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Burundi’s TRC officially launched: but will victims participate? 0

On 4 March 2016, in Kayanza in the country’s north, Burundi’s President officially launched the operational phase of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its popular awareness-raising campaign. In a policy brief, Impunity watch present a selection of the findings from a research project conducted within five communities in Burundi, seeking to understand how victims envisage engaging with the process.

Before a packed conference hall composed of the highest levels of government, senior party officials, ambassadors, and other invitees, the President – addressing his compatriots predominantly in his native Kirundi – invited all Burundians to participate in the process, orating the adage, there is no future without forgiveness. Reactions to the launch however demonstrate that a large-scale truth-seeking project is fraught with problems in the midst of an ongoing crisis. A climate of fear, intimidation, lack of genuine free speech and a ruling party that maintains a tight grip on power provide the conditions that are anything but conducive to the work of a TRC.

Should Burundi’s Commission nonetheless forge ahead, the ability of victims to influence the process will provide a measure of the government’s sincerity for having an independent and impartial process for dealing with the past. In this Policy Brief we thus examine awareness-raising as a prelude to and form of victim participation at truth commissions, drawing upon preliminary findings from comparative research conducted in the communities of Bugendana, Itaba, Ruhororo, Kivyuka and Cibitoke. The findings offer timely insight into the importance of information as a basis for meaningful participation at Burundi’s TRC, with recommendations for the Commission, government and international community.

Click here to download the report.

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