Over 6,000 bodies found in mass graves in Burundi

Truth and Reconciliation Commission finds the remains during nationwide excavation

A Burundian worker from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at a mass grave in Karusi province. Photograph: Evrard Ngendakumana/Reuters

A Burundian worker from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at a mass grave in Karusi province. Photograph: Evrard Ngendakumana/Reuters

 

Burundi’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found more than 6,000 bodies in six mass graves in Karusi province, the largest finding since the launch of a nationwide excavation in January.

The commission’s chairman, Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, told journalists on Friday that the remains of 6,032 victims as well as thousands of bullets have been recovered. Clothes, glasses and rosaries were used to identify some of the victims.

The tiny East African nation is struggling to come to terms with a violent past, characterised by colonial occupation, civil war and decades of intermittent massacres.

Burundi’s population is divided between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. Its civil war – which killed 300,000 people before it ended in 2005 – had ethnic overtones.

The government-run Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in 2014 to investigate atrocities from 1885, when foreigners arrived in Burundi, until 2008, when a stalled peace deal to end the civil war was fully implemented.

So far it has mapped more than 4,000 mass graves across the country and identified more than 142,000 victims of violence.

Its mandate does not cover most of the rule of the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who took office in 2005.

The UN has warned that human rights abuses might increase again in the country ahead of May 2020 elections. Since 2015, when Mr Nkurunziza ran for a third, disputed term in office, hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces. – Reuters