The self-fulfilling prophecy


Photo by Aristide Muco

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”.

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On not being taken seriously

I was a fat kid growing up. I wasn’t obese, but I wasn’t slim either. I remember I weighed 56kgs when I turned 10 years old. And I hated any sports that required me to run, meaning pretty much all ball games except baseball, and tennis a little bit. Although I did (and loved) Karate, (I was a green belt when I stopped aged ten. It was when we moved back to Burundi from Kenya. I tried to resume when I was about twelve or thirteen but the training at the club I was in was too intense. It was like we were training to be Samurais or something. Mxim)… Anyway, so although I did and loved Karate, I was quite “soft” and hated anything violent. I still do. Arguments and foul language make me cringe. As a kid, I never understood the point of games like Kanyama (the kid who made the stick planted in a little mount of sand drop, had to run to a designated area while dodging the slaps of other kids). Mbo, I also wasn’t a fast runner (remember I was heavy), so the odds of enjoying those games were pretty low for me. Haha!

Being fat, soft and clumsy at popular sports made me look weak. To make matters worse, as a teenager I didn’t drink nor smoke, and my strict parents weren’t very accommodating as far as going out was concerned. The introvert that I was however didn’t mind being a stay-at-home kid. I was only bothered when my peers made fun of my “kwugaranwa”. Mais bon…

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How (not) to be Umubabilon, for the aspiring 1%

chrisThe objective of today’s article is to immerse the reader into the world of Burundi’s 1%; to help you understand the behaviours and thought processes of the community commonly known as “abababilon”; and to guide whoever wishes to become one of us… yes, us.

Let us first start by defining, for those who are not familiar with its meaning, the scope of the term umubabilon (plural: abababilon, translation: who comes from Babylon). This label was historically used to designate a person born and/or raised in a posh or upscale neighbourhood of Bujumbura. For a long time, and for historic reasons that we shall not elaborate today, these neighbourhoods were Rohero, Quartier INSS, Kiriri, Gatoke, Kabondo, Mutanga Sud, Mutanga Nord, Kinanira, Zeimet,Kinindo, Quartier Belge, Quartier Français and Quartier OUA. Today some of these neighbourhoods have lost their chic and have been replaced or overtaken by newer and affluent estates such as Kibenga, Gihosha, Kinanira III, Kigobe, Sororezo, Carama and Gasekebuye.

The babilon label on the other hand is currently used to refer to any member of the elite community, regardless of where they were born, whether or not they were born an elite, as long as they ended up becoming one. Here below, I will share with you some tips to help you understand (and embrace) the babilon lifestyle. Whereas this guide is specifically tailored for the Burundian context, you may discover that a lot of the conditions, behaviours and expectations defined apply to elite communities in most developing countries, and to wannabes in the developed world. You are hereby advised to take your notepads out as this is going to be a lesson of a lifetime!

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I am NOT a Patriot!

A Patriot is…

  • A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors (
  • A person who vigorously supports his country and its way of life (
  • Originally, a patriot was someone who loves their country and supports it, but won’t blindly follow whatever their country’s government does. These days, it is synonymous with Nationalist, which is someone who blindly follows whatever his country’s government does, and lacks his own ability to think and reason for himself. (
  • A U.S. Army antiaircraft missile launched from a tracked vehicle with radar and computer guidance. (

Patriot Missile

Well, I think it’s quite clear by now that I’m not a U.S. army antiaircraft missile…

… But most importantly, I DO NOT “vigorously support my country and its way of life”. God knows how I spend half my days irritated and complaining about things and people here… when it’s not about the bad driving, it’s about the poor service, the corrupt behaviours, the uninformed rumours, the slow administration or the excessive ignorance that some people so willingly share online. No, this country isn’t paradise… it isn’t a land of “honey and milk” like some people call it (no but have you checked the prices of honey and milk lately?!)… And the friendliness of my people could be a little bit overrated… I’m just saying…

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