Arusha, December 4, 2014 (FH) – Burundi’s parliament on Monday elected the eleven members of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but the opposition refused to take part in the vote.  The TRC is to cast light on ethnic massacres that have scarred the country ever since independence.

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“We boycotted the vote to protest against the creation of a TRC based only on what the ruling CNDD-FDD party wants,” said parliamentary opposition leader Charles Nditije in an interview with AFP.

The CND-FDD of President Pierre Nkurunziza is mainly Hutu. “Normally, it takes two to reconcile,” added Nditije, saying that truth and reconciliation cannot take place without justice.  The Burundian opposition and civil society criticize the TRC law for omitting the judicial element and stressing forgiveness, or for having included political personalities.   Parliamentary speaker Pie Ntavyohanyuma nevertheless hailed the “historic” vote, according to AFP.  The TRC has six Hutu members, four Tutsis and one Twa, elected by a simple majority. They were chosen from a list of 33 personalities selected from 725 candidates by a mixed commission from Burundi’s National Assembly and Senate. Out of the eleven members, four are women.

The TRC President is Catholic bishop Jean-Louis Nahimana, a Hutu, while its Vice-President is Bernard Ntahoturi, Tutsi archbishop of the Anglican church in Burundi.

Burundi has been independent since 1962 like neighbouring Rwanda. It has suffered a series of ethnic massacres and coups d'Etat, notably since 1972, followed by a long civil war  (1993-2006) between Hutu rebels and the army. The army was dominated until recently by the Tutsi minority. Some 300,000 people were killed during the war.

The TRC will have four years to establish the truth about mass crimes committed in the country between 1962 and 2008; identify and map mass graves; propose a reparations programme; and promote reconciliation and forgiveness.  Neighbouring Rwanda, where an anti-Tutsi genocide was unleashed in 1994, has the same ethnic makeup as Burundi.