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.
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”.
I sometimes wonder if I lose some of you (if not many), when I include a Bible verse in my posts. I really don’t do it with an intention to preach or prove anything to you; I just use the verse as a reference, as I would use a quote by a celebrity or something. Certainly a reference from a source that I personally believe in and give a huge place in my life; but at the end of the day, the things I write about make sense (I hope), whether you believe in the Bible or not. Anyway, all this to say that I’m about to share a Bible verse, but would like you not to run away without reading what will come after it. Thank you.
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to theLord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares theLord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29: 4-11 NIV)