The documentary film 1972 Broken Hearts, launched by IJR in partnership with The Institute of Scientific Research for Development (IRSD), is both a means of documenting a violent and traumatic past and a way of paying tribute to victims of a tragedy that gripped Burundi from April to July 1972. This tragedy is known in Burundi as “Ikiza”, which translates to a catastrophe. However, this meaning was crafted by those who were in power as a method of hiding and denying their responsibility in it. Better conceptualised as genocide, this mass killing that was perpetrated in 1972 saw hundreds of thousands of Hutus lose their lives, the disappearance of loved ones, the confiscation of property as well as many forced into exile.
The main objective of this documentary film was to document past violations and human rights abuses in Burundi that have been ignored as crimes against humanity for almost half a century by the international community. The activities undertaken during this project are focused on supporting and contributing to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burundi.
The film contains testimonies from widows, orphans and eyewitnesses who remember and share horrific stories related to the actions of Captain Michel Micombero and his government in 1972. It is believed that Micombero, the Burundian president at the time, and his collaborators organised a genocide that targeted all Hutus with a higher social status – beginning with those involved in politics, the military, educated people, businessmen, clergymen and anyone suspected of having influence in his community. According to estimates, around 300 000 people were slaughtered, and between 300 000 and 500 000 others fled to neighbouring countries – mainly to Tanzania, Rwanda and DRC (previously Zaire). Hutus who chose to stay in Burundi during that period were subjected to various forms of humiliation and were excluded from playing any role in the socio-political life of their country. Victims of those who lost the loved ones were forced into silence and prevented from mourning, crying or talking about what happened. This has led to frustrations that sometimes has manifested in explosions of new violence.
This film comes at a critical time when Burundi is revisiting its past, searching for the truth about the crimes committed in 1972, and analysing how they influence the current context of social cohesion and political stability. Around 2500 people have watched the documentary film and have engaged in a discussion about its relevance and how it is contributing to uncovering the truth about a traumatic past and to the healing of wounded memories. Most importantly, the film has been considered as a silence-breaker on what happened in 1972. It has allowed victims of this tragedy to have a space where they can express themselves and share the pain they have endured through more than forty years of imposed silence. On the YouTube channel dedicated to Burundi Memories, over a thousand people have already viewed the film and some have shared their feelings. One of the comments that is often asked when people watch the film is why perpetrators of the 1972 Genocide against the Hutu have not been brought to justice, and why this tragedy has been considered as a taboo for a very long period. The film is the first in a series of three documentary films and it is hoped that in this process some answers to these questions will be answered.
The film can be watched here.
Patrick Hajayandi, Senior Project Leader in the Peacebuilding Interventions Programme at IJR