Burundi: Engaging women, young people and diaspora in truth and reconciliation
3 February 2022: Impunity Watch, in collaboration with the Burundi Ministry for Peace and Reconciliation (MIPAREC) and Dushirehamwe Association held its latest National Forum on transitional justice following decades of past conflict .
The forum brought together decisionmakers and civil society to discuss the needs and recommendations of women and young people in the transitional justice process. National policymakers, including deputies, senators, and Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, the president of Burundi’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Topics included the importance of incorporating Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into Burundi's truth-telling process, the need to involve the Burundian diaspora in the search for the truth, the participation of youth in the TRC’s work, and the dissemination of the law on victim and witness protection, especially in support of women’s participation.
Goretti Ndacayisaba, Executive Secretary of Dushirehamwe Association, one of Burundi's leading grassroots networks of women's peacebuilders, said:
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission should take into account the unique experiences of Burundian women during times of violence.”
Brigitte Kinunda, a women's leader from Ruyigi Province said:
“Our brothers and sisters outside of Burundi should have the opportunity to contribute to the truth-telling process.”
Regarding the challenge of giving the diaspora the opportunity to tell their version of the truth, the TRC president reassured community members that this concern is already in the Commission’s plans and took the opportunity to encourage other Burundians to send their testimonies through the Commission’s website:
“Consulting people living outside Burundi is provided for in the law of 2018 establishing the TRC and is consequently a legal obligation. Within four months we plan to consult the Burundian diaspora. We have already received several testimonies of the diaspora digitally since 2019, 2020, and 2021.”
The TRC president acknowledged that there is a lack of MHPSS capacity at the TRC and therefore invited interested stakeholders to collaborate with the Commission to provide community-based psychosocial support:
“We need local mental health experts to provide community healing and support as we are facing a wounded and traumatised society”.
On the question of limited youth participation in commemoration activities due to the effects of violent transmission of memories, the issue of parallel memories and shared memories was evoked. Participants agreed on the importance of transitional justice at multiple levels in order for Burundians to change their relationship with the past, so that multiple truths are accepted, and the past is not a source of tension and violence.
Juvénal Ndayizeye of the Commission Épiscopale Justice et Paix said:
"People are still afraid to tell the truth, hence the need to popularise the law for the protection of victims and witnesses.”
The National Forum is part of our project, Tuganire, Twubake ('Let’s Talk to Build'). The project aims to contribute to strengthening democratic culture and the state of rights in Burundi, more specifically to promote civic education for the active engagement of citizens in democratic processes, including TJ.
With the support of the European Union, we are implementing the project in six provinces of the country, including Bujumbura Rural, Cibitoke, Muyinga, Cankuzo, Bururi and Ruyigi. The National Forum follows 192 community dialogues, 96 communal forums and 18 provincial forums organised by 30 youth peace brokers (‘artisans de paix’) and 30 women leaders trained by Impunity Watch and partners.
Find out more about our work in Burundi.