Political party relations and electoral dispute resolution took center stage during the second in a series of BRIDGE trainings offered by IFES-Burundi last week. From April 6-9, twenty-five members of Burundi’s national and provincial electoral commission gathered in Rutana, in Burundi’s interior, to explore these topics that have become critical to the holding of peaceful elections in the upcoming months.
The Rutana BRIDGE training went where no BRIDGE training has gone before – into the streets and markets of rural Burundi to delve into the dynamics of electoral disputes firsthand. Timed to correspond with the launch of two of IFES-Burundi’s national civic outreach activities on electoral dispute prevention and resolution, the training participants had front row seats during first public presentation of a community theatre production on electoral fraud and disputes which drew an estimated audience of 3000 local citizens and was filmed for national TV. On the last day of the training, the BRIDGE participants were again the guests of honor for the launch of IFES’ community festivals for peaceful elections, including the winner of a national song contest and local theatre, drumming and dance troupes all expressing the theme of peaceful elections and civic education.
The incorporation of the cultural events into the curriculum provided powerful visual representations of the tensions and misunderstandings at the heart of electoral disputes as well as an interaction with local communities that no classroom could offer. In addition to offering a rich base for classroom discussion on the resolution of disputes, the events underlined the important impact of civic education in preventing election disputes.
In addition to these tremendous community activities, the Rutana BRIDGE training hosted a remarkable group of facilitators, including south-south cooperation through the participation of two members of the DRC’s independent electoral commission as well as international perspectives of BRIDGE facilitators and expert speakers from the US, France, Belgium, Egypt and Trindad & Tobago. IFES-Burundi was exceptionally pleased to offer the opportunity to fully-accredit three new members of the BRIDGE facilitator family: Terence Mbonabuca, Burundi’s first fully-accredited BRIDGE facilitator; Flavien Misoni, Director of National Operations of the DRC’s independent electoral commission and strong supporter of the ACE regional center in Kinshasa; and Eva Palmans, Political Officer of the EU electoral observation mission in Burundi. Congratulations and welcome!
See more news and photos on the IFES website: http://www.ifes.org/Content/Galleries/B/BRIDGE-Training-in-Burundi.aspx