts and support of the Burundi government's and Burundian people’s priorities such as national socio-economic reintegration, transitional justice and peacebuilding.
Arlene expressed her great pleasure to be in Burundi, saying, “The only objective of my visit is that I came to learn, to be able to speak with the Africa team in Africa.” She was pleased to have the time with the AFSC-Burundi program and to meet and speak with partners, government, the UN and Burundian Friends.
AFSC-Burundi was formally accredited in 2005. AFSC Burundi is currently implementing a 3-year (2009-2011) programme on “Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding in Burundi.” It collaborates with a range of Civil Society partners, including Quaker organisations; Government departments, UN agencies and International NGOs to implement the programme, projects and activities. It has a staff of 10, including eight local and two international.