From Civil War to Simply Civil - Burundi

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Burundi  ,
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Burundi is a little country sitting on top of Lake Tanganyika in the centre of Africa.  Chances are you know less about it than other smallish African countries such as Rwanda and Uganda.  It has had more than it's share of conflict and hardship, and until very recently, was generally considered off limits for visitors, except the usual mixture of UN and NGO personnel.  It mimics Rwanda in being a similar mixture of Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa.  As similar to Rwanda, there has been thousands killed in conflict because of the tribal distinction.  In Burundi, more often than not, it was the Tutsi dominated government and army who did much of the killing of educated and influential Hutus.

Similar to Rwanda, however, it is another country that is trying to put the past behind and to look forward. It seems to have finally found an elusive peace, and this country is trying to get on with the business of business.  Until recently, it was strongly advised not to take buses from Butare in Rwanda to Bujumbura the capital because of frequent ambushes and killings.  The trip down was uneventful, except for the excitement generated by our bus driver's obsession with demonstrating his high speed driving skills on twisting treacherous mountain roads.

I'm now in Bujumbura, the capital.  It's a strange place but I like it.  It's very hot and muggy, and sits on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.  It's a combination of classic colonial style streets laid out in grandiose boulevards, and crumbling buildings that haven't been updated since the 1980's since the civil wars.  It's safe now, or so people insist, but it's a new peace and who knows?  The food is good, and the women are beautiful - important criteria for rating a country.

The national psyche seems somewhere between Rwanda and Uganda.  It lacks the more reserved nature and sense of order in Rwanda, but is not quite up to the chaotic frenzy of Kampala in Uganda.  The roads have lots of potholes, unlike Kigali, but your car will simply blow a tire on them, not disappear entirely into them, like Kampala.  It is a francophone country, perhaps even more so than Rwanda.  The limits of my linguistic gymnastic skills have been sorely tested these last two months.

I think I seem to exude an aura of patheticness (Helplessness? Friendliness? Sexiness? Manly virility? Who knows?) that makes people want to take care of me.  I left for Burundi yesterday with a cousin of a Rwandan friend of mine whom I was supposed to stay with in his little apartment he rents with two other guys.  Long story short - the situation changed, and through family connections (his, not mine.  The Church family is not particularly populous around here), I spent last night in a virtual mansion with my own room, bed, and a hot shower this morning.  They stuffed me with food, and as we speak, the husband of the house is trying to find me a boat or bus heading to Kigoma tomorrow (both are ambitious goals).  Why tomorrow, you might ask? (You probably didn't, but it serves my story). Well, because I'm an idiot, and asked for a transit visa at the border trying to save $20.  I thought it was for a week - it was for three days, including my day of entry.  So I have to leave by tomorrow.  Probably a blessing in disguise, because frankly, I like it here, and could easily see myself staying here, especially with another offer of a free place to sleep for a while.

Since I now officially on the road again, I am back in a position of seeking out and paying for internet cafes to mail and write.  (Next mission - find an exotic tree in Africa that grows laptops so I can write and edit photos when I want).  So this is a short entry.  Plus, since this machine has no spell check, please excuse any errors.    

As an aside (and I'm sure you have heard from me far too many times now), I became a published writer last Sunday for the first time, and thought I would share the on-line links if you wanted to check out the stories.

Hopefully the nest entry will be Tanzania or onward.

Link to stories:
Front page -
Rwanda Story -
Sipi Falls Story -
Begging story -
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