The Coalition for Peace in Africa (COPA) was created in 1996, and established in Burundi in 2004. COPA involve local people and organisations in peacebuilding, striving to promote a culture of sustainable peace in both Burundi and the Great Lakes region. They develop conflict transformation tools which are tailored to local lifestyles, traditions and cultures. COPA provide training on conflict transformation, lobbying and advocacy, community mediation, and the mitigation of rumours. They also mediate directly between divided communities.
Mediation and Reconciliation at the University of Burundi
After the failure of the 2001 coup attempt, in which some Tutsi students were allegedly involved, Hutu students fled the University of Burundi campus. They feared a repeat of the mass violence of 1995. Tutsi students, however, believed that their Hutu classmates had joined rebel forces in order to prepare an attack on the campus. Suspicions and mistrust between the two communities escalated, and COPA Burundi was asked to mitigate this conflict and facilitate reconciliation.
The mediation was a real challenge, because this was the first time an external organisation had attempted to mediate in student affairs. Training in conflict resolution was given to both groups and discussion groups were held. COPA also arranged a concert and made the groups jointly responsible for the harmony and safety of the event.
After the training, the Hutu students returned to the campus. With the students, COPA set up a new association named ‘New Horizons’ to deal with social and political issues within the university.
Mediation in Busoni
After a local government official in a Busoni commune was assassinated, allegedly by a group of Hutus, COPA provided mediation and reconciliation between local Hutu and Tutsi communities. The murder created fear in the area, with many Tutsi people fleeing to neighbouring Rwanda, and Hutu people leaving for the countryside. COPA organised a number of workshops that allowed community members to talk freely and openly about the situation, which eventually led to both sides drawing up a peace agreement which was then disseminated throughout the area, and led to the gradual return of those who had fled to Rwanda.
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