Over 50 participants from nine countries gathered with members of the news media to listen to remarks for the opening ceremony and shared high expectations for the work during the three-day conference and of the eventual establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Burundi.

“The role of the TRC’s is to help societies emerging from conflict to face their past, embrace it, accept it and especially exorcise it through a well thought-out process with the ultimate objective of easing the sufferings of the hearts, healing the wounds and significantly contributing to the reduction of inter-community conflicts and moving towards forgiveness and reconciliation.” Mrs. Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Burundi said at the opening of the “Transitional Justice Mechanisms: Lessons Learned from Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” conference.

The conference has been organized and convened by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) within its Dialogue and Exchange Program (DEP) to provide a framework for participants to exchange and share experiences on the lessons learned from similar commissions around the continent.

Mrs. Immaculee Nahayo, Minister of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender, Government of Burundi, highlighted that “signatories of the Arusha agreement agreed on two mechanisms to shed light on the violence that started from independence…” She went on to say she wanted all to be “aware of the views from all parts of government to have a TRC and reconcile the people of Burundi.”  With the participation in the conference of all the members of the Burundian technical committee charged with the responsibility to make recommendations to the government on the laws and timeline of the TRC process in Burundi, she reiterated “encouragement to do the maximum to have main recommendations to be set up by the end of the conference.”

According to Jacob Enoh-Eben, who is AFSC’s Country Representative, by organizing this DEP, “AFSC aims at contributing to the process of national healing, reconciliation and sustainable peace in Burundi and at least in the countries that  participate in this conference. This sharing and exchanging of experiences will help Burundi to draw useful technical knowledge and lessons especially at this time when the country is preparing to establish its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

The conference will continue until August 26th with topics to be discussed including: truth commissions as instruments to redress past crimes and tools to promote human rights principles; international standards in developing laws governing such commissions, and their creation; organization, administration, challenges and successes in the different countries such as South Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, and Peru.  

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Founded  in 1917 in Philadelphia, PA in the US, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that works internationally in the areas of peace, social justice and humanitarian service. In 2005, AFSC was officially accredited by the Government of Burundi.  Since 2008, it has been hosting similar conferences and events, including those on mediating elections-related conflicts and a study tour to Sierra Leone on peaceful elections.