Moral Courage



Tour Diary


Ethnic Conflict in Burundi

The cycle of unaddressed past grievances fuelling new chapters in the conflict is set to repeat itself.

Impunity from justice
"After decades of killing, it is time for the victims to see justice done," believes Alison Des Forges from Human Rights Watch [HRW]. [29] However, there are serious concerns that the new Government is less than enthusiastic about prosecuting perpetrators of war crimes.

A resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in June 2005 urged steps be taken to create a Truth Commission and a Special Chamber within the court system of Burundi. Their mandate would be "to establish the truth, investigate the crimes, and identify and bring to justice these bearing the greatest responsibility for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes committed in Burundi since independence." This would serve "to deter future crimes of this nature, and to bring an end to the climate of impunity, in Burundi and in the region of the Great Lakes of Africa as a whole." [30]

Instead, between January and March 2006, some 3,000 detainees charged with violent crimes committed during the crisis have been released without trial. Those released include Tutsi Sans Echéc militiamen who killed Hutu and looted houses in the cities as well as Hutu former FDD rebels. [31] According to Burundian officials quoted by HRW, these released have been granted "provisional immunity" but will eventually be held accountable for any crimes they are accused of. [32] But progress in this area has been painfully slow. Talks held between the Government and the UN in Bujumbura in March 2006 ended after a week with the parties unable to agree on the representation and the leadership of the commission. A diplomatic press release noted that the talks would resume in the future. [33]

In a statement made on February 2, 2006, the Burundian Government stated that in the accountability process reconciliation should be the primary objective with justice called into play [only] where "pardon is shown to be impossible." The Burundian human rights organization Ligue Iteka has challenged the constitutionality of the prisoner releases in court. Some victims are concerned that those freed will never face justice. Other victims are worried that these released will be able to threaten survivors or witnesses. [34] The cycle of unaddressed past grievances fuelling new chapters in the conflict is set to repeat itself.

© Burundi Voices Project, 2006.