Relearning the Peace
Produced by Marianne McCune (7:55)
Hutu and Tutsi police
commanders use the techniques
they have learned at the retreat
to debate who needs what sort
of additional training. Many
of the Hutus have had no police
training, while many of the Tutsis
were part of the old police and
that helped massacre Hutus.
After decades of violence and civil war, the Hutus and Tutsis of
Burundi, in Central Africa, are trying to govern the
country together. Their new constitution requires power
sharing in every government agency. Yet many on both
sides of the conflict are still armed, and few have
experience negotiating political disagreements without
Howard Wolpe, a former US congressman and President Clinton's special
envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region, says the problem
is not that Hutus and Tutsis hate each other. Burundi's
colonists and corrupt leaders taught them to blame their problems on
each other, he says. And once war and violence took hold, the conflict
"War creates a situation where people are convinced that their own
survival can only come at the expense of the other," Wolpe says. "The
challenge is trying to change the culture that war creates."
To do that, Wolpe is bringing to Burundi an American-style
corporate leadership workshop that Burundi's new senators
and generals and police chiefs swear is helping them work
more constructively together. The idea is to interrupt
the culture that war has created and reintroduce a culture
in which people understand that their own survival depends
on their ability to collaborate.
US congressman Howard Wolpe listens through
his translator to some of the 35 police
commanders. They spend much of the weeklong
retreat assembled in this circle, participating
in exercises designed to help them collaborate.
"It's true in all conflicts that when people get into a war, communications
break down," Wolpe says. "Stereotypes emerge. Barriers are
put up. So the techniques we use are techniques that
open up the lines of communication and equip people
with the means of transcending their earlier conflict."
When Tutsi General Jean Bikomagu and Hutu rebel spokesman Jerome Ndiho
arrived at one of the earliest workshops, they had never met—but they
despised each other nevertheless.
"I had the feeling that he had helped create all the unhappiness
of the country," recalls Bikomagu. And Ndiho says he was shocked
when he found they would be spending the week together. "You understand
how I hated this man. We had been launching shells at each other!"
By the end of the week, they say, it was their colleagues who were shocked—that they had publicly agreed on several points about Burundi's future.
Participants in a session for the High Command of Burundi's National
Police ranged from young Hutu rebels, who came of age
fighting in the woods, to Tutsi leaders of the government's
Gendarmerie, a force that was notorious for helping
massacre Hutus. Together for a week in a walled-off
Catholic seminary, they learned techniques like "active
brainstorming. During one exercise they argued over
whether a woman in a drawing was old or young—only to discover
the image was a composite of two women, one old and
one young. The moral: in a conflict, it's possible
that both sides are right. They simply have different
of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura,
from the road that leads to Gitega and
the seminary where some Burundi Leadership
Training Program workshops are held.
The workshops include lessons on the importance of preparing your position
before entering a negotiation, and on identifying the
causes of a problem before trying to find its solution.
The men spend one day doing a "social simulation."
Each person is assigned to an imaginary geographical
region in an imaginary country and asked to operate
in the region's interest, but with the goal of making
the whole society survive. Some regions are rich, others
are poor; some have resources but few people, others
have few resources buy many people. These imaginary
societies often fail miserably. But in their discussions
afterward, participants find plenty of useful parallels
with real life.
The application of such techniques to Burundi's devastating conflict
can seem, at times, absurd. A
leader of the famously intimidating Gendarmerie scurried
between the red region and green region, begging for
food tickets so he and his region-mates can survive. Fiercely proud
military-types try to use active-listening phrases,
what you're telling me is ..."), mustering all their
patience to resist the urge to launch into their own
arguments. But by the end of the workshops, participants seem
quite moved by the experience. One former general claimed
that with these tools, he could have averted one of
the first battles of Burundi's Civil War.
a discussion of police training, young
Hutu Jean-Marie made use of the active-listening
technique he had just practiced. "I’ve
understood that my colleague Boniface doesn’t
want to have to sit in a classroom with
people who’ve had no police training
Howard Wolpe and his team have been asked to take the workshops to the
war-ravaged Republic of Congo, where the situation
is much less stable than in Burundi. The first challenge
will be to get leaders there to buy into the process. Wolpe has to convince
them that it's in their interest to work together.
"I believe that fundamentally people will never alter the way they
behave toward one another unless they see that as a matter of self interest," he
says. "We try to assist people to come to an appreciation, first,
of their interdependence. That there's value in collaboration, even with
people they'd historically defined as enemies. But secondly, that they
can do that. That it's possible to rebuild trust, to rebuild the ability
Thank you to the Burundi Leadership Training Program
and to Burundi’s
new National Police for allowing me full access to
their week-long training.
The Burundi Leadership Training Program