Over 6,000 bodies have been found in six mass graves in Burundi’s Karusi province, confirmed Burundi’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Friday, reported Reuters. The discovery is the largest finding since the government began a nationwide excavation last month.
During an interview with the journalists, the commission chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye said they have recovered the remains of 6,032 victims as well as thousands of bullets. He said many victims were identified through clothes, glasses, religious jewelry, and rosaries.
Burundi has been subject to civil war, colonial occupation, and decades of intermittent massacres in the past. The population of the east African country is sharply divided between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. A civil war between elements of the two tribes in 2005 killed more than 300,000 people, including entire families and children.
In reference to a massacre that targeted the Hutu ethnic group people, Ndayicariye said families of the victims have now come forward and broke the long silence imposed 48 years ago.
The government-run commission was set up in 2014 to investigate atrocities from 1885, when foreigners arrived in Burundi, until 2008, when a long-delayed peace deal was implemented to end the civil war that started in 2005. So far the commission has unearthed more than 4,000 mass graves across the country and identified more than 142,000 victims of violence.
The commission’s mandate does not include cases reported during the rule of the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who got elected in 2005. Since 2015, when Nkurunziza was selected to the office for the third term, hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces.
The United Nations has warned that human rights abuses might increase again ahead of May 2020 elections.
In related news, Burundi’s main opposition party has nominated Agathon Rwasa as its candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Rwasa will run against the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is an ally of Nkurunziza.