BUJUMBURA September 3rd (ABP) – An analysis of the historiography of the Burundian conflict is one of the essential elements that can help the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) in its truth-clarification and re-writing missions on painful history of Burundi.
According to the deputy chairman of the TRC, Reverend Pastor Clement Noah Ninziza, in most writings the role of the Burundian intellectual in the fabrication of conflicting memories is reflected, the spread of political ethnicity among the ordinary people to perpetuate the Hutu-Tutsi cleavage (the two main components of the Burundian community), hence the need for a rigorous review of archives. The documentary research provided by the law governing the TRC aims to contribute to the search for the truth about the events covered by the mandate and the rewriting of Burundi’s most accepted and shared history, noted Pastor Ninziza.
Although crises cause a lot of research and publications elsewhere, some shadow zones remain on the crises that shook Burundi, said Professor Jean-Marie Nduwayo on Thursday during a conference on the contribution of documentary research in the TRC missions.
To find critical historical analyzes, one needs to refer, largely but not only, to the publications of the historians. According to him, little scientific research has been undertaken on the period of independent Burundi and those that exist are not well known to the general public. In addition, researchers’ interest in certain events was reduced by the delicacy of events, obstruction, censorship or silence imposed by power.
A voluminous colonial literature that has influenced the socio-political evolution of the country towards conflict situations exists in various documentation centers (reports on the Belgian administration in Ruanda-Urundi, the writings of colonization agents and those of missionaries). In those writings, the authors have often categorized the Burundian population into two main components. This is the case of several researchers and authors such as Van Der Burg, Hans Meyer, René Bourgeois, Mgr Julien Gorju and Pierre Ryckmans. One of the agents of the Belgian colonial administration in Ruanda-Urundi, Ryckmans, developed a racial, sociological and caricatural approach and contributed to the creation of antagonisms between the Bahutu and Batutsi that will be consolidated both by the speech and colonial practices focused on discrimination, said Professor Nduwayo.Colonial literature is an important source of documentation for the pre-colonial and colonial periods and also allows us to grasp the origins of post-colonial Burundi conflicts. But the researcher must supplement this documentation with other sources, written or not. According to Professor Nduwayo, with colonial politics, Burundi’s political history did not exist. The history of the different components of the population has been written.
Inspired by the colonial model and affecting all sectors of the country’s life (political, economic, social and others), research and writings by former colonial leaders or agents perpetuated colonial reading even after independence.
From the 1970s, research has taken into consideration colonial historiography. Professors Emile Mworoha and Jean Pierre Chrétien sought to deconstruct the prejudices conveyed by the colonial ideology by trying to restore the reality of the organization and functioning of the old Burundian society.
Other researchers, including university teachers, observers, political actors and students, have been interested in the history of the country but some are fanatical supporters and their writings are not objective. For Professor Nduwayo, the rules of criticism must be applied to them even if their testimonies may be interesting.
Archives, unpublished written sources are valuable sources. Colonial administrations until 1962, national and diplomatic services produced archives on Burundi during times of crisis.
Archives kept abroad pose a problem of accessibility because of their geographical remoteness and sometimes their language, said Professor Nduwayo. They are mainly preserved in Belgium (African archives of Brussels and the diplomatic archives for the post-colonial period). There are missionary archives kept in Rome and in the bishoprics of Burundi.
Archives maintained in Burundi are classified according to their provinces of origin and thematic lines. Military and judicial archives are the main source of information but are often inaccessible to the researcher. Actors in the events were careful not to leave traces that could compromise them later, Nduwayo said.
The press archives (radio, television, newspapers) contain official speeches, editorials and topics that were at the top in the news. This allows to reconstruct the atmosphere at the time of the event.
The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Burundi of 2000 is also part of the written documents.