The Burundian Observation/Study Tour to Cambodia was successful in all respects. It was extraordinarily well organized, totally substantive and obviously beneficial to the Burundian participants. The Cambodian host organizations were appropriately selected and well-prepared to contribute to the study tour objectives. In retrospect, Cambodia was an ideal choice for the study tour site. There are many similarities between the two countries, yet the contrasts enabled the Burundians to place their own society in a better context.
Visits to the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields were stark reminders to the Burundians of the atrocities that occurred in their own country during the 1993-1996 period. With monuments, documentation and an international tribunal underway, Cambodia has a strategy to promote healing and reconciliation from its past. The Burundians recognized the need for their own country to move forward in this manner.
The highlights of the study tour included a model prison and courtrooms, substantive meetings with NGO leaders, visits to sites providing services and rehabilitation to victims, abused women and children. Two trips were made to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia to observe the ongoing trial of a former Khymer Rouge leader for crimes against humanity. Two visits with villagers in rural communities provided positive examples of community mobilization to defend personal and property rights.
The totality of meetings and site visits in Cambodia enabled the delegation members to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of Cambodian society relative to the rule of law and human rights environment in Burundi. The delegation discussed and noted short and long-term initiatives that they could undertake in Burundi at the national and community levels. These efforts include community-level mobilization, broader advocacy, increased services for victims, greater utilization of the media, active pursuit of a tribunal or a truth commission to expose past crimes against humanity within the country, and more coordination with the international community on human rights issues.
The social interaction with the Co-Prosecutor of the International Tribunal in Cambodia was an honor and highly beneficial for the delegation in terms of perspective and information.
The participant’s evaluations of the organization and relevance of the study tour were unanimously laudatory and appreciative.
Recommendations for the South Africa tour include a suggestion to correspond with USAID in country on the visit for input and perspective that may be beneficial. At least two civil society participants from the Cambodia tour should join the delegation to South Africa. This will provide perspective, contrast and comparison between the Cambodian and South African experiences.