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From July 7 to July 11, 2008 a fact-finding mission to Burundi organized by KcK sought to explore the possibilities of networking between Burundian civil society and its counterparts in the region. The aim was to strengthen citizens’ participation in the advancement of good governance and democratic development within Burundi and the East African Community (EAC). The fact-finding mission was organized against the backdrop of Rwanda and Burundi joining the EAC at the Fifth Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State of the EAC held in June 2007 in Kampala, KcK, as a regional CSO, saw the need for an inaugural fact-finding mission to Burundi to assess the nature and functioning of civil society in the country. The mission met a cross-section of CSOs, the media, academia, officials of selected institutions, government departments and the donor community. The mission provided a strategic opportunity to open critical debate with these stakeholders, on issues affecting civil society, their respective roles and the governance challenges facing Burundi. The mission found civil society in Burundi to be fairly active with a vibrant media and trade unions, although unlike NGOs, the relationship between the media and the Burundian government somewhat fell short of what is expected in a democratic society though it had reportedly improved compared to previous years. Donor–civil society relations in Burundi were quite good. It was therefore recommended that civil society should take advantage of the improved relations with government to engage them more effectively with a view to agreeing with the government on a formalised mechanism for dialogue and conflict resolution between the two.
The mission team comprised the following members: Mr Mahadhi J. Maalim, (Tanzania, Zanzibar), Principal Secretary, Ministry of State (Presidents Office) Constitutional Affairs and Good Governance, Zanzibar (Head of mission); Prof. Charles Gasarasi, (Rwanda) Research Professor, Centre for Conflict Management, National University of Rwanda; Dr Tulia Ackson, (Tanzania Mainland), Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Dar es Salaam; Mr Collins Odhiambo, (Kenya) Advocate, Head of Programs & Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO); Hon. J.M Aliro Omara, (Uganda), Advocate, former Commissioner, Uganda Human Rights Commission; and Ms Edith Kibalama, Executive Director, KcK, provided logistical support.