Burundi's proposal favors criminal justice

13 March 2006 by Thierry Cruvellier and Didace Kanyugu

Six months after the new government took power in Burundi, little headway has been made in the negotiations with the UN on setting up institutions to render justice for crimes committed over the past four decades. However, a still confidential government document gives a preliminary indication of the Burundian authorities' choices. Bujumbura's proposed truth and reconciliation commission and special court appear to be surprisingly expansive and firm-handed.

On June 21, 2005, the UN Security Council recommended setting up a two-part mechanism to establish the facts and determine those responsible in Burundi. The UN proposed creating both a truth commission, promised by the 2000 peace agreement, and a special criminal chamber within the country's court system. Anxious to set this process in motion before the last summer general elections, the UN imposed a tight schedule and the general secretariat was to publish a report by September 30.

In the meantime, however, the Burundian political landscape changed radically. The Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie - Forces nationales pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD), the main rebel political-military force in the 1990s, won the general elections in a landslide victory. At the end of July, the transition government that had officially agreed to the UN recommendation was merely ensuring the day-to-day operations of the government. When the September 30 deadline rolled around, the UN recognized the need to slow down and give the newly-elected CNDD-FDD government time to reflect.

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