Dear Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo,

Concerns: your article titled “Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed” published on theeastafrican.co.ke, on the 24th of June 2013

Allow me to begin by thanking you for being so concerned with Burundi’s image within the EAC. I appreciate your desire to see my homeland get just as much (positive, I hope) exposure as the rest of the partner states.

Second, allow me to thank the good Lord whom I believe had seen your article before you let it out into the wild and allowed the famous American rapper Rick Ross to tweet that he had just landed into “the beautiful country of Africa”, so that I may use this incident to make a few points with regards to your article.

You see, one should not assume that the mister’s uninformed remark was due to a lack of a good marketing campaign to promote Africa as a continent and not as a country; but one should call it what it really is – ignorance! While I have no intention of insinuating that Kenyans (or any other East Africans) are ignorant, allow me to believe that some of those around you – especially those who may have encouraged you to write the article – do need to expose themselves a little bit more to current affairs.

In fact, one should not allow Burundi to be blamed if somebody, somewhere, does not know the name of our President, or that there are other currencies in the World other than the shilling. Burundi, or Burundians, should not be blamed if somebody does not know that, unlike in other EAC partner states, our financial year starts in January; hence our budget reading actually takes place towards the end of the year. Should Burundi have held a regional awareness day to inform the community about this different way of doing things? I don’t think so.

You and your readers should also know that Burundi, and Burundians, are different when it comes to airing dirty laundry in public. We do not engage in such activities which are contrary to our culture and values. Sex scandals we have, but we do not publish them in newspapers or talk about them on TV. In fact, our new (rather controversial) press law prohibits this kind of practice – something which I thought you, a journalist who seems to have an “interest” in East African affairs, ought to know. Also, if you’ve had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with Burundians, I’d assume you’ve realised that being a gentleman – like Kidumu – isn’t something exceptional. We’re all like that. And I believe that one of the reasons why you have characters like the “Dr Chameleon” is because… well, they aren’t Burundians!

In this day and age, when the answer to almost any imaginable question is at one’s fingertips, thanks to technology, it is unacceptable that Burundi be blamed if somebody fails to know that the East African Community is composed of 5 partner states, Burundi being one of them! Do you know that a Burundian student will not be allowed into secondary school unless they know the capital of Kenya (or of any African state) and how to at least say hello, goodbye and present themselves in French, English, Swahili and Kirundi (the unique mother tongue of all Burundians, in case somebody fails to make the link)?

Burundi and Burundians should not be blamed, if somebody is unaware that a Burundian lady, Lydia Nsekera, was the first woman ever nominated on the FIFA Executive Committee… That Francine Niyonsaba is the current 800m World Champion…That Marguerite Barankitse was declared African Woman of the Year 2012… that Burundi won, for the 4th time in a row, the award for best African exhibitor at the International Tourism Borse exhibition in Germany… That Gérard Niyondiko recently co-invented the first ever Anti-Malaria soap… That Burundians are the CAVB Junior Men’s Beach volleyball champions (we have natural white sand and blue water beaches here too by the way!)… That Burundi hosted, for the first time, the prestigious International Cup of Excellence competition, that our coffee actually won some awards… And that our President plays football better than yours! We are not to blame if your media companies deliberately choose to ignore all these events (I’ve mentioned only a few) that all took place between June 2012 and today alone!

Yes, we may not be good as our neighbour(s) at marketing ourselves, and we may not share the same views as to what to put forward to make us ‘known’, but please give us a break! You should actually question why (some of) your people are clueless! Who is to blame: is it your education system, your media, or both?

Thank you, and kind regards.

Just a random Burundian.

Peace, from Burundi!

Peace, from Burundi. Photo by Arnaud Gwaga Mugisha

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29 thoughts on “Dear Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo,

  1. wow so proud of u “Random Burundian”, our country needs people like you, in fact we, Burundians should be proud of our country and stop criticizing everything in our motherland!!!

  2. Well written Chris. I’ve never rated Onyango-Obbo as a top journalist with his weird use of imagery to describe situations. In that tongue-in-cheek article he hit a new low in my ranking of him as a journalist.

  3. Well; After reading both articles; I think you missed the point! Onyango didn’t really mean that you need a sex scandal …its a phase he used that Burundi needs to wake up! There is more expected from Burundi especially within the EAC. Personally I have not been satisfied with the way somethings are done in Burundi. Well You could say as a Rwandan; hwy should I care? Burundi is part of the EAC and regional integration is key in the development of Sub Sahara Africa.

    • Innocent, your “Burundi needs to wake up” statement shows me that you also missed the point of my post – well one of the points. Let me direct you to the 7th paragraph. And when you say you have not been satisfied by the way some things are done in Burundi, are you insinuating that everything is perfect in Rwanda? I could get you, right now, links to articles of Rwandans complaining about things in Rwanda. So please let’s NOT go there. Anyway, thanks for your comment – and I’m not as mad/irritated as I may sound 🙂

    • @ Innocent, when the kettle calls a pot black. By the look of your condenscending attitude, one might think that in Rwanda, things work like a charm! I agree that ours is not an eldorado…and yes we do have room for improvement but sir, quit patronizing us. Rwanda isn t a shining example to follow when it comes to progress. Call it work in progress and sadly, we will fall in the same bag!

  4. Kudos to this writer….Im 100% born&raised burundian and couldnt have never illustrated in such stunning style what this guy just replied to Obbo. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones”…Mr Obbo: don’t criticize ppl if you’re not perfect yourself…and worse if you’re ignorant of relevant facts.

  5. This is awesome. Francine Niyonsaba is not a World Champion yet, she has a world leading time but she will be competing thisAugust in Russian to hopefully become a world champion.

  6. hello, good article you have written and its good it shows Burundians are achieving alot but remains unnoticed. i actually have visited Burundi a couple of times, and i agree with Onyango-Obbo. his mention is meant to show you that Burundi deserves more than its fare share of publicity. his point being whether you like it or not Kim Kardashian gate 10 times more international mention than Burundi now this does not necessarily mean kardashain is any better than Burundi infact she is by far one of the worst role model this world has ever seen but she still does get mentions so that sex scandal for a start will be bad but after the storm comes the rain. and i am sure Burundi achievements can survive one prominent sex scandal. i am from Uganda and whether Ugandans like it or not we are also notably known for Idi Amin after he came our fight of HIV and so more now we are back with corruption but the point was that Amin made Uganda known albeit i a bad way. you then hope that publicity will pass and the good overshadows it all.

  7. You clearly don’t get satire. It’s never that serious. Obbo is Ugandan by the way and it should be no surprise if Nkurunziza plays better football than Museveni, he ought to – he is much younger.

  8. Dear readers (this is a message from the “random” guy),

    I appreciate the many constructive comments that I’ve seen here, and around, regarding this article (which, by the way, I wasn’t thinking would create so much buzz outside Burundi).

    So let me proceed with my impressions right away…

    1. I do get satire. I mean look at this article; especially where I say that “our president plays football better than yours”…

    2. I do not quite believe that Obbo was just being satirical, or at least, his text doesn’t give me (and a lot of Burundians) that impression. If this article was really about mocking how East Africans (some of them) are only interested in trivial matters like sex scandals, he could have at least brought up some of the good things that actually happened in Burundi and that people missed… then make fun of how they were more preoccupied with Mubiru’s sex scandal, for example.

    3. I am not a professional writer, a PR or Communications specialist, but I believe that when you’re going to involve or speak of somebody, it is important to consider their background and history. Hence, I believe that Obbo’s style was a bit innappropriate knowing that Burundi rarely receives any good press at all. And best believe that Burundians are aware of this and that it hurts them. You don’t just go around telling jokes about (involving) somebody who has been hurt! Yes, we have the right to be sensitive! First say good things about us before the jokes please!

    Voilà. And about the non-constructive comments, I deleted them.

    Good day to all.

  9. Wauuuuuuuuuuuu Mr KRis Nsabiyumva!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! u just made my day!!!!!what a response!!!!!! wise words!!!!!well structured!!!!well thought and presented!!!!! this is another element that shows who we are, how We Burundians respond!!! how we handle our matters!!! not by so called “Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed” but through “Ijambo ry’Umushingantahe” once again thanks for your reaction Mr Nsabiyumva!!!
    and to Dear Charles Onyango-Obbo, please learn how Burundian culture is before you post anything that comes into your mind!!!!We do not have “M23” to make us popular like our Neighbor but we have other values!!!!!!!!

  10. That shows the shallowness of contemporary journalism. Their focus of sex, money and violence. Why do not they tackle real life issues like millions of people trying to put a meal on their table and to have decent shelter?

  11. Good afternoon to you all,

    Maybe all of this shows that Burundi needs to reflect more on how little it is know within as well as outside the country. Some re-looking would not hurt. Which ever side you take Mr. Obbo’s article from, does not stop Burundi from being “l’enfant pauvre” of the EA community. Traveling in EA is the best proof of it…. So as burundians we should maybe focus on changing this fact rather than showing “the achievements”, most of the time “personal” achievements, made by burundians and re-brand them as “national” achievements because they are not. We need to work more and thank each and every person who pulls us in the “do it better and do it yourself” direction rather than being defensive pitty ourselves. I hope and believe we can definitely do much better.

    • “So as burundians we should maybe focus on changing this fact rather than showing “the achievements”, most of the time “personal” achievements, made by burundians and re-brand them as “national” achievements because they are not.” I LIKE VERY MUCH! And this article is not defensive self-pity, but the beginning of the “do it better and do it yourself” that you’re advocating. Watch this space! 🙂

  12. Hi there fellow burundian, I’m very proud of your article-response to obbo’s. It is really unbelievable how someone can easily poke fun on someone else’s image because they don’t have the same lifestyle. If Obbo needs to brighten Burundi’s Image he’s more welcome to do it! Unfortunately I’m not sure we need his help because we’ve been doing fine last time I checked.I would like to invite him to clean his own doorstep before he takes care of ours, I believe there is a lot to be taken care of. And to fellow random burundians the good old proud spirit still stands keep it up!!

  13. Thank you KRis for your article. I agree that Burundians and their government (especially in marketing and seeking professional expertise) need to do better but remember there is always room for improvement. So we shouldn’t stop and celebrate “our achievements” just because there is still work to be done? I don’t think so. As for the achievements mentioned they are partially personal because the athlete mentioned in the article got support from an MP and the ministry of Youth & Sports paid for her tickets Etc.. Taxpayers funds paid for their schooling and family, friends and society supported the development of the persons at the centre of these achievements. I think the country and Burundian society in general are justified in claiming a role in some of “these personal achievements.”

  14. Burundi lacks not only positive and active marketing but also and most importantly in my view, the country is victim of excessive negative reporting. Those depicting the country negatively do it with specific purpose in mind. For some, it is simply not in their favor to see Burundi registering so many positives aspect in the last few years while it did not since its independence. They are ashamed of the performance of the country for the period they were in power. They feel guilty and ashamed. So, to appease their collective guilt, they report so much negative things on Burundi, some of which are even completely invented.

  15. What do I get from all this? The overall outcome is that Burundi all of a sudden is getting mentioned in the region. Lets assume COO’s is ‘bad press’ for Burundi and Kris’s is the much needed good press for our beloved neighbours to the south. To begin with, people like Kris (..and a few other Burundians in the comments section) have what it takes to give Burundi its fair share of the regional press. Lets face it, we cannot cover up the isolation Burundi gets when it comes to EAC issues. Without pointing fingers of who to blame, it is up to Burundi to take up things by the horns, certainly something is not right, and yes,the media needs to wake up to the market that Burundi is. Otherwise this is all healthy!

  16. its sad when people think they know way too much about a place just because they have access to a big media house like Daily Nation on East African.
    Obbo merely in his article took advantage of the fact he is known so he thinks he can sway public opinion when he feels like. Obbo’s Article is absolutely nauseating to say the least. Pathetic is an understatement… Obbo style up!!! If Burundi’s budget does not run in sync with other East African countries it does not mean therefore they is something wrong with it. Had Obbo suggested that #Burundi come up with a national Brand board like that of Kenya I would have appreciated. Had Obbo suggested the Burundians should participate in their economy the way Kenyans participate in their own, I would have appreciated. Had Obbo suggested that Burundi needs a stock exchange and vibrant capital markets … i would have agreed but the man goes on to talk about civil society… e.t.c further complicating matters and diverting from his own story, basically the dude had nothing to write about, or maybe he just did not know how to express the strange feelings he harbors towards Burundi and its people. Probably the deadline was on his case so he had to draft something fast… you know they probably assured him The East African cant get on sale without Obbo’s article… he he

  17. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Obbo merely in his article took advantage of the fact he is known so he thinks he can sway public opinion when he feels like.

  18. Pingback: Le Burundi inconnu dans l’EAC ? Des questions … | Culture + Agriculture = Politique

  19. I can’t blame ours journalists that they are not keeping up with informing the public the good things, the achievements of Burundians. The fact is, bad and problems exceed good and level of achievement. The reason is that Burundi just came out of a very bad war in 2005, almost 10 years after Rwanda. The other 3 members are more stable, and have been stable for decades long before Rwanda. Up until now, Burundi still suffer some kind of violence from armed organized bandits who once in a while erupt and hurt the population. These things create a feeling of insecurity in the population. And then, there is land problems, political problems between government and opposition, trying to fix the social problem, talking about reconciliation, how to cope with poverty, how to mentor youth to avoid future war, …

    If you were in the Burundi’s journalist place, how would you talk about Vitalo winning a game and ignore an attack of bandits leaving people dead and other running from their homes? How would you talk about a girl who won a medal running marathon and close your eyes over school girls being raped?
    I think the journalists, based on their abilities, are keeping Burundi’s public informed with the most needed to know. I think they are doing a good job.

  20. Kris that’s well said! Some people think that Burundi has nothing because it is not so “known” all over the world..I was actually shocked when one of my classmates asked me if it’s true that there are monkeys and girafes at our international airport ?!!! You were talking about ignorance? I was left speechless when a friend from Uganda asserted that Burundi is a “desert”! Dear “Dr” Charles Onyango, do you really believe Burundi needs a”sex scandal”?Am very aware that it may be a kind of metaphor(?) you used..am really sorry but that was too vulgar.
    Innocent, you’re not satisfied by how somethings are done in Burundi.you have a good perception! What do you suggest as solutions?I would like to ask you another question: what do you do to improve on things that are not done correctly in Rwanda? My apologies if everything is done perfectly that side. By the way thank you very much for your concern.

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