11.03.08 - BURUNDI/JUSTICE - BURUNDI CONSULTATIONS ON TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE YET TO BEGIN

Bujumbura, 11 March 2008 (FH) - Four months after the installation of a steering committee consisting of members of the Burundian government and the United Nations, its goal to work with the people towards the establishment of a transitional justice system for Burundians, the intended popular consultations have still not begun.
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On 2 November 2007, the steering committee was put in place with the goal of addressing the Burundian people about their preferred mechanisms of a transitional justice system.

The committee is composed of two government representatives, two from the UN, and two from civil society. The first three months were intended to be used by the committee to develop the different documents which would then be presented to the people.

In the following six months, the actual popular consultations were scheduled to begin. After this work, the government of Burundi and the United Nations were to agree to the installation of the special tribunal
and the truth reconciliation commission. The elections had been planned for 2010.

"The government representatives are blocking the advancement of the committee's work, in an effort to prolong the process," claimed Raymond Kamenyero, president of the forum for reinforcement of civil society.

"The government has no interest in popular consultations. If the truth were to come out into the open, it will risk compromising certain potential candidates to certain posts in the 2010 elections," he added.

Dr. Yves Sahinguvu, first vice president of Burundi, who is supervising the committee, said: "Certainly, the committee has gotten a late start on the popular consultations due to difficulties related to a lack of funds,
but also due to the problem of figuring out which methodology to follow. But we are reassuring Burundians that they will be consulted in the timeframe laid out and we will do our best to make up for the time that
they are accusing us of having lost. The financing project has been sent to New York for approval."

But for Christine Miturumbwe, member of the joint committee of peace consolidation within the Integrated Bureau of Burundi Nations (BINUB), the delay will at least reach five months:

"The committee of experts charged with studying the projects received a proposition from the steering committee. We studied it, and we sent it back for correction. Subsequently, it will pass back through us before
being sent to New York for approval. Logically speaking I can say that the popular consultations will not begin until June."

Steering committee president Festus Ntanyungu has asked Burundians for patience:

"Let us organize, and at the right moment, we will communicate to you everything we have done,'' he said, adding that the Burundians have suffered much since 1962, and we cannot permit ourselves to play at saying nonsense, which could risk plunging our country back into a period of new internal violence.

"We realize that our task is not an easy one, and that we must work hard, even to the point of becoming a model that others in this region plagued by interminable violence can look to and follow," Ntanyungu said.

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