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Cablegate: Burundi - Relief to Development


DE RUEHJB #0607/01 1990728
R 180728Z JUL 06





E.O. 12958: N/A


REF: Bujumbura 00459


1. Following significant political progress,
the overall humanitarian situation is improving
in Burundi. The transition from relief to
development is underway, but humanitarian
coordination is essential to prevent critical
gaps between relief and development assistance.
However, several variables have the potential to
tilt the balance toward instability and a return
to crisis conditions. To support the Government
of Burundi (GOB) during this critical period,
donors and relief and development actors must
work to improve and/or create mechanisms to
facilitate coordination and capacity building.
End Summary.


2. From May 8 to June 10, a Disaster Operations
Specialist from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign
Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) deployed to
Burundi to assess the humanitarian situation
throughout the country and facilitate the
transition of USAID/OFDA's country office from
expatriate to Foreign Service National (FSN)
management. During this period, OFDA's
Principal Regional Advisor, Administrative
Officer, Regional Advisor, Food for Peace
Officer, and Health Specialist visited Burundi
to assist in the transition of the office and
the development of future programming. During
the course of the five-week mission, USAID/OFDA
staff visited 11 of 17 provinces, and met with a
number of U.N. agencies, donors, and non-
governmental organizations (NGOs).

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3. Political progress in Burundi, culminating
in the peaceful 2005 presidential elections, has
enabled much of the country to rebound from more
than a decade of instability. The general
security situation has improved, curfew has been
lifted, and peace talks continue in Tanzania
between the GOB and remaining opposition group,
the National Liberation Forces (FNL). Since
2002, nearly 300,000 Burundian refugees and an
unknown number of internally displaced persons
(IDPs) have returned home. The U.N.
Peacekeeping Mission in Burundi (ONUB) is
leaving at the end of 2006, and the U.N. is
currently preparing a multisectoral integrated
U.N. mission. Although humanitarian programs
continue under the GOB Emergency Plan for 2006,
the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) is in
the finalization process.

4. Since the beginning of the conflict in 1993,
USAID/OFDA and other international donors have
supported a range of humanitarian interventions
in Burundi. As security and humanitarian
conditions have improved, remaining needs are
more related to chronic poverty than crisis, and
short-term emergency response programs are less
appropriate. The international community is
gradually phasing out relief activities and
donors are in the process of redirecting funding
and programming toward transition activities,
such as government support and community-based

Potentially Destabilizing Factors

5. While the outlook for Burundi is generally

optimistic, challenges remain that could hinder
or derail the path forward. The new government,
largely comprised of staff without previous
governance experience, is faced with the
daunting task of rebuilding a country that has
undergone 12 years of civil strife. Challenges
include damaged infrastructure, a devastated
economy, and insecurity arising from the
departure of ONUB and continued FNL attacks. In
addition, a number of destabilizing forces have
the potential to derail the recovery:
unrealistic expectations for the new government
and a resulting frustrated populace, a large
number of returnees that will overstretch
limited services and bring conflicting land
claims, food insecurity as a result of cassava
mosaic disease (CMD) and chronic drought, and
regional instability in the Great Lakes.

6. Limited Basic Services: The newly elected
government has made several promises to the
public, specifically in relation to free
education and health care for pregnant women and
children under-five. Most of the announcements
followed GOB trips to assess conditions on the
ground. However, at present, the GOB is unable
to follow through on these promises due to a
lack of viable infrastructure (hospitals,
schools) and personnel (doctors, nurses,
teachers). As schools, clinics, and hospitals
become overwhelmed, the population's frustration
has increased.

7. Stagnant Economy: Burundi's economy has not
shown marked improvement since 2005 when it was
ranked 169 out of 177 according to the UN
Development Program's (UNDP) Human Development
Index. More than 68 percent of the population
lives below the poverty line and over 90 percent
are subsistence farmers. Additionally, Burundi
is the second most densely populated country
globally, with an annual population growth rate
greater than three percent.

8. FNL and Security Concerns: The outcome of
peace talks remain inconclusive and were
suspended last week when talks broke down amid
mutual recriminations. The talks are set to
resume July 13.

9. Returnees: To date in 2006, only 3.8
percent (3,792 people) of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) planned
100,000 refugees has returned from Tanzania.
However, UNHCR states that the lower figures are
in part a result of the observed cycle of
movement, in which major returns are registered
from May to July, just after the harvest in
Tanzania. As the Tanzanian Government has
requested that refugees return to Burundi, UNHCR
commenced a repatriation campaign on June 20 and
expects 85,000 people to return by December
2006. Additional returnees will place
significant strain on already limited services.

10. Food Insecurity: Although the current
harvest is expected to be relatively good
throughout most of the country (see reftel),
food insecurity will likely re-emerge during the
upcoming dry season. Coping mechanisms for
these periods have consistently been inadequate,
and there is concern of another "hunger period"
from August to September. Further, while
various organizations are addressing cassava
mosaic disease (CMD) through the planting of
resistant cuttings, there will not be enough
cuttings to mitigate the effects of CMD until
2008 at the earliest, according to specialists.

11. Regional Instability: According to UNHCR,
more than 30,000 Congolese refugees reside in
Burundi, and there is concern that this number

will increase with the July elections in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. Further, in
recent months, approximately 20,000 refugees
have arrived from Rwanda. Current caseloads are
adequately managed by UNHCR and other partners,
but a large influx could prove problematic.

Transition from Relief to Development


12. NGOs are moving at different speeds in
adjusting to the transition from relief to
development. Strategy development meetings with
several NGO headquarter staff indicate that
there is acceptance of the changing trend at the
headquarters level. Unfortunately, adopting a
development philosophy is not easy for all aid
workers, many of whom have been working in
Burundi in a relief capacity for several years.

13. NGOs and the GOB are also at odds over who
should control donor funding in Burundi. Some
NGOs have voiced concerns about perceived GOB
hostility toward NGOs, but these concerns are
not shared by all NGOs. At the same time, some
members of the GOB worry that NGOs act without
accountability, and the GOB has openly stated
that the now democratically-elected GOB should
control relief programs and the donor funding
that supports them. Currently, 70 percent of
donor funding goes to NGOs. In addition, NGOs
do not adequately share information with the
GOB, and the GOB seems to have some confusion
about how NGOs operate.

14. U.N. transition efforts appear to be on
target. ONUB is scheduled to depart from
Burundi on December 31, and an integrated
mission is scheduled to take its place. The
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) has begun to hand over leadership
of the international response to the U.N.
Development Program (UNDP). In a recent donor
meeting with OCHA, donors agreed that OCHA
should remain in country through 2007 to
continue coordination efforts and ensure a
successful transition.

15. USAID and other major donors to Burundi
have made significant pledges to bridge the gap
from relief to development, most of which are
directed toward the GOB's Emergency Plan for
2006 (see reftel). Relief and development
donors agree on the need to prioritize capacity-
building activities for the GOB's National
Committee for the Coordination of Aid to enable
the GOB to coordinate the aid and development

16. In FY 2006, USAID's Regional Economic
Development Services Office for East and
Southern Africa (USAID/REDSO) obligated USD 9.3
million for conflict mitigation, democracy and
governance, HIV/AIDS, health, and livelihoods
programs, and has requested USD 9.5 million for
FY 2007. For FY 2005, USAID/OFDA provided USD
9.8 million in health, nutrition, relief
commodities, food security, and water and
sanitation activities. FY 2006 funding is not
yet complete, but is expected to be considerably
less, consistent with the transition to
development programs.

17. The Belgian Development Cooperation (BDC),
the U.K. Department for International
Development (DFID), the European Commission
(EC), the Swiss Agency for Development and

Cooperation, and the Heavily Indebted Poor
Countries (HIPIC) Initiative have also pledged
significant development assistance in support of
the GOB.

a. BDC has committed approximately Euro 15
million to the GOB's Plan D'Urgence, Euro three
million into a UNDP-held trust fund, and several
million Euros to U.N. organizations. The BDC
expects to allocate approximately 60 million
Euros over the next three years.

b. DFID has pledged approximately 10 million
pounds, six million of which will go to the UNDP
trust fund (and then to the Plan d'Urgence),
while the remainder will go to OVC programming
(education, health).

c. The EC has pledged approximately 66.75
million Euros toward a rural development program
in five provinces over three years. The EC is
also committing 19.75 million Euros to good
governance initiatives. The EC Humanitarian Aid
Office (ECHO) funding levels will vary between
12 and 17 million Euros, most of which will go
to U.N. organizations. ECHO is ending all
support for emergency health and nutrition

d. The Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation has pledged approximately 17 million
Euros, focusing on Ngozi Province.

e. The World Bank and IMF have approved the GOB
for USD 60 million under the Heavily Indebted
Poor Countries (HIPIC) Initiative. Upon
finalization of the PRSP, the GOB will receive
an estimated USD 115 million, most of which will
fund the development of infrastructure and

Conclusions / Recommendations

18. The transition from relief to development
is slow, and critical gaps between relief and
development assistance could emerge. The
USAID/OFDA Disaster Operations Specialist
recommends the following actions for USAID to
support the transition:

a. Improved coordination among donors. Relief
and development donors should begin a dialogue
to avoid gaps in services during the transition
period. While it is important to support the
GOB's efforts to coordinate donor activities, it
is critical that an effective monitoring
mechanism be set up rapidly to ensure that donor
funds are used as effectively as possible. USAID
should organize regular meetings that include
relief and development donors, as well as GOB

b. The U.N. Country Team (UNCT) should be
encouraged toward greater cooperation internally
and externally. USAID should promote dialogue
between and amongst UNCT members through hosting
sectoral meetings or through supporting UNOCHA
in hosting sectoral meetings. GOB
representatives should be invited to attend
these meetings.

c. Tensions between the NGO community and the
GOB, although not shared by all, should be
addressed immediately so that they do not
impede the path forward. Transparency and
information sharing is necessary so that trust
can be developed. A facilitated dialogue
convened by a neutral but respected party could
assist in this. The USG can help to identify
said person and promote said dialogue.


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