Burundi – slipping back

I read with great regret a small piece from the Economist that tells of a ‘souring mood’ in the tiny African country, Burundi. It seems that opposition forces have again taken to the hills after around three hundred of their number have been killed since July and dozens arrested. Much of this goes back to the 2010 election which, despite the International community declaring reasonably fair was greeted by anger from the forces opposing President Nkurunziza. I worked several times in Burundi during the last twelve years – assignments ranged from looking at the so-called Regroupment camps where the Tutsi government corralled Hutu peasants ‘for their own safety’ in appalling conditions (as part of a global series called The Politics of Hunger) to looking at the steps to reconciliation with the Bashingantahe councils. I also photographed and wrote about the extraordinary Marguerite Barankitse, The Angel of Burundi who adopted children of all tribes amidst the terrible violence of the Civil War. I fear that her heroism and devotion will be called on again.

On Monday, The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa, whom Burundian authorities believe is hiding along with fellow combatants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, called on Nkurunziza to step down. Reuters are reporting this as a declaration of war. I sincerely hope that they are wrong.



Burundi – Bujambura – President Buyoya speaks at May Day rally


Burundi – Buhonga – A Hutu child carries water in a tin up a steep hill in Buhonga Regroupment camp


Burundi – Buhonga – A malnourished Hutu peasant woman receives treatment at a medical centre. She is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.


Burundi – Buhonga – A peasant cultivates land in Buhonga Regroupment Camp watched by a soldier. He is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.


Burundi – Buhonga – Hutu peasant family cultivates a small patch of land within their regroupment camp


Burundi – Ruyigi – A counsel of the Bashingantahe (roughly meaning ‘wisemen’) meet to settle a dispute in their commune. The Bashingantahe, a traditional court system, have been successfully resolving disputes concerning the civil war and issues of forgiveness and acceptance.

Minor celeb not feeling well shock

I was indebted to learn from every single media outlet today that a minor British celebrity who used to be married to a footballer and apparently sings, has contracted malaria. And on holiday too…

Apparently she’ll live. Unlike the approximate 850000 people still die from malaria every year even though simple insecticide-treated mosquito nets could significantly reduce mortality if made readily available to all people in regions where the disease is endemic. This according to Ann Veneman, head of UNICEF speaking on World Malaria day on April 25th. No – funny I didn’t hear much about that either.

According to Veneman, 90 per cent of those afflicted live in sub-Saharan Africa, and the majority of those deaths are children under five years old. “This shocking disparity is even more unacceptable” she concludes. I completely agree. Thankfully I am no longer cynical about how the media works (…) and certainly wish no-one to be ill… however – on recovery, expect brave celeb to do more charity work on said disease with full media coverage and nothing to change.

Burundi - Ruyigi - Jean, an orphan of Burundi's ethnic conflict at Shalom House shivers under a blanket with malaria. Shalom House was founded by Marguerite Barankitse (known as the 'Angel of Burundi') in 1994. During the genocide, Barankitse, at great personal risk, managed to save 25 orphans, Hutu, Tutsi and Twa and built a home for them. Currently, she has helped more than 10,000 orphans and separated children who can grow up in an "extended adopted family" in security, education and love.