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We Are Generation G

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention month. Genocide, ethnic violence, political tribalism: poison by any other name remains just as fatal.

On this day in 1994, the plane boarding Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and two of his ministers was deliberately shot, killing those on board, and sparking a nationwide genocide. To Rwandans and Burundians, April 6th is a bloody and indelible day in our collective memories; it was the beginning of the end for our people, which ostensibly led us to a path of no return.

April 6th also hits incredibly close to home for me and countless others. Genocide is the reason for my being in the cold of Canada today; it is the reason I have never met my extended family before my first 19 years of life; and being one of two ministers present on the plane that unforgettable day, it is the reason my father is no longer living.

Questions from the families of the victims regarding the matter has yet to be investigated by the Burundian and Rwandan governments; to this day, there has been zero accountability or reparations made on behalf of these states.

However, I am less inclined to discuss who is to blame for the past, being that I am first concerned with who will be held accountable for the future of our nations; there is blood on my hands, albeit I have never held a machete in my life. Nonetheless, it is unmistakably our duty to secure the future of our nations and its civil population. Those with the ability and the courage to speak without fearing persecution have the responsibility to address the issue at hand. Those with diplomatic skills and accessibility of information are not unarmed nor frail. And if you dare not to acknowledge the elusiveness of a prosperous future for these war stricken nations, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

We are Generation G – the generation of people directly or indirectly affected by genocides. Burundians and Rwandans must recognize all genocidal victims – Hutus and Tutsis alike – and express our demands for stabilized nations and the transparency of polities. Especially with recent talks of renewed ethnic violence in Burundi resulting from President Nkurunziza’s unconstitutional and widely contested reelection, a united ethnic front is as important now as it should have been over two decades ago. For this reason, we must agree to be the last of Generation G and work towards the abolition of incessant and politically (i.e. not ethnically) induced violence.

But in spite of its presence within the continent, Africans are not the sole claimants of Genocide Awareness and Prevention month, since genocide is one of many evils that will not discriminate. Europeans, such as the Christians of Armenia and the Jews of Germany, know this all too well. It is therefore a global issue, as opposed to just another African problem. This month is dedicated to the memories of the fallen casualties of genocides, irrespective of racial or cultural identities. This month is a dedication to peace, unity, and the heterogeneity of nations.

If there is one thing to remember in dedication of Genocide Awareness and Prevention month, it is that,

We face neither East nor West: we face forward.

– Kwame Nkrumah



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by | April 5, 2016 · 10:09 AM

Where Are Leaders Like Dr. Elie Buconyori?

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.



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On Burundi: Why I Don’t Support the President or the Protesters…

By Michael Ndaribamare

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this early Monday morning. Since then the vice president of the constitutional court has fled to Rwanda stating he received death threats if he did not change his vote to be for Nkurunziza’s bid. Now the constitutional court has deemed Nkrurunziza’s candidacy legal. If the constitutional court has actually been threatened into voting for Nkurunziza’s running THIS would be the issue to protest against…


My reason
ing against the president’s decision and the protesting is strictly political. I will briefly share my frustrations and disappointment with both camps.

Nkurunziza screwed his party and legacy.

My disagreement with why he shouldn’t have ran as president might differ from your reasons. My issue is not with the legality of the 3rd mandate (i’ll discuss why in the protest section). I disagree with it because it was a terrible political move. Hate or love the president, one can not deny that in the last 10 years Burundi has reached a level of relative peace it has not seen since independence. People who were kept out of the political system and economy are now assimilating. It isn’t perfect, but it is better. Burundians demanded peace and that is what we got. However, with peace and stability comes more room to dream bigger and demand more. The people are no longer content with politics as they have been practiced with almost all past presidents. We are not content to see public funds find their way into private pockets. The people want a leader who is progressive, not just keeping the status-quo.

H.E. Nkurunziza has kicked out brilliant members of his party that might have been able to offer Burundians the things they desire. Education reform, jobs, equality (gender, sex, religious, ethnic, etc…), economic progress, and other basic needs are what we need now. Nkurunziza has proven in the last 5 years that, outside of peace, he has little left to offer. So why not step down and protect your legacy, because it is the only thing we take with us in death. Money, prestige, and pride all die when the body dies. Leave your legacy in tack as the peace president as Ndadaye is remembered for democracy and Rwagasore for independence.

Just as those against the mandate think it is illegal for him to run a third time, he thinks it is within his legal right. Neither of course can truly be right until the constitutional court decides. That being said, it is within his rights as a citizen of the republic to appeal his case to the courts. The issue is that many members of his party were against this step (and rightly so) due to the growing turmoil against the 3rd mandate. Instead of settling an internal party debate, he opted to throw those who opposed him out. He must not confuse leading a rebel group with leading a political party. In a political party, as in a democracy, everyone has a vote. Votes should be based on what is the best for the whole, not the few. At this rate, the CNDD-FDD may never be able to recover from this erroneous misstep. If he does not step down with all the growing unrest in Bujumbura, the party may never get elected to power again. This is just bad politics.

Lastly, his silence is not seen as a strength, but a weakness. Just as I demand answers from the opposition I demand answers from him. What is your plan for Burundi? Why do you deserve to be our president over others? That is all we need to know from our candidates. However, when he is silent and police have killed protesters (peaceful or not) we demand answers. Did these officers that have murdered follow orders or act on their own accord? Speak. Because if you do not speak, others will speak for you. We, the citizens, will make assumptions and we usually go with the worst scenario. We want to have faith restored in our political institutions. The president seeking another term places oil on the fire of those already without faith in this political system. This reinforces their belief that government is not to be trusted. Stepping down is not just a matter of CNDD-FDD, but that of peace and stability.

Unknown-1Protests or Scheduled Riots?

The civil society leaders and opposition completely jumped the gun on the third mandate issue. They planned a pre-emptive attack against the incumbent president. My issue is that they call Nkurunziza’s 3rd mandate illegal, yet they have no authority (outside of public opinion) to do so. They have polarized the city on an issue that has yet to become an issue. Only the constitutional courts can deem his attempt at candidacy illegal or not. Now, you might be thinking, the courts will rule in favor of the president because they are corrupt. You may very well be right, however we can not agree with laws only if they work in our favor and dismiss those that do not. The whole agenda of these protests are to preserve democracy, yet it is this circumventing of democracy, by placing an ultimatum, that is actually occurring. Our actions speak louder than our words. Our actions are saying, we want our democracy (the protesters) and not that of others (anyone else not protesting). However, in order to preserve democracy and also enact changes we desire, we must vote. If the constitutional court finds Nkurunziza within his legal right, it might just be that those who voted are competent and decided with sound judgement. Just as the protesters think the court’s vote will be comprised, the pro-third mandate might find an unconstitutional vote not the outcome of sound judgement, but the outcome of a constitutional court pressured by the protestors. See how it works both ways.

Now, i’ve had many debates over this on facebook this past week. The same question keeps coming up; If the political system is corrupt and we are out of options, what else can we do but protest? Here is an answer I gave on facebook… “an option would have been to wait to hear what the constitutional court decides and why. and next you will say they are corrupt, and i will say you are probably right. [Therefore] next the opposition makes a strong campaign to convince the people for votes. then you say they [CNDD-FDD] will block the attempts of the opposition to get their message to the people. I will then say, get creative. they were able to get people on the streets, what if they got those same people to be the disciples of their movement. then you would say the elections were a fraud, there is widespread cheating. then i would say take it to the streets.” Simply, the opposition, civil leaders, and media completely reversed the order of attack that any sane politician would have done. I will not put my speculations on here, but I would say that it is this order in which they decided to attack the third mandate which makes their (i am speaking solely of the leaders of the protests) true agenda questionable.

Let’s be honest. Getting rid of Peter is not a solution, but a band-aid. We all want a better Burundi, but the opposition and civil society has convinced them not to demand it. In this election, the protesters only demand is no more Nkurunziza. However, you forget the president is merely a product of our society. He is your son, your teacher, your police officer, your beggar… He is not an alien. Therefore, what we really want at the end of the day is a change in our culture and values. Sadly, these can not change based on the issue of today. To change culture and values we must change ourselves then each other. (Let me put a disclaimer, I will suggest my ageist and sexist assumptions here). In my opinion, Nkurunziza is no different from any other candidate that I have seen so far in this race (as far as the real contenders are concerned). He is a man, in his fifties, who has etched into his brain his idea of what being a president is and what it looks like. This my not be so different from your thoughts as well. After Nkurunziza, the next leader will empty public coffers and enrich himself and his circle. Institutions will continue to barely function or fail. These old politicians will continue to stop traffic everytime they drive-by. They will continue earning more money than God can count, even though on paper they shouldn’t make much. It is their generational view that being a president is to do these things. You think these men (the opposition), who have never proposed things like protecting our most vulnerable citizens and making government spending transparent, are waiting to be elected and surprise you with such progressive ideas? You are mistaken. If you want me in the streets with you, lets be in the streets demanding things we want, not just the man we don’t want. If not, we are just replacing Peter with Peter.

Lastly, these protests have taken a turn for the worst. Some of the protesters in Bujumbura and in the diaspora are endorsing the mentality “by any means necessary”. In Bujumbura these protests are more like scheduled riots. Barricades are placed in the roads and a car was even lit on fire. The city is dead. Businesses and buses are down. Everything is still except and economy that is crashing, tensions that are rising, fears and uncertainties that are surging, and peace that is fleeting. For those in the diaspora (and in Burundi), there are more and more occurrences of the term pre-genocide. Genocide has a specific meaning in the great lakes of Africa. The meaning is Hutu = Genocider and Tutsi = Victim. So no matter how many times you promise you are making the link of genocide to those who are for or against the mandate, the term can not be separated, in the mind or in memory, from ethnicity. Especially with the unfounded/unproven rumors of Intrahamwe operating in Bujumbura. Internationally, the Interahamwe are portrayed as bloodthirsty Hutus, who will not stop killing until the last Tutsi is dead. This is another example of ethnicity creeping into the movement just to get the attention of the international community. This shortcut to achieve a political goal comes at what price? These rumors are making suspicion rise in all ethnic groups about the others intention. The battlecry of their movement is that it is the movement of the people. However, when ethnicity rears its ugly head, it becomes the movement of some people and legitimacy wanes. Scratch the pre-genocide talk. It’s insensitive and just down-right appalling.


It is weak leadership on both sides that we have found ourselves here. It is illegal to make barricades in the roads and create unrest. The leaders of the protest should have carefully planned their attack and should be in the streets to make sure the protesting is conducted in a safe and legal manner. Now, with that being said, the President should be over seeing the police and their reaction to the protesting. It is illegal and disgusting to use live bullets on your citizens when the officers lives were not put in danger. It is the silence of the President that speaks volumes to his poor leadership. We are not only judged by our actions, but also by our reactions and inactions.

What I want future leaders to know is that Burundians, regardless of political affiliation, are awake. They have dreams and aspirations and will no longer have them deferred. Political office, since independence (and even during the ruling of the kings), has been a place to enrich oneself and his circle, while leaving the citizens fending for themselves. No longer will we accept this. We want a change in our political culture and social values. Both camps have polarized the nation on this issue due to weak and poor leadership. Listen, just because we are not in the streets of Bujumbura does not mean we are for the president. On the same token, nor does it mean we are against. We are a diverse nation with differing views. We use democratic principles and processes to settle these diverse and divergent perspectives. We do not riot, we do not spread hate rumors, and we do not choose ourselves over party and nation.

For the current opposition, please take the next few weeks to focus on telling the constituents your five-year plan for progress. For future opposition/incumbent parties, heed the swahili proverb “Chema chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza” (a good thing sells itself, a bad thing must advertise). As in, spend the years leading up to elections showing what you can do by implementing projects and initiatives. Your reputation will be built on your actions not on your words. One does not need to be the president to make a change in the lives of Burundians. If you don’t believe me, ask the founder of Village Health Works in Kigutu or the founder of the Akilah Institute in Bujumbura. Let us see the change instead of the promise.

About the Author:

Michael Ray Ndaribamare, 28, Holds a BA in History and an MBA with concentration in Public Administration.

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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.http://www.dambisamoyo.com/books-and-publications/book/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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