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”.
Un an déjà…
Alors qu’en date du samedi 25 avril 2015, une arrogante décision d’un parti devenu totalitaire constitua une violation de la conscience collective. Elle consacra le mépris envers le peuple qui aspirait à une commune destinée dont les fondements sont exprimés dans l’Accord d’Arusha pour la Paix et la Réconciliation au Burundi signés le 28 août 2000. La date du 26 Avril 2015 donna le pas à une déterminante et salvatrice marche, qui peut paraître longue et sûrement douloureuse, mais au bout de laquelle rien ne sera plus comme avant.
En effet, en faisant passer avec forceps sa volonté de s’accrocher au pouvoir contre toute logique et contre moult conseils pleins de sagesse et supplications, Pierre Nkurunziza savait bien que cette décision était impopulaire, jusqu’au sein même de son propre parti. Mais il sous-estimait sans doute la détermination d’un peuple dont la patience venait d’être mise à l’épreuve.
Répondant a l’appel…
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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”.
4th grade, 9 years old, Valentine’s Day.
It was a Thursday or a Friday afternoon. School was almost over and we were in the school library picking books. In came Sonia, the beautiful popular girl in middle school, my age, but she was in another class. She asked the teacher to see me, and she handed me a custom-made Valentine’s card, in front of all my classmates. I was embarrassed, but this isn’t the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is that I did’t have anything to give in return. I didn’t know she was my girlfriend, although I had had a crush on her since 1st grade, and everybody kinda knew about it.
8th grade, 13 years old, Lycée SOS HG.
I was new at the school and my deskmate Fernand told me the beautiful girl in 7th grade had a crush on me. I was like, Damn! I would certainly date her! Next thing I know, during break time, Fernand kicked everybody out of the classroom and locked me in it, with her. No prior warning. Before shutting the door, he told me: Mubwire ko umukunda! (Tell her you like her). I stood there in the classroom, staring at this girl to whom I had never really talked to before, smiling nervously… and then for some reason I started drawing on the blackboard. I don’t remember what I drew, but I remember I never told her I liked her. I don’t think I said anything at all. Fail.
They’re friends – the closest friends you’ll ever meet, although I sometimes wonder if their friendship isn’t just a product of convenience. They’re cousins – their mothers are sisters. They grew up together, in the same neighbourhood, went to school together, and today, they’re neighbours. They’ve been there for each other their whole lives. They’ve laughed together, fought together, with each other, won battles together, for each other… it’s almost impossible to have one without the other. They’re the perfect definition of friendship, though they’re so different from each other.
Yolande is beautiful… so beautiful. She’s a beauty queen. Perfect figure, angelic face, beautiful smile, captivating eyes… She’s always so well put together, her makeup on point. She’s the girl your friends say is out of your league. She breathes confidence, lights up a room when she walks into it… But she has a past. A dark past that makes you wonder how someone who went through what she did could be so radiant. Her story is an inspiration to many.
On the downside, she doesn’t talk much. She has a bit of an attitude. She’ll only tell you what you need to hear – she’s private like that. She’ll have you second-guessing everything, even yourself. You’ll have a hard time trusting her. If she’s kind enough to let you into her secret place though, you’ll realise she’s only human… like the rest of us.