I am NOT a patriot!

By Karl-Chris R. Nsabiyumva

A Patriot is…

  • A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors (oxforddictionaries.com)
  • A person who vigorously supports his country and its way of life (dictionary.com)
  • Originally, a patriot was someone who loves their country and supports it, but won’t blindly follow whatever their country’s government does. These days, it is synonymous with Nationalist, which is someone who blindly follows whatever his country’s government does, and lacks his own ability to think and reason for himself. (urbandictionary.com)
  • A U.S. Army antiaircraft missile launched from a tracked vehicle with radar and computer guidance. (thefreedictionary.com)

Well, I think it’s quite clear by now that I’m not a U.S. army antiaircraft missile…

… But most importantly, I DO NOT “vigorously support my country and its way of life”. God knows how I spend half my days irritated and complaining about things and people here… when it’s not about the bad driving, it’s about the poor service, the corrupt behaviours, the uninformed rumours, the slow administration or the excessive ignorance that some people so willingly share online. No, this country isn’t paradise… it isn’t a land of “honey and milk” like some people call it (no but have you checked the prices of honey and milk lately?!)… And the friendliness of my people could be a little bit overrated… I’m just saying…

… But this country isn’t hell either. It isn’t the worse in the World. If it were, I wouldn’t be living here (oh yes, I have the choice; and so do you, I think). And there are many people who wouldn’t be living here either. This country is my home and that’s the reason why I love it. You know how people say that ‘you cannot choose your family’? Well I believe you can’t choose your home either. Your country (of residence) and your home may be two different places, but no matter how bad it is, there is always that special and weird kind of love you have for home… You know, like that kind of love where you keep asking yourself why you’re so attached to somebody who does everything to drive you away… like in that Rihanna and Eminem song… I think that kind of relationship is unhealthy by the way; if anything I would advise anybody against it… but hey, don’t they say “it’s easier said than done”?

I have lived in two different countries in my life… other than Burundi. And regardless of how comfortable my lifestyle was in both of them, I never felt at home…

First of all, I was always the “kid from somewhere else”… In my experience, nothing makes you feel less at home than being called a foreigner… or feeling like one for that matter (a feeling that I’ve had in Burundi as well!)… And I wasn’t from any country; I was from Burundi! *sigh* Half of the time, nobody knew where this was (even the Africans, mind you!) and when they did they only associated it to bad things… You can imagine my frustration…

Imagine my frustration when people thought I was royalty, or a kid of some kind of corrupt politician or businessman, simply because they had never met another Burundian before… They’d be like “if you’re here, you’ve got to be special… how can you afford this (life, school, etc.) when the rest of your people are dying of war and hunger?!”… I’d be like WT*?! If they only knew I’m not anywhere close to being rich or famous as N… … Dammit… Bref!

Second, this country represents everything that I am… my name, my language, my history, my culture, some, if not most of my beliefs… almost all my family live here… I am from here… This place is my identity! I have to be here to feel complete, if that makes sense…

.. So don’t mistake my egocentrism for patriotism when I go HAM against reporters who claim that Burundi is a “Mandazi Economy”, or that it needs a sex scandal to be noticed (no harder feelings Obbo, if you ever read this!). My outrage and some of my actions are only justified by the fact that MY IDENTITY is being attacked. It’s not an act of patriotism when I start websites, blogs and Facebook pages to showcase the beauty and talent that characterise Burundi and Burundians… it’s simply because I’m tired of people not knowing all the good things that can be associated with MY IDENTITY! It’s not because I’m “so in love” with the people here and the geographical features that I do whatever I can, every single day, to see if Burundi can move forward… I just want it to look good, which will make me look good too. I’m sorry, but everything I do is out of pure selfishness…

I used to ask my Burundian friends if, had they given the chance by God, if they would have chosen to be born in another country other than Burundi. I’ll spare you the details about the answers that I got and my answer (trying not to hurt the “true patriots” here), but I would just like to say that there are quite a few countries out there where there is more ‘justice’, where everybody can live on more than one dollar a day (since that seems to be the ‘norm’) and whose citizens aren’t despised or pitied by other peoples of the World… Don’t you think you would have chosen to be born there? I don’t know, maybe not…

Anyway, there are no “ifs” in life… My home is Burundi, so instead of daydreaming it’s better to accept the situation I’m in and deal with it. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, for as long as I can remember…

It’s funny how some people here can be so hypocritical though. One time you hear them celebrating when some preacher “declares” prosperity upon this country; and another time you hear them shouting loud Amens when some other preacher says that ‘God shall open doors and they shall get visas to go live in Europe and America!’… I’m like WHAT?! That’s when you haven’t seen a corrupt government official chanting songs to praise Burundi, to demonstrate his so-called ‘patriotism’ – SMH.

At least I’m honest with my feelings hey! At least I’m clear I’m just obsessed with my image. Hear me well, I not ashamed of my family, my friends or my country… I’m just not going to pretend that the latter is the “best in the World” (the former are, definitely!). It is not, but something inside me says it can be… Maybe if all Burundians were as optmistic and narcissistic as me, the job would be so much easier… But well, I’m here and I’ll continue doing what I do best. My mama told me it’s pointless to complain about something if you’re not providing any solutions… So I’m here, trying to fix things; trying to clean MY IDENTITY. And then there’s the love I have for this place… the not-so-healthy love I was telling you about earlier that sometimes makes you do things that you may regret later at some point in your life. Eish! *SMH* God, please don’t let me regret this!

Meanwhile, I don’t think I’m a patriot…

Thank you!

Karl-Chris lives and works in Bujumbura. Follow him at misterburundi.wordpress.com and on Twitter: @Mr_Burundi

6 thoughts on “I am NOT a patriot!

  1. My only dilemma is that I am not sure of what patriotism to live up to! Born from a Congolese father with a congolese name up to 5 years old, then raised by a Burundian step-father in the very interior of Burundi nkahabwa indero ndundi (pas de regret)with all that goes with change of name, culture, language in brief, whole identity…, then growing up in the West years later acquiring a western country identity, ctizenship…it gets complicated! Among Burundians, uwombwiye ko ndumurundi kandi nkunda uburundi kurusha vyose hama nkamubwira ko nyamara mon pere etait Congolais, ntasubira kwemera ko ndumurundi, I become the other….those Congolese…canke wamuzairwa!…when i meet Congolese and tell them that I have Congolese roots but was raised by a Burundians dad…une etiquette est fabriquee ad hoc…un autre qui veut se faire passer a un Congolais alors qu il ne l est pas…(Mon accent etant prononcement Burundais) et quand je parle a un ressortissant du pays de ma residence…I get the….”the guy from africa” despite that I have citizenship. Still I love Burundi despite that it refers me as wamuzairwa!


  2. Pingback: If I were the Minister of Tourism | This Burundian Life

  3. Karl-Chris, I enjoyed reading your blogs and those posted by your fellow writers; but I especially enjoyed the above blog because of its honesty and authenticity. It was almost palpable. As fellow writer, I would say that I felt your voice emerge. Keep it up! As for the rest of the stories posted on this blog, I command all of you for your courage, energy and for choosing to be part of the solution.


    • Thank you very much. I appreciate your comment and I’m sure the others do as well. Let me seize this opportunity to invite you to “join the club”; I’m sure you have interesting stories to share 🙂


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