In Burundi, a variety of (biased) narratives of its recent history and atrocities continue to polarize the population. Apart from that, the country witnessed a surge in hatespeech following the controversial elections of 2015. Benevolencija’s programmes therefore consist of monitoring and counteracting hatespeech, and coming to terms with the past.

Ever since its independence in 1962, Burundi has been characterized by animosity and tensions between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. Up to 1993, the country suffered from various interethnic conflicts and mass killings in which both ethnic groups were involved as victims as well as perpetrators. The assassination of the first democratically elected president in 1993 sparked widespread chaos and violence in the country, which escalated into a civil war that would last for more than a decade.

The Arusha Peace Agreements (2000) brought an end to the violence and paved the way for a slow transition process, leading to a new constitution and new democratic elections in 2005, which were won by Pierre Nkurunziza. While the situation initially seemed to improve, civic space eventually started to shrink. The 2010 elections, again won by Nkurunziza, were highly disputed and marked the start of the country’s slide into a climate of mistrust and fear. Human rights violations increased, and civil society activists and political opposition members increasingly faced harassment and intimidation.

Unrest surged in April 2015 when Nkurunziza announced his candidacy for a controversial third presidential term, sparking widespread protests in the capital Bujumbura. After a failed military coup in May 2015, the government cracked down violently on (alleged) political opponents and protesters, as well as civil society activists and media entities. The country’s political landscape has become prone to hate speech and manipulation, and authorities continue to be accused of grave human rights violations. Despite efforts by the East African Community to host inclusive peace talks, the unrest continues up to the present day.

Apart from its main objectives (embedding knowledge on the Continuum of Violence and stimulating active bystandership among its audiences), its initial focus lay on supporting reconciliation in the country by promoting and strengthening the transitional justice process that was set in motion after the Arusha Peace Agreement. In cooperation with Burundian authorities and civil society as well as the international community, Radio La Benevolencija’s media formats sought to demonstrate appropriate and well-suited judicial system for Burundi and how to secure truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence of human rights violations and conflict.

As time went on, Benevolencija projects turned to programs that sought to establish a common understanding of Burundi’s problematic past among the population. As the country never had a truth commission, it never managed to establish a neutral, common narrative of its past and the causes of violent conflict. Instead, multiple (biased) narratives of the country’s recent history and atrocities continue to exist and polarize the population. It impedes trauma healing and inter- and intra-community reconciliation, and hence increases the chances of recurrence of violence or vengeance. Finding a way through these narratives in order to rebuild the social cohesion in the country therefore continues to be a major mission for Benevolencija.

In light of the recent deterioration of the situation in Burundi, and the surge in hate speech, manipulation and polarization of society since 2015, Benevolencija’s current focus is on monitoring and counteracting hate speech, manipulation and ethnic stereotyping in the media, and promoting inter- and intra-community dialogue through online- and offline media outlets.


Media Support Project (2014 – 2021)

Recognizing the need to support the independence and professionalism of the media apparatus in Burundi under an increasingly repressive regime, the Media Support Project provides editorial and structural support to the few remaining independent media houses in Burundi.

The overall objective of the project is to enable the production of pluralistic information which contributes to reduced social, political and ethnic polarisation and builds resilience in Burundian citizens against misinformation, manipulation and incitement.

Nyubahiriza (Respect Me) (2017 – 2020)

The Nyubahiriza project aims to contribute to a reduction of violence, instability and forced migration that Burundians have been experiencing for decades and continue to suffer from today.

The project is implemented by a consortium of Oxfam Novib, CARE and Impunity Watch. Benevolencija has been subcontracted under this programme to contribute especially towards increased resilience against political and identity-based manipulation towards recruitment into armed groups or other violent behaviour, detecting and countering hate speech, and exposing youth to alternative role models.

Du passé composé au futur simple (2018-2020)

This project seeks to interest the young generations in Burundi’s history, and to make them critically reflect on the different existing versions of it.

Rather than re-narrating the conflict related issues of the past 50 years, online and offline media partners encourage the youth to actively participate in discussions and debates and to reinterpret the polarised history of the country. This project runs parallel with the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s mission to establish the truth on what happened during the different conflicts in the past.

Media for Dialogue

This cross-border media campaign in Eastern DRC (North and South Kivu), and the border regions of Rwanda and Burundi, focuses on forced and spontaneous migration in the region.

Through the Kumbuka Kesho radio drama, radio magazines and debates (Maoni Yako) and online communication outlets, the programme seeks to tackle the origins of identity group violence from a historic perspective, as well as from the actual issues of stability in the region. The program facilitates discussions with stakeholders, and advocates potential solutions.