Burundi’s experience of security sector reform offers lessons for the world

3 Oct 2012

Burundi’s experience of security sector reform offers lessons for the world

Nairobi, 2 October 2012: Burundi's experience of security sector reform has much to teach the world – that was one conclusion of a panel discussion that took place on 2 October 2012 at a "High Level Panel on the Challenges and Opportunities of Security Sector Reform (SSR) in East Africa," held at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON). The meeting discussed comparative experience in reform in Burundi, Somalia and South Sudan.

The Burundi panel consisted of Major-General Silas Ntigurirwa, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Commissioner Maurice Mbonimpa, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security, and Charles Ndayiziga, Director of the Centre d'Alerte et de Prévention des Conflits (CENAP). Dr. Serge Rumin, Director of the joint Dutch/Burundi Security Sector Development Programme acted as discussant, and Stephen Jackson, BNUB Chief of Staff, as moderator.

The panel saw Burundi's security sector reform process as "at a crossroads". The Arusha Accords had enshrined the need to ensure "balance" and inclusiveness" across ethnicity, regional origin and political affiliation in the composition of the security forces. That had very largely been accomplished through integration, rightsizing and demobilisation. Burundian military and police are now proudly serving in the ranks of AMISOM, in Somalia, and in a number of UN peacekeeping operations around the world. But challenges remain: in professionalizing the security forces (particularly in preventing human rights violations), and in enhancing democratic oversight and control over them (through parliament, civil society, and institutions such as the Conseil National de Sécurité). These would now need to be the focus of work moving forwards.

The panel concluded that much progress had been accomplished in a short period, even as challenges remained. If Burundi was already proudly exporting its peacekeepers, should it not also "export its lessons learned" from the positive experience of security sector reform?