This article examines in turn the four main pillars of the international peacekeeping agenda (security, development, good governance and justice) in Burundi and Rwanda. Each section reviews the scholarly and policy debates about these dimensions of external engagement prior to the civil wars that ravaged both countries. Next, they analyse the post-conflict approaches used by the international community (after 1994 in Rwanda and since 2000-05 in Burundi. The concluding section draws together key lessons about the interactions between poverty, governance, violence and international assistance in Burundi and Rwanda. They bring into sharp focus the limits that development co-operation faces in shaping these issues.