Just last week, the United Nations and Government of Burundi marked the official ending of its Disarmament-Demobilization-Reintegration (DDR) Program with large celebrations of people erratically firing guns into the air. That, and the ceremonial reintegration of 576 – of a total 26,283 – FNL ex-combatants into mainstream poverty, land conflict and political instability. So, all is well and good in the land of Burundi that DDR is done and ex-combatants have given up their guns. Except for that whole post-DDR tumult. According to the International Crisis Group:
The government and local authorities must end the violence and political repression directed at the FNL, including arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention and inhumane treatment, and the government must instruct the state prosecutor’s office to investigate the recent assassinations of FNL members.
The FNL must immediately stop the levying of taxes and forced contributions, the mistreatment of civilians and violence against local officials, as well as interference and violence in the management of land conflicts.
So, it apparently still kind of sucks in post-DDR Burundi. The government continues to oppress and marginalize this faction of ethnic Hutus and this faction continues to operate by forcefully extracting money from civilians and intimidating local communities.
The demobilization of FNL in Burundi is definitely progress, however ICG’s report illustrates to the over-romanticization of DDR among donors. DDR is often fetishized as the post-conflict program. The Crisis Group briefing suggests that DDR might not do much if combatants give away their guns for cash, but rebel violence and government oppression continue. DDR can sadly operate as a facade for true peace-building since guns (momentarily) disappear that must be continuously monitored.
That said, this does mean there is a new tourist slogan for Burundi: land of demobilized combatants still pissed off and government officials who still dislike them finally coming together.