From independence to 2002, the history of Burundi is characterized by recurrent violence. What was going on was portrayed as either a war between ethnic groups rather or a lack of legitimate leadership and of bad governance.
In the early 1990s, widely supported moves towards democracy, were shattered with the assassination of the first Burundian President democratically elected, president Melchior Ndadaye. This tragedy was followed by massacres of ethnic natures and a civil war.
Peace talk, the first phase
From 1995, the first peace process was initiated by the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi, which appointed Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere as a mediator. After the demise of this former Tanzanian President, Late Nelson Mandela took over In December 1999 and this gave the Burundi peace process the much needed international spotlight and support. Mandela also changed the approach to the negotiations, adopting a more public and forceful position vis-à-vis the parties.
Peace agreement, the second phase
The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was signed on 28 August 2000. This was a watershed accord since it directly addressed the issue of ethnicity in Burundi and devised a power-sharing arrangement that guaranteed security and democracy to all Burundians.
In early 2002 the then South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma replaced President Mandela as facilitator of the Burundi peace process. He continued reporting to the regional initiative as his predecessors had done. He was given the additional mandate to broker a cease-fire agreement between the transitional government and armed groups that were still fighting.
During the first phase of the peace process, the work of the three mediators was backed by the United Nations. The Security Council endorsed the agreements reached through the regional initiative, and the mediators appeared in the Council chamber for several briefings, sometimes together with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary- General.
Peace building, the third phase of the peace process
In 2006, Burundi became the first country on the agenda of the new Peacebuilding Commission and this institution became a major actor in the peace process toward the end of the conflict in Burundi.
The work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund in Burundi have fostered the country’s recovery from conflict and therefore have strengthened the country’s ability to avoid a relapse into armed conflict or mass atrocities.
The Partnership for Peace in Burundi comprised of representatives of the regional initiative, the mediating country South Africa, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, France, Belgium, Norway, and the United States of America has been put in place.