Establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burundi: Perspectives on Possibilities and Challenges




Nimuraba, Sixte Vigny

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This is a qualitative study of the perspectives of the Burundian people, leaders and the international community on the role of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in promoting reconciliation in Burundi. Literature on transitional justice argues that TRCs promote reconciliation. According to Lederach, reconciliation is a place where truth and mercy, justice and peace meet. The objective is to explore how Burundian people think a truth and reconciliation commission can impact reconciliation in Burundi, after decades of interethnic conflict, 14 years after the Arusha Accord which suggested the creation of that TRC even if it has not yet taken place. The study also explores briefly the history of the Burundian interethnic conflict during the pre-colonial, the colonial and the post-colonial era. After independence, the country was not able to build unity, equal and fair distribution of resources among the three ethnic groups (Hutu, Tutsi and Twa). As an effort to reconcile Burundian people, discussions on the ways in which reconciliation can be promoted in Burundi have dominated academic, practitioner and civil society leaders on the role that a TRC can play in Burundi. A sample population of 20 people from Burundi, Canada and United States participated in this study through interviews during the period from September 2013 until January 2014. They expressed their concerns about the ability of the TRC to promote reconciliation in Burundi. They also argued that the concepts of reconciliation, truth and justice have a slight difference meaning for Burundian people and therefore assuming that justice for example can promote reconciliation in a context where justice is symbol of power setting apart the winner and the loser may be misleading. Finally this study suggest that reconciliation should be the outcome of a slow development of local initiatives such as the Bashingantahe practice which brings together two conflicting individuals or groups and oblige them to share a drink on the same gourd with the same straw, as a symbol of respect, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.



Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Burundi, Interethnic conflicts, Transitional justice, Reconciliation, Dealing with the past