Editorial: As East Africa, we must have our priorities right

Himbaza Club from Rwanda at the EAGT competition. / Courtesy

This weekend, Burundi caught the attention of regional and to some extent international media, for what many commentators have come out to state was unnecessary reasons.

Across this country, state-sponsored demonstrations were staged in protest of the participation of drummers in an ongoing regional talent show competition that has attracted artists from East African Community member-states.

The demonstrations were triggered by the fact that some of the participants were nationals Burundi, who are currently refugees in Rwanda.

These refugees fled their home country some three years ago over harassment that was meted out on them.

During the demos, the protestors claim that Rwanda, which gave these neighbors refuge as part of its obligations by international conventions, has high jacked their ‘heritage’ by allowing the refugees to participate in the competition.

These people remain refugees because the conditions for which they fled remain so it is not out of their volition that they live in a refugee camp other than the comfort of the homes they fled.

To set the record straight, the organizers of the show came up to clarify on this, saying that no contestant was sent by any country and that the only criteria were that prospective contestants had to be residents of any of the four regional countries – Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Simply put, these refugees, when they saw a call for entries, applied and clearly identified themselves complete with their country of origin, an identity they have maintained throughout their performances.

For a country that was earlier this month on the spot for having the highest malaria incidence – with at least 50 percent of its population affected by malaria, one would assume this would be the priority other than the charade we saw this weekend.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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