Gérard Hakizimana is a Burundian activist whose work on conflict management has influenced the Burundian state in its search for peace and peaceful cohabitation in recent years. Mr. Hakizimana is a longtime Human Rights Defender and has collaborated with many national and international organizations, such as CNIDH, CVR, and ONPG. A prominent civil society actor in Burundi, he has served as the president of the organization “Force de Lutte Contre le Népotisme et le Favoritisme au Burundi” – FOLUCON-F since 2016. He has participated in several national, regional, and international forums, including the 2015 inter-Burundian talks under His Excellency Benjamin William MUKAPPA. Recently, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) included him among its focal points in Burundi for monitoring and preventing identity-based violence in the region.
Mr. Hakizimana also works at the University of Burundi as part of the Direction des Services Académiques and as an independent investigator and consultant who specializes in Burundi’s history. Through this work, he has contributed to research to uncover the truth about the genocide and mass atrocities in Burundi, including the discovery of the mass graves where the victims of the tragedies of 1961, 1966, 1972, 1988, and 1993 were buried.
1. Can you tell us about the work you do for the organization Force de Lutte contre le Népotisme et le Favoritisme au Burundi – FOLUCON-F?
The organization FOLUCON-F intervenes on four strategic axes in Burundi:
- Contributing to the prevention of and response to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and those related to discrimination and/or other crimes against humanity;
- Improving the strengthening of good governance;
- Effectively fighting against Favoritism and Nepotism in all areas of the public and private sector in Burundi;
- Supporting the improvement of the education system, particularly access to care and education for orphaned children, vulnerable families, or those living with HIV/AIDS.
2. What led you to work in the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention? Who or what inspires you in your ongoing work on mass atrocity prevention?
What led us to work in the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention was our desire to provide support to the Burundian population in the sub-region following the various atrocities that have occurred in recent years. Moreover, the teachings of AIPG have helped me to establish relationships and contribute to research on the prevention of GBV in collaboration with national bodies such as ONPGH (National Observatory for the Prevention and Eradication of Genocide, War Crimes and other Crimes against Humanity) and CNIDH (National Independent Commission of Human Rights), the CVR (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), etc. What inspires me in my work is what I’ve learned from AIPG’s seminars and, more particularly, the teachings of James Waller and other AIPG professors; and all this by adapting them to the local context of Burundi.
3. In your opinion, what projects, policies and/or strategies have been most effective in preventing mass atrocities in Burundi?
It is the concept of transitional justice policy that has been underway since 2015 within the framework of the Truth and Reconciliation process in Burundi, overseen by the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and ONPGH (National Observatory for the Prevention and Eradication of Genocide, War Crimes and other Crimes against Humanity), as well as the establishment of monuments in memory of the abuses that have been perpetrated in Burundi since 1972.
4. In which initiatives of the AIPG did you participate? What have you learned from your participation in IAGP programs that has changed the way you approach your work?
We participated in quite a few online and face-to-face training sessions on IBV(Identity Based Violence) and the basics of IBV prevention, and I was awarded four certificates of participation. During the course, I learned and retained: the foundations of atrocities, the prevention of identity-based violence, the notion of transitional justice, and the prevention through symbolic memories by monuments. Of all these notions, the one of transitional justice has influenced me a lot since it draws the chronological lines of the facts as a means to prevent identity-based violence. Therefore, it is a basis for truth-telling, mutual agreement of forgiveness, and peaceful reconciliation. I use these concepts to sensitize the Burundians to be reconciled in many trials of Burundi.