Following an investigation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into conflicts since Burundi’s independence in 1962, 4,000 mass graves have been discovered.
The commission, set up in 2018 to shed light on ethnic tensions, says it has identified 142,505 victims. The graves discovered were victims of mass killings which took place in 1965, 1969, 1972, 1988 and 1993.
Burundi’s politicians are accused of turning the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu communities against each other.
The commission’s chairperson Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye presented the report to the parliament of the landlocked African country. He explained that there are many more mass graves that are yet to be found because people who know about them are afraid to talk or are traumatised.
Finding out the truth of what happened would lead to forgiveness between the perpetrators and the families of the victims to “forge a peaceful future for Burundi’s generations”, he added.
On Monday, a mass grave, with up to 270 bodies, was opened to the public in the country’s main city of Bujumbura. The mass grave contains the remains of those killed in clashes following the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first elected Hutu president, in 1993.
Melchior Ndadaye’s killing triggered a brutal civil war between the Tutsi-dominated army and mainly Hutu rebel groups. More than 300,000 people died in the 12-year war.
Some people visiting the mass grave in Bujumbura were able to identify people they knew from the clothes and IDs found.
The commission’s deputy chairperson Noah Clément Ninziza said during the public’s visit to the mass grave opened on Monday, people were crying, there was shock”.