The conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda was documented by the movie Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle. The movie depicts a Rwandan hotel manager who is caught in the middle of a vicious civil war and protect citizens at his hotel. It highlights the atrocities of the conflict and the lack of aid that Rwandans received during the widespread killing.
Many people do not realize that the Hutu-Tutsi conflict was not exclusive to Rwanda. Burundi, Rwanda’s southern neighbor experience the same conflict at the same time, resulting in the deaths of around 300,000 civilians and the exile or displacement of 1.2 million.
The fighting in Burundi crippled its economy, especially agriculture, and left 80% of Burundians living below the poverty line. Burundi now ranks 185th out of 187 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Most Burundians are small scale farmers trying desperately to recover from the conflict, with high population, drought, illiteracy, and little access to health and education services exacerbating their woes.
However, now that the country is relatively stable, the Burundian government, with support from the U.N. and USAID, has put itself to the task of combating poverty in Burundi. In July 2011 the government launched a “Vision 2025” plan that sets a goal of reducing poverty to 33% by 2025. The government is focusing on four areas to achieve this goal: improving governance and security, promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth, developing human capital, and combating HIV/AIDS.
USAID has been doing its part to combat poverty in Burundi since the conflict. USAID supported policy reforms that have led to the commercialization of coffee in Burundi, bringing significant amounts of money into the country from coffee exports. USAID has also been trying to strengthen Burundi’s agriculture sector by focusing on soil conservation, improved seed varieties, better crop and livestock production, and rehabilitation of precious marshlands.
The horrors portrayed in Hotel Rwanda shocked American audiences everywhere. Poverty in Burundi and Rwanda has to be addressed to promote stability in the countries in order to prevent future conflicts.
– Martin Drake