Is Burundi Accepting a $2Billion Ball and Chain?

In a recent trip to Burundi, I had to reflect and wonder if really Burundians were either too jaded to care about their own country- Something to be said about the power of memory or if maybe, they didn’t know any better.

Both actually apply as I have found out. (but that is a topic for another discussion)

However, lets examine the recent $2 Billion Aid promised to Burundi. As it states “Burundi’s poverty-reduction strategy focuses on growth, job creation and development of the private sector, with agribusiness, tourism and mining seen as key drivers of growth.”  Thus I was interested in knowing opinions of some peers.  And below is the conversation as it took place on Facebook regarding the Article on Yahoo.

Christopher Declercq Zambakari:Divine Muragijimana“pledge”, “firm commitments.” Those are interesting words. There are two assumptions here: the full amount will be disbursed to Burundi. Burundi has the institutions and infrastructure to manage that amount and translate it to actual growth. What do donors get from Burundian in return for aid worth 60 percent of its 2012 budget? Perhaps you can educate the rest of us.

Divine Muragijimana:   Christopher Declercq Zambakari Well you can imagine my confusion in reading this article where countries are pledging money they don’t have. Yes, I noticed the  countries are operating in “firm commitments” which means that Burundi probably will get a quarter of that. But then there is also the fear of “what is Burundi going to pay for this?” what did they pledge in return? Does this money actually go towards development or is it going towards companies bidding for the “reconstruction” of Burundi? On the other hand, I got a bit beefed by the comments made by yanks who taught that Burundi was out to steal their money 🙂

Christopher Declercq Zambakari:  I suspect your observations are correct and your fears are well grounded.

Michael Ray Ndaribamare:   Burundi as it is, is hopeless, no matter how much you throw at it. We need new leadership, transparency, harsh penalties for corruption, education reform, and the list goes on. Mark my word, the only change this money will do is make a millionaire a billionaire

German Mbabazi:  @Divine, burundi can do much better without Dead Aid. we can easily finance our development by sharing the resouces we have in the great lakes region wisely….. the bilateral Aid to Burundi is completely cynical. u can believe it once you have seen behind the scenes. The global financial crisis, the Eastern Congo,Oil in sudan n somalia ..Africa still remains vulnerable, because we dont have powerful weapons to say nooo to their Dead Aid.

Ally Niyukuri: Christopher you make a good point…what do they get in return, as for Michael well we do not need to think that way…you are not really helping us by saying that our country is hopeless. Surely , there is some improvement…if you do not live in Burundi come and see. However, now we need to think what is the next best step forward for our nation. Rememeber the Burundi youth need optimism , not affirmations that discourage them without offering a realistic way out. I still have optimism for the future of my country. My other question is , the Europeans and Americans are offering “aid” , what is the Burundian diaspora offering?

Deejay Burundi:  I do not know much about aid etc etc but I can say that those of us in the diaspora are certainly not offering anything remotely close to 2 billion dollars. As a whole, I don’t know what the Burundian diaspora are offering but as individuals there are a few building infrastructures in Burundi and we ourselves are taking a business. I doubt you know what it has taken to get the ball rolling. But in a country like Burundi, I hope our competition doesn’t just kill us. Literally. I’m sure that is one thing keeping people from investing back home. Security and corruption need to be dealt with asap.

Michael Ray Ndaribamare: @ally I am burundian diaspora. I plan on moving there next year. I am optimistic, but not with the people who control now or have in the past (and those also from the past who still exercise power, buyoya). I don’t think its good to sugar coat anything, maybe u didn’t understand what I said. My point is that the path the country is on right now is not leading to its salvation. I’ve hung around a few youths of burundi this past week and they all want to come back start a business and get rich and make the country better. Ask not what we over here are doing, ask why the country makes it harder for us to make it and so easy for millionaires who only care to profit from the people/land of burundi. Ill be in burundi december if you would like to continue this convo. We are also meeting with his excellency to discuss these exact things.   Ps, you should really question why they give aid? Why all the stipulations that have historically kept 3rd world nations in poverty and underdevelopment? And look at the sectors they are investing in, tourism, mining, etc. These will give money to a small elite who buy concessions and own hotels, they won’t increase wages for the middle class, diversify job offerings, etc. So like I said, the way burundi runs now this 2 bil will not trickle down to you. The diaspora coming soon to buja is coming with the idea of not only making their life better but also others. When we get out business going, ill ask if you could help us find people to work.  Pps, its hard to convey a voice on facebook when debating in a loving tone. I hope nothing I have said comes out like I’m being angry, cause I’m not. And its good to have convos like these, since we are the future.

Divine Muragijimana:  Wow…This is great. Best way to start a day. Michael Ray Ndaribamare I suspect your fears and observations are well grounded. But I have also seen and talked to ministers in Burundi and understood their struggle. The aid is fishy,(can I still use that word?). Anyways, it is aid that will go into administrative bills. However, let us not be pessimistic about this, we still have an opportunity to turn this around. The way Burundi runs is no different than the way most countries run-with the exception of them not having to deal with cyclical wars. We have to be careful- and the government understands that- if we are not to repeat our bloody past, then we thread carefully. I don’t know about you, but I think living in exile twice is not something I want to repeat once I return back to Burundi. So I see your point, but I also think you are being a bit harsh on the people at the moment.  I see your point too. The Burundian Diaspora has been sleeping for way too long. As we discussed when I was back there in August, there is the power of a memory. Unfortunately, we are caught in partisan politics and we lose the fact that we can complain about a country that we are not working to actively improve. But I can also say this: We are out there. and we come. the Burundian Diaspora is waking up-albeit very slowly, but we will come back. Some of us are not going to come back, but there will be some like Deejay Burundi who will be coming back, and making their home there(for sometime atleast). I am personally making the Burundian Diaspora my mission, because we are the ones who have the potential to play a big role in Burundi’s development- not aid, and not the IC particularly the UN. Michael Ray Ndaribamare…When you get to Burundi, I encourage you to go to speak to Innocent at API. Maybe he will be able to shed a light oh two on what is going on with investing in Burundi- He helped me see that while the gvt can do so much, it is up to us to move the country forward. We are so dependent on govt, and we are so afraid of competition that it is sad. We have to change our way of thinking, change the way we engage the economy in Burundi. That is the way Forward   German Mbabazi…. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I get scared a little bit when Africans start quoting Dambisa Moyo. That book was based on unrealistic theories at best- and maybe attracting the BWI. Now there are merits on the fact that yes, Africans can finance their development- but not entirely. The great lakes region is unfortunately unstable at the moment- and off course your Country is fueling that. Until we learn that Congo is part of that growth, and that we cannot ignore the plight of these people then we face the same constant story of Aid coming in and disappearing in Dead Air. The bilateral agreements are there, and will always be there- its not the agreements that should worry you, it is how the agreements are made. By the way, Rwanda is surviving on the so called “dead aid”-but thankfully, it managed to cozy up to the West, so they had a carte blanche- until recently atleast.

Michael Ray Ndaribamare:  Just because truth is negative doesn’t mean I am not optimistic. U are missing the point completely. And I agree with you, I believe most nations in this world are like this, I think the system is broke and thus no matter how much money you throw at something, it will not fix the system unless it is reformed. That was my whole point. I’m the most optimistic person I know, but I am also real and see the whole picture. If you ignore the truth, you only feed into the lies. The lies being that this money will actually help Burundi, it won’t. I will end my commentary here, so that it is not misconstrued into some hate speech. I believe Burundi (the us, and others) can move forward, but people need to fight for it.

Divine Muragijimana:  To Michael Ray Ndaribamare  Understood. And sorry if I made you feel like you were giving hate speech.  Its just that being in Media, I have see how Africans we self-destruct ourselves by the kind of stories we choose to tell ourselves and those around us. Funny enough Christopher Declercq Zambakari will probably tell you that I tend to focus on reality too much and forget the silver lining and the power of the human capacity building. Probably the way your feel about Burundian gvt is how I feel about the Burundian Diaspora. But then again, I can say with confidence that Burundi, despite its politics and universally bad leadership, will stand. Even Buyoya’s regime will not stand if the people say that enough is enough- as they are doing right now. I am proud of what Burundians on the ground are doing. I am proud of the youth like Ally Niyukuri, and Diane Irakoze who are mobilizing everyday efforts to make sure that the voice of the youth is heard, and that the youth are given the proper tools to advance. So with that being said…I invite you to join us in 2013 for a training and youth conference that aims to start this process, strategically aiming at making sure that the funds get to the proper programs.

It was an interesting conversation, but one cannot help but wonder, if this is not another deep hole Burundi is digging itself into- with a no bailout plan. Mr. Niyukuri asked a good question : what is the Burundian diaspora offering?  The AU has recognized the importance of the African Diaspora, yet, Aid so to speak still heavily comes from non-diasporic entities.  So maybe the Burundian Diaspora needs to ask themselves if they are going to let the chance to make a real contribution to their country pass them by.  What are they going to do about the recent development in the country? Or should the Chinese keep benefiting from these opportunities? 


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