02.10.07 – BURUNDI/JUSTICE – DEBATE IN BURUNDI ON THE OPPORTUNITY OF TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE

Bujumbura, 2 October 2007 (FH) - The setting up, awaited for the past seven years, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and of the Special Tribunal (ST) in Burundi has currently been the subject of a debate that has led to political tensions which have shaken the country.

1 min 58Approximate reading time

During a program aired on line last week by Radio Isanganiro, a private radio station, to which the public had open access by telephone, to add to the in studio panellists, certain listeners estimated that the two mechanisms of transitional justice could not begin in the midst of the current crisis gripping the country, while others did not agree with this opinion.

"It is time that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission starts work because innocent lives continue to be lost without reason", underlined Appolinaire Gahungu, information officer at the Embassy of South Africa and former spokesperson for former President Pierre Buyoya.

"We are late because it is necessary to forget the past and to think of the future even if the weapons always pullulate in the country (with the consequence of insecurity becoming almost daily)", he wished. Still hoping for the reconciliation of Burundians, Gahungu quoted Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when he chaired the South African TRC during the post-Apartheid period, saying that "to have peace, it is necessary to know how to forgive".

For his part, Jean Kabura of Gitega province (central Burundi) thinks that "the TRC is late because it is it which must contribute to stopping the war". He estimates that the weapons held by the civil population "would be useless if people reconciled themselves".

Other listeners estimated that the setting-up of transitional justice should be conditioned by the total disarmament of the civil population, as well as an overall agreement of peace between the government and the last rebellious movement, the FNL.

"It is initially necessary that the population (civil) is disarmed and that the negotiations between the government and the FNL are completed", said Stany Mbazumutima of Ngozi province (northern Burundi). "I do not see how the TRC can work without these problems being solved", he concluded.

"It is difficult because there are many weapons which circulate in the country", commented, laconically, Gertrude Ntungwanayo de Buterere (Bujumbura town hall).

Questioned, Festus Ntanyungu, president of the pilot committee having to institute the TRC and the ST, kept all comments to himself. At the time of a recent discussion with the Hirondelle Agency, he however ensured that the consultation campaign throughout the country on the two mechanisms was going to be done "soon".

The TRC and the ST are the two mechanisms of transitional justice planned by the Arusha Agreement (Tanzania) of August 2000, which must shine light on the crimes committed in Burundi since its independence in 1962. They must establish and define the facts, then decide to prosecute or not the persons allegedly responsible. The United Nations, which supports and finances these two bodies, warned that crimes of genocide and other serious crimes could not be amnestied.

GA/PB/MM
© Hirondelle News Agency

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