La Benevolencija in Burundi, Coming to terms with the past

La Benevolencija’s activities in Burundi focus on “coming to terms with the past”. A successful reconciliation process in Burundi can also have a benign effect on Congo and Rwanda, while a failure to complete the reconciliation process may lead to strengthening extremist militias operating in the region, in Burundi as well as Rwanda and Congo.

The goals of La Benevolencija in Burundi are centered on three thematic issues:

a) To make people reflect upon the different versions of Burundian history by understanding the origins of the conflict, and to develop a shared history of what happened.

Burundi has never had the opportunity to discuss its own past in a peaceful setting. The existing conflicts occupied peoples mind. A balanced reflection did not take place, not at academic level, nor at a popular level.

b) To inform and sensitize people around an adequate impunity reduction program (transitional justice), that will be put in place. That would enhance the possibility of trauma reduction around the country’s past conflict.

In Burundi, the international community laid out the ground work to deal with the question of impunity. However, almost nothing has actually been achieved so far. The question is still how to secure truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence in relation to abuses committed during and beyond the 1993 – 2003 civil war. Through this project, La Benevolencija, together with the Burundian authorities, the international community and civil society wants to investigate what constitutes an appropriate and well-suited judicial system to resolve the bones of contention in the country.

c) To enhance the possibility of trauma reduction to prevent future acts of violence.

Impunity in general is a constant source of frustration that often leads to trauma for direct and indirect (second and third generation) victims. The longer people suffer from lack of justice, the longer sentiments of hate, fear and vengeance tend to dominate the social landscape. Effective ways of reconciling and bringing together old belligerents are then problematic. On the other hand, judicial systems that only take victors’ justice into account reinforce social injustices and prejudices and do not challenge the traumatic feelings at the root of the conflict. Thus it becomes even more difficult to build a safer, fairer and more prosperous country.