An Example of Conflict Sensitivity in Practice

Throughout the 20th Century, Burundi was plagued by severe inter-ethnic violence.

As late as 2008, there was significant fighting between the major protagonists in the capital, Bujumbura. In 2009, a development agency agreed to a government request to build a road from the capital to a remote location that had not previously been connected to the capital in such a direct way. To the project director, building this road was initially only a matter of getting the right materials and planning the engineering logistics properly. However, when the project director did a conflict analysis, it became clear that the road project had the potential to interact with the underlying conflict dynamics that still exist in Burundi in a number of potentially negative ways.

For example:

  1. How might the population along the road perceive the government’s intentions in building the road? Would they be happy to have easier access to markets in Bujumbura? Might they be worried that the government would have easier and faster access to their communities?
  1. How many people might need to relocate as a result of building the road? Would these people be from different ethnic groups, or primarily from one ethnic group? What kind of compensation would be made available to them? What kind of communications strategy would there be? Were different communities consulted about the exact route that the road would take?
  1. The project would offer temporary work to up to 500 young men along the route of the road. Given that there is a very high population of unemployed men in the area that the road would run through, what mechanisms might need to be put in place in order to manage the inevitable competition for jobs?
  1. Where would all the materials for the road come from? Would they be bought from traders of from different ethnic groups, or would one ethnic group benefit more than others?