From sun and sand to blood and death, on the shores of lake Tanganyika

One year ago today, I was in Gitega, it was dark outside, no other household had lights, but I was staying in small hotel, on the outskirts of that beautiful small city, the hotel had a power generator. It is there, sitting with a couple of friends, all Burundians, I realized that something was wrong. Being Rwandan, I cannot deny that I am very sensitive to every thing war related. Having seen the horror of what destruction can bring to humankind but most of all, what it did to Rwanda. I grew up with this anti war feeling and it is not tomorrow that I will change. I can never say it enough, I was dismayed and worried. Dismayed, because of how lightly they were talking about breaking havoc if the president was again to run, and worried because of how they seemed to care less about how events could unfold in blood and death.

Although I can’t remember everything that was said there that night, I sat there, listened silently to their political discourse, one of them young and same age as me, was the most inclined to end Nkurunziza with any means necessary. Even if they were heavily arguing, they all seemed to agree on something, Nkurunziza had to be removed, and what was most astonishing to me, they were resolved to remove him by taking it into the streets. Couldn’t help myself but think that these people didn’t understand or realize the scope of such an action would bring. I couldn’t voice my opinion too, because Burundians tend to think that Rwandans know nothing about politics nor free speech, I didn’t want them to drift to Rwandan politics or Rwandan history, which I knew they were little informed about. They thought that if Nkurunziza was reinstated as his political party presidential election runner, two days of mass demonstration in the streets of Bujumbura would make him back down.

When I look back, I get sense of what was at stake those few days before the ruling party CNDD-FDD made Nkurunziza, their official presidential candidate. Almost every one was quite sure that he was going to be candidate to his own succession, but few hoped that something was going to change. That is the reason why, for several months some opposition political parties in Burundi, some independent radio station in the capital of Burundi, and the most influential civil society organizations had been about bringing about the change. Meanwhile the ruling party was also resolute in its agenda of making Nkurunziza their candidate. All the ingredients were there to make a dramatic clash, a clash of which everyone involved seemed not to grasp the tragic consequences that it would bring, to that beautiful country of Burundi.

It was April 26, 2015, one day after my birthday, that CNDD-FDD made it official, Pierre Nkurunziza was their official candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. That very day, business closed early, everyone I knew rushed to the market to buy reserves. As for me, I had spent the whole day resting because I had been working in Gitega for a week. I had come back to Bujumbura the night before. Early that Sunday, on the 27, I was awoken up by gunshots and clamor in the streets, in my neighborhood. I took my camera and sneaked out, I managed to reach one of the tarmac road near my house. The moment I was just trying to figure out what was happening, I saw a police pick up truck, packed with men in full gear, they threw a couple of tear gas cans on a small group of young people who were building a roadblock with rocks and old tires. A few gunshots, and the young people disbanded, at that moment, it was not about taking out my camera, it was about saving my life. I ran back into my house, and I knew, it was not going to end in two or three days.

Unfortunately, one year later, my worst nightmare befell on the country next to my heart. Countless people are dead, others disappeared, young people have been tortured, others have been lured into armed struggle, families are torn apart, and Bujumbura people are dying slowly of fear, pain and hunger. As for me, it has been one year that I live in Rwanda, waiting patiently to go back to my Burundi. Even if it could end today, it will take years to rebuild what has been destroyed and above all, nothing can bring back the dead. That is the reason why, it is time everyone involved, put aside their ego and agenda and realize the great toll they are putting on their country, today and tomorrow. Enough is enough!