Today while i had my hair cut at one of my favorite barber shops, a story is told in one of the local radio stations. The story of the late ex Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. Immediately the name is mentioned, my barber takes a pose and starts cursing and lamenting in his local dialect. I couldn’t tell what he was saying but I knew he was furious. I got perplexed by his sudden change of attitude. That is when one of the lady masseur mentions his Burundi-Congolese origin my interest is stimulated. I want to ask why he is so mad but before I think it, he starts narrating his childhood. What should have been a woebegone morning turns into a jovial treat for the forgotten victims. The once run away teen soldier reminisces in pain what he went through. He sheds no tear while at it. Life got him there. No! The ex-president’s ambitions for power got him there. Three countries, uncountable refugee camps and numerous struggles later, here he was.
Having watched countless documentaries, confessions and testimonies, all the Burundian survivors have one thing in common: they all actively protested (or lived in neighborhoods that did) against Nkurunziza’s third term in 2015 and were seriously maimed by security forces in retaliation. Wanton killings, gang rapes by the forces came as no surprise. Being told about it gives us emotions but going through it is a whole different traumatic experience. As one victim once narrated from a refugee camp, male kids were forced to be part of the rape once the culprits were done. If they refused, in seconds, they had an option of rethinking their decision and life or taking a bullet(s) to the amusement of the inhumane soldiers.
When news of his death took on the headlines of media stations, most victims were bewildered and caught in a trance including my barber. When finally the reality dawned on them, they were so numb in their talks. I felt they were just whimsy with their thoughts but I was being judgmental. I hadn’t been in their shoes. I couldn’t dare fit them on, no! Come to think of it, this may have come across to them as Justice served by the highest and the most supreme of beings. No one could undo this joy. The thrill couldn’t get better than this. In any African country, death is sacred. Everyone respects the dead. Even worse, we only offer special mention of their good deeds however evil they may have been. We pray for the family left behind and move on with our lives. For my barber and the victims (I believe), they take a different approach.
They choose to appreciate the endurance of their countrymen through his three regimes. Pray for the brutalised, maimed, raped, separated from their families undeservingly, looted, lost and everyone affected in the aftermath of war and greed for power by the once promising leader. He shone light by bringing lots of hope and belief among the Tutsis and Hutus when he came to power in 2005. A new dawn had come. But had it?
Like most African leaders, he had so much to offer with his promises. Leadership of interest caught up with him. Things deteriorated slowly in his first term, corruption and extrajudicial killings accelerating in his second. You know that greed that comes with power? The one that makes you feel respected when you are actually feared instead? It consumed him. Then, in 2015, he announced he would run for a third term, despite the constitution’s two-term limit. I bet this is no news to you, is it? That’s a sneak peek into Africa and its leadership. A widespread protest followed coup attempt and later a national shut down. Rights and freedoms were suspended… Only Burundians know how best to react to the news of Nkurunziza’s demise.
Due to the state of the country’s infrastructure, which is very poor-thanks to uncontrolled embezzlement of funds and corruption, his wife Denise Bucumi was airlifted to Kenya for treatment from the COVID-19 she had contracted. Something that prompted Kenyans to react with different trolls and reality checks. He leaves his country at high risk, having expelled WHO, declaring their air purified and cleansed amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic. All these he declared while campaigning for his preferred candidate who recently won the elections.
Did he choose politics over the pandemic? Well, reports say he passed on due to heart attack but could it be that he contracted the Coronavirus as many are speculating? It could be possible but that would be quite ironic, don’t you think? We stand with the family during this seven day mourning period but remember his victims in our prayers.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.