Burundi: Nkurunziza uplifts Burundi’s 93 percent rural poor


by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast Dec. 25, 2015

Supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza say that the key social divide in Burundi is not Hutu and Tutsi, but urban and rural.


KPFA News Anchor Cameron Jones: U.S. press and policymakers, and most notably U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, argue that the U.S. is morally obliged to go to war to stop or prevent genocide or mass atrocities, as they did in both Libya and Syria. This ideology is codified in the U.N.’s Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which states that “the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty.”

William Ndizeye, a Burundian Canadian supporter of President Pierre Nkurunziza and the CNDD-FDD party
William Ndizeye, a Burundian Canadian supporter of President Pierre Nkurunziza and the CNDD-FDD party

Since March, when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party announced that they would nominate him for a third term, Western press and policymakers have warned of a genocide in Burundi and suggested that Burundi’s minority Tutsi population is in danger. However, the Hutu and Tutsi labels identify social status in a feudal and then colonial order that no longer exists in Burundi.

The Burundian government and its supporters argue that the fundamental social difference in Burundi now is between urban and rural. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to William Ndizeye, a Burundian Canadian supporter of the Burundian government.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: William, I want to quote a Burundian American writer, Le Beni Tazira, speaking to CIUT-Toronto’s Phil Taylor, and ask whether you agree. Le Beni Tazira said, “Before him [meaning President Nkurunziza], “all the presidents were ruthless military who only helped develop Bujumbura, the capital. Now Burundi is 93 percent rural.

“Burundi is very rural, and the people there live in dire poverty, and they live as second class citizens. Pierre Nkurunziza comes from that. Every weekend he does community work. He’s out building schools, planting vegetables with the population. Every weekend. And his policies actually helped the poor more than they helped Bujumbura.”

William Ndizeye: That is true. Ever since Nkurunziza was elected, he has worked hard to make sure that the rural population sees a change in daily life. Let’s talk about education, where we see 1,800 primary schools that were built since 2007, and then we have 1,500 high schools that were built since 2007 as well. There is at least one primary school [on each] of the 2,910 hills of Burundi. This has never been seen before.

And then on top of that there is universal primary education, which is free. Right now the ratio of girls to boys reaches 90 percent in school, and the net enrollment soared from 60 percent in 2005 to 99 percent in 2012. This is a solid foundation for a long term human development program.

Ever since Nkurunziza was elected, he has worked hard to make sure that the rural population sees a change in daily life.

In terms of health services, by 2005, only 15 percent of women in Burundi gave birth at the hospital. Under President Nkurunziza, the number rose to 70 percent. The under-5 mortality fell by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010 due to free health services for pregnant women, as well for the children under 5 years of age.

Also, the life expectancy rose from 40 years old in 2000 to 60 years in 2015, and extreme poverty, which was around 80 percent, went down to 60 percent.*

KPFA: OK, most of the Western press report from Bujumbura, the capital, where the government and the fighting are, but one Agence France Presse report said that Nkurunziza is enormously popular with the majority rural population. Do you agree?

WN: I do agree. Pierre Nkurunziza has stayed close to the rural population in the past 10 years. He is the only president in Burundi who has visited all the Burundi districts. There are 129 of them. The former president, Pierre Buyoye, who ruled Burundi for at least 10 years, never reached 40 percent of those districts. So this should show how committed Pierre Nkurunziza is to the rural population and that he has done tremendous work in changing their daily life.

Nkurunziza gets up to 80 percent of the votes in the rural areas, but in the capital, he barely gets 40 percent. So you see the difference between the rural population and the elite in the capital, which is behind all this crisis right now.

Pierre Nkurunziza has stayed close to the rural population in the past 10 years.

KPFA: OK, now, one thing with regard to the Hutu-Tutsi distinctions that Western press and policymakers dwell on. President Nkurunziza is the son of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. Le Beni Tazira said that his Tutsi mother is commonly on TV and otherwise very visible, in support of her son, in Burundian public life.

So this suggestion that Nkurunziza harbors genocidal plans for the Tutsi, doesn’t it include a preposterous suggestion that he’s plotting to kill his own mother?

WN: What’s happening in Burundi right now, we have a smear campaign against the institutions in Burundi that is using warmongering tactics, scare tactics, bad press. But, in Burundi, ethnic groups are melded more than anywhere else.

We have one language, ancestral customs, we have mixed marriages. The people who are using these smear campaigns, warmongering tactics, they just want to promote this fear in the international community so they can have some sort of intervention that will help them to achieve their goal.

And how can one plan to kill his own mother that he has publicly shown love for? And then myself, both my parents are mixed. So in Burundi, there is no way a genocide is possible at this point. We have just a small group of people who try to use the ethnic scare so they can reach their intended goal.

In Burundi, there is no way a genocide is possible at this point. We have just a small group of people who try to use the ethnic scare so they can reach their intended goal.

KPFA: And that was Burundian Canadian and Burundian government supporter William Ndizeye. For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

*Statistics cited from Jordan Ryan: UNDP address at the Development Partners Conference on Burundi, Geneva, Switzerland.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.


  1. Once these burundian supporters do it blindly, of course they would do anything to be heard by P.Nkurunziza.
    I don't agree with them at all. when they mention building both primary and secondary schools, they ignore the the education quality, furniture and equipment. Teachers have no teaching aid materials, pupils can finish grade six unable to read french and all this is due to trying to get results without long range planning, short range goals and carefully done reports. Don't even mention strategic plans, it is a nightmare for the government. This education sector is ruined by corruption. Why? This president was the first to announce Zero tolerance to corruption, but look now at his poor governance, his officials are involved in millions of dollars embezzlement by faking to buy school note books for children, ghost presidential jets.
    On the other hand I do accept that government should concentrate efforts to rural areas where the majority lives and works really hard.

    After 35 years in exile, I developed an interest in knowing Burundi more though I am descendant of those 1972 refugees who fled brutal military rule. Growing as refugee (in Rwanda and Tanzania or elsewhere) must not at any time be an excuse to revenge on all other people. Justice system under CNDD rule is completely hijacked. To me, I always say, it should be released from jail. Judges do what they are told and do not read precise and written laws. They can't have critical thinking and unbiased judgement if they fear for their jobs and sometimes their lives in danger.

    Those who committed crimes whether in past or today must never be spared by justice. Those criminals did not face justice since 1965. The most known are Pierre Buyoya, Pierre Nkurunziza, Arthemond Simabaniye, Guillaume Bunyoni and many more. These people have got immunity and those who don't have it are seeking for. One Question to you and me: will Burundi stay under criminals who get immunity until when? Young Burundian must open their eyes ( TUTSI, HUTU, TWA) and decide the future path for our nation.
    You know what, we currently don't have leaders in Burundi but selfish and weak politicians. A leader must be visionary, protect nation's institutions and strengthen them and not trying to make themselves and their relatives stronger. In Burundi, they just do the opposite. Reason why Corruption, killings, justice system control, poor governance and poverty are increasing exponentially.

    Example of non visionary president is Pierre Nkurunziza. I followed his electoral campaign in Rutana Province and throughout 2015 summer illegal 3rd term elections. He mentioned that we are going to start Nickel extraction in 2016. I could not challenge him unless I am on suicidal mission. It cannot be possible to mine Nickel in Burundi in just one year..not even 5 years from 2015. It is just a nightmare. Nickel extraction requires more electricity due to pyro-metallurgy and hydro-metallurgy process, smelting, production and daily operations. All this requires at least 700MW of additional electricity power in a country that did never have over 50 MW nationwide. So, How can a president dare lie in front of his own people like a crook and expect to be called a leader. To make thinks worse, I thought it was just quick error but he made same mistake in Karuzi province when he mentioned same empty promises about WAGA and NYABIKERE Nickel deposit. They should be strong and tell Burundians why $3 billion contract signed in Toronto , Canada failed due to corruption in presidential office instead of cheating on BARUNDI.

  2. I represent a Collective of Burundians survivors from families victim of the genocide against Hutu in 1972 when, in the spring and summer, the Colonel Michel Micombero Tutsi dominated regime arrested and executed more than 300 000 men, women and children whose only crime was being of the Hutu ethnic group. My dad, my spouse's dad, were both killed in the 1972 Hutu genocide.

    For we members of the Collective of Survivors and Victims of the 1972 Hutu genocide, what is happening in Burundi is a "Deja vu" in 1972.

    The currents reflects in all aspects, the signs of the strategies of lies and manipulation of the national and international public opinion used, that led to genocide against Hutus in 1972. Facts are now that the killings which occurred in 1972, were a horrible culmination of a plan devised by one Colonel Micombero's Minister Mr. Artemon Simbananiye, who was found at every stage of repression against the Hutus. A diabolical plan masterminded in July 1967, to bring the two ethnic groups (Tutsis 15% and Hutus 85%) to equality. Few explanatory lines on the spirit of this plan included but not limited to: willingness to sacrifice some Tutsi members to trigger a Hutu genocide, ensure that foreigners do not find out the action plan and finally suppress all those who might reveal the reality: ministers, priests, students, civil servants, traders etc., (in Le Devoir, Tuesday October 3rd 1972).

    There is a criminal agenda hidden behind the eligibility of President Nkurunziza for a third term. And understanding this hidden agenda of the current crisis helps to figure out what might happen in the scenario that the Tutsi-Hima, now hidden behind the name "Sindumuja" (= I am not a slave [of a Hutu] ) return on power if they have succed in their State coup on May 13 2015. There is a fear that there would be a massive killings of Hutu in order to remain on power for centuries.

    A proof on this can be found in the following comment from Thierry Bihagara responding to Rose Hakizimana from Toronto-Canada regarding an article from the 07 October 2015 wwww. bujumburanews.be: « Qui veut la tête du Général-major Cyrille Ndayirukiye? »

    « Merci Rose Hakizimana pour cette révélation. Uvuze neza ko « Abahutu » ari abo guharirwa ivomo, ko ari ibikoko, uwubabonye wese abavume ati ngaho vya bikoko biryana. Mu bisanzwe kugira dushikire empire hima dutegerezwa kubigenza gurtyo nyene. Abahutu tutabarwanije tugakoresha nubwihevyi nta Mututsi azosubira kuganza ku ngoma y’Uburundi biciye mu matora. Kuko tugumye twemera demokarasi n’amatora, Abahutu bazotwara gushika ku muhero w’isi. Turwanye demokarasi twivuye inyuma, vyanse habe transition duce dusaba igabanganwa ry’ubutegetsi Ku bice 50%, canke habe alternance ku butegets. Ni ukuvuga ko Abahutu batwaye imyaka itanu, bace batubisa, ntitwibagire kandi ko dushikiriwe dutegerezwa gukora ibishoboka vyose, harimwo no guhindagura amategeko kugirango tuzoce tuhaguma kugeza Yezu agaruke. None ko Abahutu bakunda amahera n’igitsina ivyo navyo tukaba tuvyifitiye kandi bakaba bibagira ningoga iyo bahaze, mwumva habuziki kugira tubomore kwisi ko tugira n’imana abazungu bakaba batwemera? Ntidufyinate. Time is now! »

    Thank you Rose Hakizimana for your revelation. That's right that Hutu should be considered as paria and animals , in such way that any body who might cross them shout "look at those dangerous animals".
    In facts, in order to reach the Hima empire, we must proceed that way. If we do not fight the Hutu with courage and sacrifice, no way a Tutsi will return to power in Burundi through democratic elections. And if we accept democracy and elections, Hutu will remain to power until the end of earth.
    Let's then fight democracy with all our strength. And if it doesn't work, we will ask for alternative transition and power sharing in the rate of 50% each group. This means that Hutu will be allowed to run Government for 5 years and then let the next turn to Tutsi. We Tutsi, should not forget to change rules and laws once we get a chance to run the country in a way that we keep power until Jesus' return.
    Since Hutu like money and sex, and we have both, plus the fact that they forget quickly while in wealth, what are we waiting for to make them flee the country (…) And chances are on our side that "white people" trust us more.
    No more time to waste. Time is now.

  3. The thing called "being mixed" or "being of mixed blood", or whatever you name it DOES NOT NECESSARILY MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE when it comes to hatred! Let's face reality and SAY THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE. The youth like yourself is being CRASHED WITHOUT MERCY for thinking differently!

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