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  • A Burundian worker from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission extracts the skull of an unidentified person from a mass grave in the Bukirasazi hill in Karusi Province, Burundi January 27, 2020.

    A Burundian worker from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission extracts the skull of an unidentified person from a mass grave in the Bukirasazi hill in Karusi Province, Burundi January 27, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 February 2020

Discovery largest since excavations launched to help country come to terms with troubled past.

Burundi’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found more than 6,000 bodies in six mass graves in Karusi Province, the largest finding since the government launched a nationwide excavation in January.

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The commission chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye told journalists on Friday that the remains of 6,032 victims as well as thousands of bullets were recovered. Clothes, glasses and rosaries were used to identify some of the victims.

The tiny East African nation is struggling to come to terms with a violent past, characterized by suffered colonial occupation, civil war and decades of intermittent massacres.

Referring to a massacre which is believed to have targeted people from the Hutu ethnic group, Ndayicariye said families of the victims were able to “break the silence” that was imposed 48 years ago.

Burundi’s population is divided between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. The civil war - which killed 300,000 people before it ended in 2005 - had ethnic overtones.

The government-run commission was set up in 2014 to investigate atrocities from 1885, when foreigners arrived in Burundi, until 2008, when a stalled peace deal to end the civil war was fully implemented.

During the early 20th century, Germany, Belgium and England fought bitter proxy wars across the nation, destroying infrastructure and wiping out entire villages.

Mass killings in the African nation took place mainly in 1965, 1969, 1972, 1988 and 1993.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that human rights abuses might increase again before elections in May 2020.

In 2015, the campaign of current President, Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term plunged the country into violence and led to an enduring political crisis.

The commission will preserve the remains of the burial along with the weapons.

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