BUJUMBURA February 11th (ABP) – Burundi’s former President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya officially presented in Bujumbura on Friday February 8, 2019, his book entitled “Burundi, Trapped Democracy,” published in 2018 by Iwacu-Europe.
The book, which costs 40 000 BIF, is a testimony to the recent history of Burundi from 1987 to 2017. The author has written this 726-page book in ten years.
Former President Ntibantunganya explained why he wrote the book. According to him, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been working for more than four years. To be able to accomplish its mission, it needs contributions from those who can reveal the truth, make confessions or express themselves through interrogations. Among these partners, former Heads of State have a leading role. They must contribute to the emergence of the liberating truth that Burundians expect; one of the ways in which they can pass to testify by writing.
“Among these former Heads of State, it was I who served the shortest term, from April 12, 1994 to July 25, 1996. But this term was very dense; it went through facts and events that affected later the changes in the Burundian political and institutional system”.
In writing this book, he wants to testify about those events and thus give his modest contribution to the work of the TRC on that crucial period in the history of Burundi. Mr. Ntibantunganya made it clear that this book is not a history book. It is a “set of notes from documents read, testimonies lived and analyzes made for history over the period from 1987 to 2017”.
For Mr. Ntibantunganya, the other goal is to give justice and homage to the “heroes of the shadow”, from all ethnic groups, who have distinguished themselves in several villages and neighborhoods, in schools, communes and parishes, those women and men who have refused criminal violence, sometimes at the risk of their own lives. “The TRC needs to identify those women and men as role models for present and future generations, to whom, from now on, we will owe the respect and consideration. Monuments will have to be erected at the level of each commune to welcome the names of all the victims of our dark history and to shelter steles in which will be engraved the names of those ‘heroes of the shadow’. That is why, in the writing of this book I expose the facts that Burundians and foreigners are beginning to reveal and that the opinion knows more and more. “Starting from a conviction that only the truth about Burundi’s painful history will help to promote a sincere and therefore profound national reconciliation, I try to remain steadfast in this search for the truth on this issue by avoiding confusion as much as possible, neither by omission, nor by demonization or sanctification of any actor of this dark history”.
Finally, Mr. Ntibantunganya dedicated his book to Burundian Youth. According to him, the youth must be protected and, above all, protect themselves. They must encourage their elders that “we are” for bravely facing this past in order to fulfill the “never again” objective. They must also plan for a better future. Today, a new generation of young Burundians is engaged in our defense and security forces, in our public service and in the private sector. This new generation also integrates religious orders, animates the media and works within civil society organizations. All these sections of national life “must be freed from the silences / dissimulations, manipulations and omissions that have characterized the relationship of facts and the treatment of various painful episodes in Burundi’s postcolonial history. In this way, they will be able to engage, safe and reassured, in the construction of a country protected from the demons of the past and ready to take off, without return or detours, towards an economic, socially harmonious and sustainable development”.
The various speakers congratulated Mr. Ntibantunganya for the production of a quality work.
TRC Chairman Ambassador Pierre Claver Ndayicariye thanked the author for the quality of the references and the relevance of his analyzes. He felt that the book is written with great sincerity. In a country that is thirsty for truth, Burundi still needs living witnesses who speak to enlighten the present and the truth. In that book, Mr. Ntibantunganya has multiplied the benchmarks and references to prove that he hates lying. He has set the events in their contexts and the social and political actors to their interests, their calculations, their challenges and their stakes, Ndayicariye said. However, he said that if he had been consulted in the formulation of the title, he would have proposed as title of this book “Burundi, encircled Democracy”. To say encircled by the social and political myopia of certain internal actors on the one hand and by the geopolitical and geostrategic calculations of visible and invisible external partners on the other hand.
Mr. Léandre Sikuyavuga, representing the “Iwacu-Europe” publisher, thanked former President Ntibantunganya for the gift to the youth and the Burundian people. According to him, the book is a valuable contribution to the work of the TRC. He describes and analyzes the episodes of the history of Burundi over a period of 30 years (1987-2017), takes a look without complacency on the dramas of the past and the strategies of actors who have caused them. The knowledge of history is a very important element for reconciliation. Mr. Ntibantunganya is also outlining ways to deal with the political issues of the moment. It is a courageous, instructive and peaceful speech that feeds history and goes down in history. For Mr. Sikuyavuga, reading this book also allows us to discover a lucid politician, who recognizes and learns from his mistakes. Despite all that he has experienced on a personal level, the loss of several comrades with whom he shared the struggle for democracy, the loss of loved ones including his wife, never the subject is vindictive or vengeful vis-à-vis people whatever they are, it is not cynical or even disillusioned with the “denials” and “betrayals” he has experienced. Iwacu invites the key actors in the history of Burundi to follow suit to help feed the reflection by publishing their testimonies.