98% of the people who are going to read this probably know me as “Mister Burundi” or “KRis/Chris the blogger”. Some would even call me an “activist”, a title I’m not quite comfortable with. Very few know that there is something I actually I enjoy more than writing and sharing stories: …my job!
What do you do, you ask?
In 2011, my mum, some cousins and I started a non-profit organization called Sacodé. We’re engaged in community health and development in Burundi, and we work especially with women and the youth. During the organization’s first few years, I worked in the background; but in 2015, I decided to quit my high-pay-trips-abroad-permanent-contract job at the Revenue Authority/OBR (a decision many still call “foolish”) and dedicate all my resources to the work we do at Sacodé. I’ve never made a better decision in my life! It came with its own set of challenges, but what really comes easy in life?
I love this job because it takes me beyond just complaining about the problems in Burundi to taking concrete steps towards actually fixing some of them! I know this sounds cliché, but as I write, the lives of 16,856 women and youth in Burundi have changed or have a better chance of changing for the better, thanks to the work we do. Among them are schoolgirls and female high school students whose school attendance and performance have significantly improved, thanks to a product we developed specifically for them, but which can also benefit millions of other girls and women in Burundi. Details are in the 5 minutes long video below.
I’m the type of person who would elope. Well, I would (probably) never marry anyone my parents, close family and friends do not know about (and approve, to some extent), but I could certainly says the vows, receive the blessing, and sign the papers in a tiny ceremony with just my bride and I. I believe certain important life events are best celebrated intimately. Before you call me selfish (or totally confused), which I’m sure my mama will, hear me out! I have a plan. If I ever elope, I plan to later have a big sort of “introduction party”, for our parents to invite their friends to celebrate “the union of our two families”. But I’ve been wondering what kind of speeches would be said at that party, considering that we’d already be married. I trust my dad to be able to come up with something, but to what extent does the Burundian culture allow creative speeches for couples who eloped? Mbe would there be a dot?
As much as I sometimes love to call myself a patriot, I’ve never actually believed Burundi is “the best country in the World”. (This sentence feels like a “déjà read”. I’m sure it’s not the first time I write it.) I mean, the mountains, the valleys, the Lake and all that are pretty, but there is so much more beauty out there in the World that competes with whatever we have in Burundi. Bujumbura has like one road that’s decent enough for a photo (does anybody else hate the “Kuri Leo” Roundabout as much as I do?) Resource-wise, we’re not that endowed either, even though we love to boast about our fertile soil and our reserves of Nickel which, realistically speaking, are not enough to make us the “first World country” we claim we could be… not in our lifetime at least. But for some reason, I’ve always felt proud of my Burundian-ness. Sometimes I tell myself I didn’t really have a choice but to be proud, but I think I’ve finally put the finger on what I think makes Burundi, or being Umurundi, “special”.
One year ago, I was just a random Burundian citizen – not an “opposition blogger” like a few people have been calling me since the crisis begun. I was a blogger, and although (like any respectable Burundian) I spoke and sometimes wrote and tweeted about politics, they were never my main area of focus. I’m the guy who would be blasting music on the radio while everybody else was busy listening to the News on RPA at 1PM. Listening to Burundian News depressed me. I still don’t listen to the News. I read whatever catches my attention online (I’m very picky with the sources), but I never put time aside to listen to Inzamba or Humura. Those clips never even land in my messages – I guess my friends know me well. But anyway, whenever something major happens, it always finds its way to my ears, since that’s all every Burundian will be talking about… and of course, these days everybody expects me to know about all that happens. It’s funny.
I’m the guy who can’t tell who is Pascal Nyabenda from the other guy, what’s his name, the President of CNDD-FDD? I don’t know who the “Second Vice-President” is and I can’t tell you the name of any “Minister” (the use of quotation marks is to express my conviction that all the current institutions are illegitimate). When Ikurakure died and everybody was talking about it, I was like, who is that and what makes his death such a big deal? Some people couldn’t believe me: how can I not know Ikurakure? I’m clueless – definitely not the right guy to call “an opposition blogger”.