Rumors of war

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
Trip End Oct 21, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Burundi  , Bujumbura Mairie,
Monday, September 19, 2011

I received some sobering news today. Yesterday afternoon or evening, local sources vary, rebel soldiers, probably FLN ( Forces of National Liberation) attacked a bar linked to the current government and randomly killed about 40 people with AK-47s and grenades. The first information I had put the location at 15 or 20 miles from Bujumbura, but in now appears it was more like 5 or 6 miles. The village of Gatumba has already been the scene of a genocidal attack in the past, which is likely why it was chosen this time as a symbol by the rebel forces.

Uniformed men entered the bar and opened fire, with one officer reportedly ordering, "make sure there are no survivors." This happened before I arrived last night, which may explain why my taxi driver drove even faster than usual as we came in from the airport. It seems many folks were and are a little jumpy. There are reports that a radical Hutu group operating on both sides of the Congolese-Burundian border is preparing to restart the civil war. If this proves to be true, it will be another terrible tragedy for this already wounded and suffering country.

The trouble is not in the direction or region where our church members live and shouldn't affect my travel and work on this trip, but I will closely follow events and the security advice of US embassy personnel.

Having arrived so late last night, I was pleased to sleep through the night without waking until 10:00 this morning. My room overlooks one of the main streets in Bujumbura, freshly repaved and looking modern and clean unlike many other streets in town.

I spent the morning catching up on office work. I woke too late to have breakfast so I was quite ready for lunch and discovered that the reputation of the Botanika restaurant is well-deserved. Run by a French-trained chef, it offers some of the best cuisine I have had in sub-Saharan Africa. I had a tomato, papaya, feta and basil salad followed by spaghetti in tomato sauce. Both were excellent. I will probably have to stop staying here, it would make it harder to go to (or at least to eat in) my other hotel destinations!

Just after lunch Moise Ntigirinzigo called from the front desk. He and Nathan Mokeshimana were there to welcome me and to start our work together on this trip.

We caught up on the news of the church here, and then drove off to see the location selected for the Feast of Tabernacles this year. Many members from the northern province of Cibitoke are excited at the thought of traveling 40 or 50 miles to Bujumbura for the Feast. For some, that will be the biggest, longest trip of their lives. The site is located just a block or two from the presidential offices, which are obviously in a very secure part of Bujumbura. We met the manager and I had a look as the rooms that will be used as dorms, the meeting hall area, the kitchen, and I met the staff (though they didn’t speak French so we couldn’t really communicate). It is quite clean and nice by local standards, well suited to be a festival site.

After that visit I asked Moise to drive us to the area where he changes money so I could get some local currency. We pulled over to the curb near the sprawling central market, a money changer appeared instantly, and the bills changed hands through the car window. We were off again in less than a minute. Back at my hotel we sat in my room for an hour and a half or so and discussed the situation and needs of the church collectively and members individually. We will continue these discussions over the next days as we travel north to Mugina and back in the car. We discussed the best topics for the seminars I will hold for local leaders tomorrow and Wednesday and agreed and the particulars. They had questions about our new hymnal and when it would be available in French, that as well as other publications. It was a very useful discussion.

Nathan and Moise left toward the end of the afternoon and I went back to office work, and preparation for the seminars to come. I hope no security issues will make travel north inadvisable.
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bernardhongerlo on

Thanks again Joel for keeping us informed. We pray for your safety and God 's blessing on your trip. We live in a dangerous world indeed. Please convey a warm greetings to all of God's people in the region. Thanks for taking care of them with such dedication. We love you

Merci Joël pour les nouvelles. Nous prions pour votre protection et pour la bénédiction divine lors de ce voyage. Nous vivons des temps dangereux, à n'en pas douter. Saluez chaleureusement le peuple de Dieu dans cette région. Merci de vous occuper d'eux avec autant de dévouement. Avec notre amour
Bernard Hongerloot


Mr. Meeker, we will keep you and our African brethrens in our prayers. Thank you for keeping us informed and focused on the needs of those areas. We are with you in your journeys!

Karen Collins on

Thank you for sharing your travels with us. I am so glad that you are safe. I will be praying for you safety and for the safety of all the brethren.

carolyn raines on

Thanks for keeping me updated on your trip. The news about violence is alarming. I pray for safety for you and our brethren.

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