The world wrongly gambled on peace without justice in Burundi, says transitional justice expert

03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
Image caption: 
United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)

IJT spoke with Stef Vandeginste, a lecturer at the Institute of Development Policy and Management at the University of Antwerp and the author of several publications on Burundi.

How did the Arusha Accord, which aimed to bring an end to the 1993-2005 civil war between a Tutsi-dominated government and Hutu rebels, understand justice?

SV: It highlighted the importance of dealing with the past. The Arusha Accord made clear that there was no chance of leaving the past behind – it had to be dealt with in order to solve conflict in a sustainable manner. Three mechanisms were put forward.

Burundi quickly set up a reparations commission, which has now treated thousands of case files, but how is it seen?

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