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The institution of bashingantahe in Burundi.

Naniwe-Kaburahe, Assumpta
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Luc Huyse and Mark Salter, eds, Traditional Justice and Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: Learning from African Experiences. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. PP.149-179.

In current usage, the term bashingantahe (singular umushingantahe) refers to men of
integrity who are responsible for settling conflicts at all levels, from the top of the hill to
the courts of kings. Formed from a combination of a root verb, gushinga (to plant, to bolt
down), and the noun intahe (staff of justice), the word literally means ‘the one who bolts
down the law’. These men are referred to in this way because of the staff of justice with
which they hit the ground rhythmically and in turns to invoke the wisdom of the
ancestors buried beneath and to highlight the power of the judgements they give when
arbitrating on conflicts. The noun intahe is used metonymically and symbolically to refer
to equity and justice. F. M. Rodegem in his Rundi–French dictionary of 1970 translates
the word umushingantahe as ‘magistrate, eminent personality, councillor, umpire, assessor,
judge, the one invested with judicial authority and who wields the rod (intahe) symbol
of his authority’, and for Ntabona (1999) the term umushingantahe refers to ‘A man
responsible for good order, for tranquility, for truth and peace in his environment. And
this is not by virtue of some conferred administrative authority, but by his very being, by
the quality of his lifestyle recognized by the society and for which it confers such powers
on him’.(excerpt)


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