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Resources, City Spotlights Mukaza Commune

City Spotlight: Mukaza Commune

Mukaza Commune is one of three communes that make up Bujumbura Mairie Province, the economic capital of Burundi. It lies at Lake Tanganyika, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and has a rapidly growing population of over 250,000 people. It is home to a significant number of migrants from both within and outside Burundi. The Commune is actively involved in various initiatives that aim to promote good governance, peace, security and the development of its local population, and has aligned these activities with Burundi’s Security and Development Plan 2020-2024. Mukaza Commune first engaged with Strong Cities Network in an April 2023 workshop that the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Regional Hub held in Bujumbura for mayors from across Burundi on their role in preventing hate, extremism and polarisation. Mayor Renovat Sindayehebura of Mukaza participated in this engagement, noting that “our capacity as leaders can be built from the interactions” Strong Cities facilitates. He additionally participated in a Strong Cities regional workshop in Johannesburg (South Africa) in June 2023.

What is the local government concerned about?

Mukaza Commune faces several challenges that stem largely from the aftermath of the Burundian Civil War (1993 – 2005) between the country’s primary ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis. Challenges include ongoing ethnic divisions, high levels of youth unemployment, high rates of urban crime such as theft and robbery, limited resources for emergency response, a large population influx due to Mukaza’s prime location in the centre of Bujumbura Mairie Province, which serves as both the country’s economic capital a regional trade hub. Terrorist recruitment and activity also remains a concern, particularly with Al-Shabaab having previously made threats against the country.

How is the local government responding?

To address these challenges, the Commune has developed and started implementing a “Good Governance, Peace, Security, and Prosperity as an Involvement of All” initiative, which aims to restore the traditional African concept of “ubuntu”, or humanity and harmony, by emphasising the importance of working together for the prosperity of the Commune and country as a whole. The initiative includes various long-term commitments to foster cohesion and improve the safety and security of all residents. These include:

Ultimately, the Commune seeks to promote a culture of peace and security by investing in a long-term approach that focuses on urban development and social cohesion, promotes respect for human rights and facilitates the evolution of values, attitudes and behaviours towards non-violence and inter-communal solidarity. The effects of these initiatives are assessed by evaluating attitudinal changes in the population, reduced crime rates, increased production within youth cooperatives, participation of youth and other community members in peace-building meetings and other activities hosted by the Commune, reports from local administrators on the security situation and progress with regards to infrastructural improvements.

What’s next?

Mukaza Commune has a number of priorities over the coming years, given Burundi’s status as a country still recovering from the long-term impacts of civil war. The Commune would like to continue as well as scale the implementation of the above activities, and has expressed a need for expertise and guidance, including by learning from other cities in a post-conflict environment, about reconciliation and (re)building social cohesion in such a context. The Commune is also looking for financial and other resources to sustain its infrastructure development, youth empowerment and cultural and sports initiatives, all of which relate to the prevention of hate, extremism and polarisation.

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