Sandra Rubli

Transitional Justice and State-Formation in Burundi

This PhD project analyses the linkages between the dealing with the past process and the post-conflictstate-formation process in Burundi. It questions the normative and rather legalist approach of transitional justicewhich posits that with the ‘right’ set of institutions and with an ‘appropriate’ mix of processes states can besuccessfully rebuilt after a violent conflict, and will thus emerge as modern Western democratic states based onthe rule of law. Following newly emerging scholars and approaches on statehood and state-building (e.g. Bayart1989, Lund 2006, Schlichte/Migdal 2005, Péclard/Hagmann 2007, Berman/Lonsdale 1992) this present studyconceptualises transitional justice as a negotiation arena where statehood itself is constantly negotiated. It isbased on the assumption that in the broader process of state-formation state and non-state actors continuouslyseek to institutionalise their power by presenting themselves as the (only) legitimate agents of a state which ismoulded according to their perceptions. It follows that transitional justice is thus also used as an instrument ofsuch political struggles. This study hypothesizes that transitional justice is shaped by power relations andtherefore transitional justice tools may not contribute to state-building in ways predicted or assumed by legalscientists.Burundi presents a particular case of interest, since the transitional justice process, as it has been agreed onduring the peace negotiations in Arusha (1998-2000), is on hold and contested by various political parties, civilsociety organisations and the government. The empirical case study concerning the Arusha Peace andReconciliation agreement analyses the specific political, social, cultural or ethnic causes of the conflict and thepower balances which influenced the choice of transitional justice provisions and their mandate in theagreement. A second empirical case study is dedicated to the national (popular) consultations on theimplementation of the transitional justice mechanisms and the growing role of the civil society in Burundi’sdealing with the past process. Finally, the significance of monuments designed for remembering various violentevents in the country’s history and their political use in the post-conflict state-formation process is analysed.Field research: This research project is based on an empirical approach and will put a strong emphasis onqualitative field research. In October 2009, a first preliminary field research visit (5 weeks) was conducted inBujumbura to refine the research questions and to develop a detailed research strategy. Therefore, qualitativeexpert interviews have been conducted. During the second field stay (6 months) in 2010 qualitative interviewswith various political parties, civil society organizations and state representatives were conducted. Moreover,participant observation was carried out and various official and unofficial documents, news paper articles,broadcasts and studies have been collected. In 2011, in addition to interviews with experts and politicalrepresentatives, two qualitative small-n surveys were conducted.

Supervisor: Laurent Goetschel


Sandra Rubli holds a MA in Political Science from the University of Berne, Switzerland (2007). She joined swisspeace in August 2006 and worked as research assistant for FAST International. From September 2007 to April 2008 she was a research analyst for FAST International, responsible for Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia and Somalia. Since November 2008, she has been working as researcher for KOFF, the Dealing with the Past Program and has been writing her PhD thesis. Her research focus is on Dealing with the Past / Transitional Justice and State Formation in Burundi.

Memberships: IGS North-South

PhD in: 2014

Next Position: Beraterin Transitional Justice bei Zfd / GIZ, Burundi