Get access

Social Capital and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Burundi: The Limits of Community-based Reconstruction


  • Thomas Vervisch,

    1. Was an assistant at the Department of Philosophy and Moral Science, and associate member of the Conflict Research Group, both at Ghent University. His research focus was on post-conflict reconstruction, in particular the case of Burundi. He currently works at VLIR-UOS. He can be contacted at e-mail:
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Kristof Titeca,

    1. Is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), based at the Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium (e-mail:; and of the Conflict Research Group, Ghent University. His interests are informal institutions, informal economy, state building and conflict.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Koen Vlassenroot,

    1. Is a professor at the Department of Political Science and director of the Conflict Research Group at Ghent University, Universiteitstraat 8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium (e-mail: He specializes on conflict dynamics in Central Africa. He has published on militias, land issues, rebel governance and state building.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Johan Braeckman

    1. Is a professor at the Department of Philosophy and Moral Science, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium (e-mail: His research interests include morality, ethics and the philosophical debates concerning evolutionary theory and the neurosciences.
    Search for more papers by this author

The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the paper.


Using an examination of three NGO interventions in post-conflict Burundi, this article questions community-based reconstruction as a mechanism to rebuild social capital after conflicts, particularly when direct livelihood support is provided. The authors demonstrate a general shortcoming of the methodology employed in community-based development (CBD), namely its focus on ‘technical procedural design’, which results in what may be termed ‘supply-driven demand-driven’ reconstruction. The findings suggest the need for a political economy perspective on social capital, which acknowledges that the effects on social capital are determined by the type of economic resource CBD gives access to. Through the use of a resource typology, the case studies show that the CBD methodology and the potential effects on social capital differ when applied to public and non-strategic versus private and strategic resources. This has particular consequences for post-conflict situations. A generalized application of CBD methodology to post-conflict reconstruction programmes fails to take adequate account of the nature of the interventions and the challenges posed by the particular post-conflict setting. The article therefore questions the current popular ‘social engineering’ approach to post-conflict reconstruction.