Rome wasn’t built in a day

I sometimes wonder if I lose some of you (if not many), when I include a Bible verse in my posts. I really don’t do it with an intention to preach or prove anything to you; I just use the verse as a reference, as I would use a quote by a celebrity or something. Certainly a reference from a source that I personally believe in and give a huge place in my life; but at the end of the day, the things I write about make sense (I hope), whether you believe in the Bible or not. Anyway, all this to say that I’m about to share a Bible verse, but would like you not to run away without reading what will come after it. Thank you.

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to theLord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares theLord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29: 4-11 NIV)

I was talking about Burundi the other day, with some friends… Talking about how we can get out of this crisis we’re in, how we’re going to go back come to “rebuild” the country… Anyway… We talked and talked and talked, but some questions kept coming back: rebuild what? Rebuild how? What do we actually want? What is the Burundi we would like to see, beyond Nkurunziza, the crisis, and everything that is wrong right now? How and when can we achieve it? Can we?

Burundi is sick, and Nkurunziza, the CNDD-FDD, Imbonerakure, and whoever we like to blame for what’s happening today, are just symptoms of the disease, despite the publicity (and the power that comes with it) we’ve given them. Burundi has been sick for a long time; longer than most of us have probably been alive (more than half of the Burundian population is below the age of 30). If you ask me what kind of Burundi I want to see, I’ll tell you that it’s not a Burundi with band-aids to cover up its wounds, like the one we’ve had for years. I want to see a disease-free Burundi.

When I look at the crisis today, I cannot help but realise that the people who claim they’re fighting for a solution (the opposition and the “frondeurs”) are actually part of the problem. I’m not trying to blame anybody here, I’m just trying to look at the bigger picture in which, I could actually be a problem too. Besides, I’m very aware that there are needs that are more urgent than others – innocent people are dying everyday, the economy has collapsed, and the moral of the people (including those who “silently” spend their days blaming the World for our home-grown incompetence) is hanging on a thread. These are short-term issues that need to be addressed now, regardless of who takes the lead.

When I look at the long-term vision however, I cannot help but realise that we are very, very far from where we want to be… Well, nobody died and made me anybody’s spokesperson, so let me say, where I would like us to be.
However, I believe that a long-term vision (often) requires the attainment of some short-term objectives; which takes me back to the need to address the urgent issues. We have to start from somewhere, and right now, we’re not really anywhere.

When I left Burundi in a haste in May last year, my host in Kigali, a relative, said to me: when Abanyarwanda fled Rwanda in 1959, they thought it would just be a matter of weeks before they could return home. They returned in 1994. I wanted to tell him, Mbe wasaze?! Are you trying to tell me this will go on for 35 years? But I didn’t, because a part of me knew he was speaking sense, although another part of me wanted him to be wrong.
I’ll be 64 in 35 years; older than my father is today. Paul Kagame, the man who is praised to have liberated Rwanda and taken it to where it is today was two years old in 1959.

I hope that by now you understand why I shared the Bible verse (that is, if you read it). I know to some I may sound like I resigned myself to the situation, but it’s far from that. In fact, I think I’m finally starting to see the light.

Let me say this a third time: some issues need to be addressed today! We can’t just sit and let people keep on being terrorised, and kidnapped, and tortured, and killed. There are thousands of refugees who are dying of hunger and diseases and depression in refugee camps. To me, these are the most pressing issues that need solutions right now, and there are many different ways they can be addressed, with or without Nkurunziza.
We must however ask ourselves: even if Nkurunziza and his clique were to be removed today (by the right people and in the best possible way), how long would it take before we can finally see a Burundi we can be proud of again? And what’s it going to take?
Let me take you back to Rwanda: 1994 was 22 years ago. Rome, or Rwanda, or any other place on earth, weren’t built in a day. Burundi isn’t going to be the exception.
Now, last question: if Nkurunziza and his clique are to be kicked out, whether to resolve the short-term issues, achieve the long-term vision, or both, who are going to replace them and what assurance do we have that they won’t be just as bad, or worse? Is there a plan? Does it include the current situation of I don’t know how many “rebel” groups, objectives and modus operandi of which nobody seems to know and assume? Just asking.

Those of you who are familiar with the (Bible) story of Israel’s captivity in Babylon know that the Israelites didn’t just sit there and be miserable. They settled down and went on with their lives. They prospered (financial freedom and power). Some, like Daniel, went as far as becoming leaders in the land where they were held captive (diplomatic power). But they didn’t forget about home. I like to think that while they were waiting for the right time to return to Israel (70 years, ibaze nawe!), they were planning, saving, preparing themselves to take back their land…

I hope you can read between the lines…

Whenever I think and talk about Burundi, there’s just one thing that always breaks my heart: why does my generation have to go through this sh*t, when the real cure could have been found and administered much earlier? Sigh. Anyway, I pray we won’t have to wait 35 (or 70) years to see the Burundi we want to see, although I’m personally prepared to work for however long it may take to get us out of this mess once and for all. Are you?

God be with us.

By Karl-Chris R. Nsabiyumva. Check out his blog:, and follow him on Twitter: @Mr_Burundi.

(Image source:

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