Burundi is burning. And we are watching it happen. Again.
It is a strange thing to fall in love with one’s country only to be disappointed over and over again. There was a time where I would dream of a great Burundi- a place where I would return and establish all these dreams and hopes. There was a time where I felt that even though my country and countrymen had rejected my citizenship, made me a refugee in this world- that despite that I would go back home and see a Burundi changed. But now I am not so sure, because it seems the more talent the country harnesses, the quicker it makes sure they don’t stay.
Your see, leaders like Dr. Buconyori made that belief possible. They were true to their mission, and true to their faith. But who was Dr. Buconyori?
His mission was for the youth of Burundi, and to that end, he will be remembered as the man who inspired young Burundians to harness their skills and gain a competitive edge in the global market. He was a man who fought for the poor, and worked even harder to alleviate them from poverty; working to increase their access to such services as education and healthcare. Thus it was with sadness that Dr. Buconyori passed away on Easter Sunday, March 31st, 2013. His death came as a shock to many, and was mourned by the entire nation. In the Aftermath of the Burundian Civil war, Dr. Elie Buconyori moved back to Burundi and with him was a vision to build schools and clinics- no small feat in a post-conflict environment. A couple of years later, he had not only built the hospitals and schools, but he had seen the nation of Burundi through a tough period of transition to peace. In many ways than one, Dr. Buconyori was the father to many young Burundians- a mentor and their greatest advocate. No one has affected so many lives in Burundi as he did. He will be remembered as a man who turned a tragic history into a hopeful future. In the late 1990s, there were tens of thousands of Burundian refugees in Tanzania. With a vision to not only give them a place of belonging when they returned back home, he was on a mission to equip them with an education that engaged their minds to meet the realities of building a nation that had been ravaged by wars. He believed that “Africans, given the right opportunities, can compete on the world scene.” Returning to Burundi, he founded Hope Africa University, a vision that the school would have an opportunity to serve a dense population of Africans who had been affected by the wars in Central Africa. Serving more than 4000 students, Hope Africa University is still the largest private education institution in Burundi. In recognizing his work, in 2011, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza awarded a Presidential Award to Dr. Buconyori recognizing his entrepreneurial achievements and his work with young people. The same year, he became the first Burundian to be elected as chairman of the Interuniversity Council of East Africa. As a nation-builder, he was a mentor to many, and a father-figure to many more. Dr. Buconyori was as man who lived by his conviction that to raise up a nation, one must take on the great task of empowering young minds and nurturing them.
But all that seems to be gone. Look where Hope Africa University is now. Where his legacy has been left in the hands of “leaders”who value money over the youth, and those who enjoy the glamour and party life that is afforded them by their positions.
It seems that Burundi is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again- where the sins of our fathers become the sins of this generation. And I wonder, will God forgive us for watching our country shed more blood? Was a third term to protect mineral/oil interests, money, land grabbing etc worth the many lives that have been lost? Is this Tusti-Hutu dichotomy worth the pain and suffering we are causing each other?
I have more questions than answers…. and even if it is 2-3 of them, I wish we truly had leaders willing to stand up for our country once more.