“Burundi, the Paradise of Africa”

By : mohamed saad


“When the plane landed at Burundi’s airport in the beautiful capital of Bujumbura, I discovered that I had arrived in the paradise of Africa. The reason was the beauty, kindness, and warmth of the people, as well as the legendary beauty of nature. For the first time since the outbreak of war in Sudan, I felt the air entering my lungs. The past months were filled with sorrows and challenges, but upon arriving in Burundi, I felt a sense of relief.

I came to Burundi in response to an invitation from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a special invitation for journalists to attend a workshop on establishing a meaningful partnership with journalists and introducing them to the organization’s work and activities.

The reception at the airport by the organization members and airport staff was incredibly gracious. The bus then took us to the city of Gitega via a newly constructed mountain road, where my amazement began. The road to Gitega resembled fantasy stories told to children before bedtime, with towering mountains surrounding the road, giant trees embracing it, and clouds covering the entire scene. It was like details from a fictional tale, with the heroes being the people of Burundi, who seemed angelic due to their kindness and generosity.

After a four-hour journey on the mountain road, we arrived in Gitega and started the second day with the workshop sessions. Here, I began to get to know the participating journalists, and I considered their selection to be very successful. All the journalists were professionals and exceptionally kind, making it easy to form quick friendships with them.

Introduction to the Organization:
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is a regional governmental organization established with the primary goal of promoting peace and sustainable development in the Great Lakes region, which faces conflicts and numerous challenges. The ICGLR comprises 12 member countries, including Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The organization’s history dates back to 2000 when the United Nations Security Council, through resolutions 1291 and 1304, called for an international conference on peace, security, democracy, and development in the Great Lakes region. Later that year, the International Conference Secretariat was established in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union. In November 2004, heads of state and government of the member countries unanimously adopted the Declaration on Peace, Security, and Development in the Great Lakes Region in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, serving as the organization’s founding document.

The declaration paved the way for the establishment of specialized bodies focusing on issues such as security, good governance, and economic development. The Charter on Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, signed in 2006, reinforced commitments in areas such as non-aggression, human rights, natural resource management, and combating illegal arms trafficking.

The ICGLR provides an institutional framework to enhance cooperation and facilitate the implementation of peace and security initiatives. The organization’s activities include conflict prevention, management, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants, as well as combating violence against women and children, gender-based violence, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The ICGLR faces significant challenges in its efforts to strengthen peace and security in the region, including political instability, poverty, and the proliferation of armed groups.

Sudan’s Benefit from Organization’s Projects:
Sudan benefits from various programs and projects organized by the ICGLR, including the Regional Project for Peace and Security in the Great Lakes Region funded by the European Union through the German Development Agency (GIZ). The project includes capacity-building workshops and training courses in mining, combating illegal trade in minerals, addressing refugee issues, and empowering women. In this context, Sudan participated in a workshop on knowledge and experience exchange in refugee issues organized by the ICGLR in Bujumbura, Burundi, at the end of January 2023, and a Train-the-Trainer course on refugees held in Nairobi in September 2023.

The Organization’s Role in Achieving Stability in Sudan:
There is good cooperation between Sudan and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in areas related to peace and security. Sudan currently chairs the Regional Coordination Committee (RCC), composed of heads of security agencies in the Great Lakes region. Sudan hosted an RCC coordination meeting in Khartoum in November 2022. Since the current war in Sudan, the ICGLR closely monitors developments with the Sudanese government and other regional organizations.

On June 3, 2023, the ICGLR organized an extraordinary summit on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in Luanda, Angola. The summit’s closing statement mentioned that it received a report on the situation in Sudan from the African Union and Sudan, condemning the rebellion and the renewal of military conflict. The summit called for revitalizing the peace process in Sudan to find a permanent solution to the conflict, welcoming the efforts of the African Union, IGAD, and other African organizations.

The summit emphasized the importance of consultation and coordination with Sudanese authorities in any initiative aimed at assisting Sudan in ending the current conflict and achieving peaceful democratic transition through a comprehensive political process in the country.

The summit called on the international community to provide urgent humanitarian support to the affected populations in Sudan. It decided to continue monitoring the situation in Sudan and regularly review progress in enhancing peace, security, and stability in the country.

The organization continues its efforts and closely follows all initiatives to achieve stability in Sudan.

Throughout the journey, I couldn’t stop capturing moments, as everything in this country is like a masterpiece painted by a creative artist. It doesn’t require high photography skills; every shot taken by the camera is exceptionally beautiful. Yes, these were simple days in this paradise, but as I return to Egypt, I carry in my heart beautiful memories of a beautiful country and very kind people. The lingering question in my mind is: Why isn’t there intensive promotion of tourism in Burundi? Tourists nowadays seek unspoiled nature, safety, and the kindness of local people, and all these qualities are found in Burundi. It only lacks some smart promotion of tourism.

The question to officials in Burundi is: What are your plans to capitalize on these divine blessings?”

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