Wounded Memories: Perceptions of past violence in Burundi and perspectives for reconciliation
Human beings tend to underestimate the effects and power of the legacy of the past on their well-being in the present and future. When the human rights of people have been violated, this leaves permanent wounds within their minds and bodies, which are highly resistant to being “healed”. Even when people speak of having achieved “healing” or “closure”, the trauma of the wound does not disappear, but remains as an indelible imprint in their psyches and physiologies. There is a strong tendency to want to sweep the violations of the past under the proverbial carpet and to pretend that everything has been resolved. This predisposition to conceal the past, however, is a sure path to ensuring that historical violations will resurface and manifest as a myriad of pathological symptoms and violent actions, which will undermine individuals, communities and countries.
The initiative upon which this report is based was led by Patrick Hajayandi, Senior Project Leader at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), in collaboration with his colleagues Dr Desire Manirakiza and Mr Aloys Batungwanayo, of the Institut de Recherche Scientifique pour le développement (IRSD). It is an important and timely intervention which seeks to ensure that Burundi’s past is not concealed, but revealed so that the society can make progress on its journey towards healing.
Burundi has endured multiple periods of violations and conflict, and it is more likely than not that almost everyone knows someone who is a victim and/or survivor of this legacy. The challenge of how to heal a country in which everyone is either a victim or a survivor is the immediate task confronting those who are committed to peace and security in Burundi, the Great Lakes Region, as well as the rest of the African continent. This report is a necessary addition to the documentary evidence which future generations of Burundians will be able to consult as they take the necessary steps to ensure that their country becomes an oasis of peace.