Development Program Officer, HROC-Burundi, Quaker Peace & Social
is currently in the process of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) such as the one pioneered in South Africa by Desmond
Tutu. The purpose of a TRC is to expose past atrocities while also achieving
reconciliation between oppressors and oppressed. Having lived through
years of seemingly endless despair and unspeakable atrocities, it would
be easy to assume that Burundians would welcome such a Commission. This,
however, could not be further from the truth. Of those few who know
about this mechanism, many remain skeptical that it could ever be fair
in its proceedings. With the current political climate, where affiliations
are everything, the thought of a commission that does not guarantee
outcomes favorable to those in power is an inconceivable notion to many.
still hope though. Those in civil society and Quaker organizations familiar
with the history of TRCs considered this the perfect opportunity to
make suggestions about this instrument. Sensing the impact of such an
institution, Quaker organizations which constitute the Quaker Peace
Network ( QPN-AFRICA), wished to contribute to development of a TRC
which, at its essence, shares Quaker values and is conducive to sustainable
2012, activities have taken place to raise awareness about the TRC and
set plans in motion. With years of experience in forgiveness, trauma
healing, development, reconciliation and peace building, QPN-AFRICA
felt adequately placed to provide insight during the TRC’s conception.
By November 2012, QPN-AFRICA submitted written recommendations for the
attention of its drafters. The recommendations covered most aspects
of the commission and its mission -- structure; staff; gender and age
sensitivities; work ethics; the accessibility of proceedings; elements
of justice, punishment and reparations; welfare of participants and
the end of the TRC’s mandate. Significantly, QPN-Africa also encouraged
the TRC designers to take into account and draw inspiration from the
expertise and successes of Quaker organizations and other agencies while
drafting the psycho-social support provisions.
staff at HROC-Burundi, which is part of QPN-Africa, I had the opportunity
of working alongside some truly brilliant minds in the drafting of these
recommendations. I rubbed shoulders with representatives from numerous
Burundian and international peace organizations. It was impossible not
to be in awe of these organizations, knowing the work that they do.
As we sat together week after week chipping in ideas, I felt an immense
sense of responsibility. Although QPN-Africa is one amongst many organizations
bringing suggestions regarding the TRC, there is still a possibility
that our words could strike a chord. With this in mind and aware that
our views could affect many lives, careful thought and consideration
were absolute musts.
is laying the ground work for a project which combines its approach
to healing with TRC teachings. Such a project is needed because there
remain a lot of people who are in the dark about the Commission and
what it will mean to them personally. HROC’s project would demonstrate
that, with the right approach, healing can be instrumental to a successful
TRC. Additionally, HROC-Burundi plans to ensure that: all the population
from the grassroots upwards are informed about the TRC and are emotionally
and psychologically prepared for it; that there is available support
before, during and after its implementation; that this support can be
easily accessed by all; that all who wish to be involved in proceedings
can do so and feel they have benefited from it.
all, we hope the coming days will bear good fortune. QPN-Africa continues
to hope that the TRC will come to be and embody upstanding values. HROC-Burundi
will also be keeping a look out for this much needed blessing and be
ready to pave the way for the reconciliation journey of the Burundian
people with its new project.