The paper investigates unofficial commemoration practices, interaction with sites of memory and the fate of materiality of memory in the context of Burundi’s stalled transitional justice process. The focus here is on post-war spaces where material remnants of a violent past struggle against new layers of developmental, infrastructural build-up and political disincentive. The paper explores three concrete sites of violence in Burundi as these confront different forms of erasure and displacement of memory ranging from physical removal, misplacement of remains to symbolic delinkage. In the process, the paper revisits notions of the public secret, the labour of the negative and truth as revelation. The paper closes with reflections on the latest developments and concretely whether the establishment in 2014 of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission spells a decisive break with the past.
Dr Andrea Purdeková is Departmental Lecturer in African Politics at the African Studies Centre, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and Junior Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Her research explores the politics of nation building, memory and transitional justice in Rwanda and Burundi. She is the author of Making Ubumwe: Power, State and Camps in Rwanda’s Unity Building Project.