When people think of genocide in Africa they tend to think of Rwanda. But Burundi has had similar troubles, the worst of which occurred in 1972, when up to 300,000 Hutus were massacred in six weeks. The process of reconciliation is not without challenges.
On 15 May 2014, the President of the Republic of Burundi promulgated a legislative act establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), to address the violations committed during the country’s troubled history. The new act will determine the mandate, composition, structure and functions of the TRC. The intention is for the TRC to establish facts regarding the multiple violations of human rights from Burundi’s independence in 1962 to 2008, when the latest ceasefire agreement was signed.
The establishment of a TRC process is an integral part of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Accord, signed in Tanzania in August 2000, between the conflicting Burundian parties. The significant role that South Africa played in Burundi’s peace and reconciliation process cannot be overstated. First, the leadership and charisma of the late Nelson Mandela, and other South African leaders, was paramount to the successful signing of the Accord. Secondly, the deployment of South African troops to protect the returning Burundi politicians was seen as a crucial step to creating new political institutions based on power-sharing arrangements between former belligerents. The first protocol of the Arusha Accord established the basis for the implementation of the process of transitional justice. It showed the principles and measures that could reinforce the fight against impunity of crimes, the way the social injustices could be addressed in Burundi and among these was a recommendation on the creation of the TRC.
The TRC process is intended to establish a permanent historical record which will raise the awareness of Burundians about their past. It is anticipated that the recovery of the truth will lay the foundations upon which sustainable reconciliation, including reparations, can be achieved. According to the Establishing Act, the aim of the TRC will be to create a space for all the victims and perpetrators of crimes committed during the recurrent conflicts to know the truth about the past and to express what they have experienced.
The Burundi Coalition for the ICC on the current situation in Burundi