Nadine Ndayizeye, program coordinator for IPB/HROC Burundi with three young people from the Batwa community at a workshop for vulnerable youth in Kibimba.
Introduction: What are the implications two decades after deadly violence has ended? The media and individuals are highly concerned to end the violence when it is happening, but then they move on to other crises and ignore the long term results of that violence. This Report shows the effects that the violence in Burundi from 1993 to 1997 had on very small children, even babies, and how their lives have been negatively affected as they grew up.
Innovations in Peacebuilding-Burundi’s Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) program has conducted a series of HROC workshops for “vulnerable youth”; those who were negatively affected by the violent events two decades ago. The following testimonies were recorded by Nadine Ndayizeye, IPB’s HROC Program Coordinator.
In 1972, during the first major round of violence in Burundi, approximately 5% of the Burundian population was killed and another 10% fled the country becoming refugees. The second round of deadly violence happened from 1993 to 2005, and particularly from 1993 to 1996, with another 5% of the population was killed and 10% fled as refugees. A third round of violence began in 2015 and, while a small number of people have been killed so far, another 3% of the population has fled the country. These are the cycles of violence, well known among peacemaking practitioners. Therefore those who were very young in 1993 to 1996 are now experiencing their second round of violence. These testimonies from vulnerable youth in Burundi illustrate how difficult it was for them growing up. These are the long-term consequences of violence which are seldom explored.
Kibimba workshops: Kibimba is 50 miles upcountry from the capitol of Bujumbura and was the original mission station for the Burundian Quakers in 1934:
Note: The Batwa are a discriminated minority of about 1% of the population in Burundi. In earlier days they were hunter-gatherers and recognized for their hunting abilities. Now with wild animals gone, they are a poverty-stricken minority.
Emmanuel from the Batwa community:
When the crisis of 1993 began I was a small boy and watched whatever happened. I remember that the Batwa community included people involved in killings at a high level in my community. They had spears, knifes, clubs and all materials to kill animals and people. Another thing which I remember is that there were other people [i.e. Hutu] who ordered them what to do. I was very small but I remember all this. We also suffered when soldiers [i.e. Tutsi] killed people.
Unfortunately the majority of Batwa who participated in killings have died. If they had gotten the chance to be trained in HROC before the war, the situation wouldn’t have been like it was during the crisis. What is my wish now is to train Batwa in HROC as you do other people since Batwa are among people who are easily corrupted because of their poverty. According to me, I promise to share with others what I have learned here.
Trust walk with vulnerable youth.
Bélard, a Tutsi living in an internally displaced persons’ camp up-country:
I was born here in Giheta Commune. But because of the crisis of 1993, I was obliged to continue my life living in Bujumbura. In 1993 my father was killed. I was about one and half years old when we fled from my locality to Kibimba center. As my mother told me, I was ill because of the bad life we had. My mother alone by herself was unable to support all my older brothers and sisters and then I was sent to my mother’s sister who lived in Bujumbura. As I was still breast-feeding, I was obliged to abandon the breast by force to live with my aunt. I was very happy in my new family and thought that they were my real parents. As a small kid I noticed something peculiar. Every holiday period I was sent alone to visit my family up country. However, when I was almost eleven years old, I was finally informed that my real mother is the one who is living up country. When I learned this, I automatically and involuntary changed my manner of life. I began to analyze all my aunt’s actions and she automatically became my enemy. I enumerated all things she did to me, especially when she punished me, and inventoried many unjust things she did to me. Then I concluded that she did all this because she was not my mother. Since that time I begun to isolate myself and not share food with other children on the same table.
I am glad to attend this workshop now. It comes at the opportune time. I am preparing to begin my university studies. Because of this teaching I have hope that it will be a basis to help me in orientation of my life and to manage my relationship with my two families. For example, when you were teaching us about the stages of grief, I realized my emotional state of mind. In summary, this workshop is among things which will help me to prepare my future and to build trust in my two families and wherever I will be.
Note: This next testimony illustrates how the consequences of the 1993 violence affected a person during the 2015 violence leading them to become a possible recruit for the rebel army. This is a concrete example of the cycle of violence.
Anonymous, Tutsi member of a political party, probably tortured while jailed during the current crisis:
Both my parents died during the war in 1993. I am the only child in my family. Some people of my locality decided to educate me. But when I reached the age to begin the studies in primary school, they refused to let me go to school. When I was eight years old, someone who said that he was my uncle came to take me to Bujumbura. But, in reality, the news said that he was my real father because my mother has contracted her marriage while pregnant. When I arrived in that new family, that man loved me but his wife didn’t support my presence in their house. I decided to leave there. As the situation continued that way, that man who was supposed to be my father looked for another place in a Catholic boarding school at Giheta and he was ready to support all my needs. Unfortunately, he has also died being killed two years later in the Bujumbura crisis of 1997.
Since that time I was obliged to abandon completely my studies and live without a home. During the current demonstrations, I was in Bujumbura and I tried to look for how I can live day by day, but in vain. Before coming back here [up-country], I was captured and jailed and only God has intervened to help me to leave that place. Now I have many plans and only God will know my end. Nowadays, I am hearing that there is a group of people who are collecting young people saying that they will train them to become soldiers [i.e. rebels] in Cibitoke Province. I don’t know if that is truth or not. I had planned to rejoin them. But because of this workshop, I will take another time to thinking about what I can do. God only knows what will be my future.
Note: This testimony indicates the problems of someone who was a refugee in Tanzania and then returned “home” after his parents died.
Ferdinand, a returnee from a Tanzanian refugee camp:
I was born here in Kibimba. The crisis of 1993 began when I was a small baby. My parents decided to flee to Tanzania where I grew up. But, after a certain time, my parents died and I became the person responsible for my family. I was also the one to educate my younger brothers and sisters. Life in a refugee camp is normally difficult to manage. For us, the situation was complicated when we became orphans. Neither I nor my brothers and sisters had any news about where we came from. We knew only that we were Burundians from Kibimba. At that time there was a plan for all refugees to go back to Burundi. As I had someone who accepted to take care of my brothers and sisters, I also decided to come back to Burundi to verify how the security situation was in general. Even when I decided to return to Burundi, I had no hope to find the place where I had come from. The only address I gave to UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] workers was that I had come from the Kibimba area. Glory is to the Lord because, when I arrived at Kibimba, the first person I contacted when I tried to introduce myself was a direct member of my family. She welcomed me very well and this was the first thing which contributed to reduce my stress. I remain in this same family until now and all my brothers and sisters are with me now. The main problem we have is the conflict based on land. Some of my uncles were not happy to hear that we were still alive. We remain in conflict because every day they wish to appropriate our lands as they spent many years without seeing us.
This workshop is very beneficial for me. If I analyze the kind of conflicts in my family because of land, there is a probability one day of killing one another. I hope that the methodology of listening and many exercises based on love, tolerance in addition to the lesson about building trust and the positive ways to manage anger, will help me to create a way of reconciliation. I have hope that this workshop is not the last because the other thing which will make me happy will be to see my uncles and one of my young brothers to participate in this kind of workshop.
The assigned room for the Buterere workshops was used by others so the workshop met outdoors under a tree.
In my locality, many people were killed by rebels. My mother has also died in the same way. It was in 2002 when my family was attacked by a group of killers. My mother after being raped was the first to be killed and my father was seriously hurt. This has affected all my life because the killers did whatever they wanted including stealing all the money that my parents had. Moreover my mother died when she was breast–feeding a small baby of only two months. And then, as I was the oldest child in my family, I was obliged to abandon my studies to take care of both my father and the baby. Unfortunately, my father has finally died. But now, even if I have suffered, I am happy when I see my young brother who was a small baby when my mother died. He looks like my mother and this consoles my heart.
My mother’s death is until now the source of all my sufferings. It was in 1997 when soldiers with a group of young people entered in our house during the night. They killed all the people who were there including my mother. As my father had not yet arrived at home he is the only man in my family not killed that night. A few years after this my father married another woman. Now I am suffering because of my mother’s absence. My step-mother maltreats us and because of that life, I have no hope for my future life.
Now I say thank you because of these teachings. If I analyze what happened in my family and my locality, I understand now why people have changed their behavior. On my side, I will try to change my manner in how I react to my step-mother. I realize now that my behavior contributed to disrupt the security in my family because of my stage of grief. Then I myself will create the way of reconciliation in my family.
Note: One of the largest massacres during 1993 was when Hutu herded Tutsi from Kibimba into a building at the gas station on the main road and set it on fire. Over sixty Tutsi were burned to death.
Dorine, a Tutsi from Kiyange IDP Camp and a native of Kibimba:
I was a small baby in 1993 when my father and my three uncles died. To grow up without a father or an uncle has touched my heart. As in our culture all boys build their houses around the family’s propriety, the family remained with only widows and they were obliged to flee from that place. When I began my primary school I didn’t understand when my classmates said something about their fathers. And every day when I came back home I used to ask my mother why I don’t have a father; but she didn’t answer me. One day I asked her with crying. In the place of answering me, she beat me very seriously and we all cried. When my grandmother asked us what happened, I said loudly that I wanted to know where my father was. She took me to her house and I spent all the night there. It was after our dinner, when she told to me the story about President Ndadaye’s death and that my father and all my uncles had been burned by Hutu during the crisis in Kibimba. I then grew up with hatred and division in my heart. I really manifested many symptoms of trauma. Nowadays I have developed a kind of sadistic attitude. It means that I am happy when I watch people suffering. During demonstrations period, for me it was like a cinema.
I am glad to have this opportunity to be trained in this program. I have gotten the time to analyze all of my life. I have also understood why my mother has beaten me when I asked her to know where my father was. She was also traumatized. When we learnt about the stages of grief, I have realized my level of grief and I have hope that this training will contribute to change many things in my life and my families
Jules, Hutu member of a political coalition:
The one thing I can say is that since my daddy‘s death I never spent the night in the same house with my mother; but don’t ask me why. As you see me, I have watched too many things. Many of you who were here in Bujumbura know what happened three years after the President Melchior Ndadaye’s death. I was a very small child when I began to live with a group of rebels. I lived with them around seven years. I watched all bad things done during that horrible life and sometimes I was involved myself. I can say more, but as you know, we don’t all have the same vision of things. If all Burundians have been trained in this program, perhaps things could change. All of us remember what happened here during demonstrations. But young boys and girls destroyed themselves. Sometimes I take time and establish what will be the level of my studies if I didn’t abandon them. This makes me angry and all people I meet become my enemy.
I say thank you because this is my first time to share things like this to everyone. I have hope that because of this workshop I will have another orientation to life.
Note: If you would like to contribute to more HROC workshops for vulnerable youth in Burundi which cost about $300 each for three days for 20 youth, please send a check made out to “African Great Lakes Initiative” with memo of “IPB/HROC-Burundi Vulnerable Youth” and mail it to Friends Peace Teams, 1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104. Thanks.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues with his peacemaking work in East Africa. He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. He is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783 in US: 301/765-4098
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com