Let’s not wait until it’s too late in Burundi


A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial left me crushed and lost for words. I am not sure that I have recovered or whether indeed I ever will.

One missionary who worked in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide remarked that there were no devils left in hell because all of them were in Rwanda.

The one deep-seated belief I took from that fateful visit is that tribalism is the religion of the devil.


This week, the man who put an end to the genocide, President Paul Kagame, said that what was happening in Burundi reminded him “a little” of what took place in Rwanda in 1994.

He said: “People die every day, corpses litter the streets… How can the leaders allow their population to be massacred from morning to night?”

Nobody has ever accused Mr Kagame of using hyperbole in his speeches. He is better known for quiet plain-speaking.

It is, therefore, surprising that neither what he has said of the latest developments in Burundi nor the images that are freely available on social media have moved the East African Community to the fact that we are having a serious humanitarian problem on our hands.

It is only the other day that our Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga, brought to our attention that the drums of war are being sounded ahead of the 2017 General Election.

The story came and went with a whimper.


Now images of slaughter are emerging from Burundi and we are going on with our business as if it is all normal.

Here, everything is done in the name of God. And so it is also with our East African kinsmen.

President Pierre Nkurunziza is an evangelical pastor who believes that he has been anointed by God to rule over Burundi — and damn those who disagree. Many do, and they are paying with their lives.

Amid all this, the question must be asked about the use of such expensive tools as the East African Standby Force and even Amisom.

What is the point of our countries having peacekeeping forces in far-flung countries while our neighbour is bleeding?

Does a country only become important to the international community when it is endowed with oil and mineral resources? Rwanda does not, and was left to its fate in 1994.


Thousands of Burundian refugees are now streaming into neighbouring Tanzania and Rwanda.

Others have resigned themselves to their fate, waiting for their deaths in their own country for either possessing the wrong surname or expressing a different opinion.

Even more important, Burundians — and those of us here in Kenya who seem hell-bent on treading the same path — must see politics based on ethnicity for what it really is: A curse that does nothing but defile our humanity.

It is the opium that keeps us high while the real beneficiaries — those who preach it but have in practice no tack with it — loot our treasuries clean.

I am hoping to travel to Rwanda next January to attend the 2016 African Nations Championships.

I earnestly hope that by that time sense will have prevailed and that those shiny stadiums will not be occupied by famished Burundian refugees providing yet another story of African failure to the world media.