Looks like our ‘brother and colleague’ from down south, just across the border, is in a spot of trouble. It’s not that it is visiting him for the first time, no; it’s ostensibly been his constant companion. It’s that this time it’d seem the trouble is much deeper than before.
President Pierre Nkurunziza, the self-same neighbour of whom we talk, used to ride roughshod through whatever spot of bother gnawed at him and have time for a cheer.
Woe is me, that’s no more. He is no longer his jolly jumping and screaming, fiercely-pious pastor-president self of old. The full-time tracksuit-wearer; kick-but-never-be-kicked footballer; happy-go-lucky handlebars-free-and-waving bicycle-rider; passionate avocado-worshiper; avid crop-seed-planter; caring house-helper decorator; good-hearted lauder of his wife for often easing her baby from back to yank out a breast to stuff in its mouth, in public.
He was many triflingly joyous things. But today, it’d seem he is a bundle of mournfulness that hardly ever shows in public. It’s rare to see him outside the confinement of his hideout.
Pierre seems to be seized in a nightmare-filled stranglehold. And in those nightmarish moments, he is always rocked by visions of Rwanda as the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, according to his myriad mouthpieces.
So when last week a contingent of his troops were attacked and thoroughly whipped in the northern region of Cibitoke, near the border with Rwanda, the muddled mouthpieces cried “Rwanda!”
Not that any of them had cared to investigate, no sir. The attack was summarily blamed on Rwanda and to hell with knowing the truth of what exactly had happened.
Yet reports had it that villagers of the area had observed massive movements of government soldiers from the capital, Bujumbura, massing in the area. Which meant that they were readying for an attack on either their rebels or Rwanda.
But soon after, the doubt was cleared when a rebel group by the names of Red Tabara claimed responsibility. So, they had been planning an attack on these rebels, apparently.
Rwandans have an apt good old, time-tested adage for this absurdity: Ntugatinye ikikwirukaho, ujye utinya ikikwirukamo. In crude transliteration: Before blaming your ills on anybody, first study the state of your inner self.
And, indeed, hardly had a day passed than the rebels reportedly struck again.
At 03 hours in the morning, a group of rebels attacked a heavily equipped military garrison in the southern province of Rumonge. They easily brushed off any response and captured all the military hardware and supplies, then melted back into darkness. Taking with them government soldiers who opted to freely join them and help carry the loot!
A few days after, it was the turn of Bujumbura Rural at 03 hours again. This was in the outskirts of Bujumbura, where Red Tabara rebels are said to have killed or captured government soldiers by their hundreds. The rebels are reported to have gone off with their loot of man and material, singing triumphantly that it was a matter of days before Bujumbura city fell in their hands.
And this trend seems not to let up.
Two days ago, always at 03 hours in the morning, the rebels are reported to have hit Bubanza, again in Cibitoke. And again, there was no resistance and they went off with whatever was there, man or material. The same wee hours of the morning of the same day, in Bujumbura Rural it was a repeat story of the earlier attack, with similar results.
For the sundry spokespersons that are their illusive boss’ tongue, mum’s the word. If they were to talk, would they repeat the disgrace of blaming Rwanda? Even if her soldiers were phantoms, they wouldn’t be capable of the feat of being everywhere on foreign territory at the same time!
As for the government army, rather than face off with these rebels, reports filtering out are that it has decided to purge itself of likely traitors and those likely to collaborate with rebels.
So, the same day, two days ago, it’s said to have caught and killed more than 28 of its own, suspected to be intending to join Red Tabara. Meanwhile, many dead bodies of government soldiers, on similar suspicions, are said to have been seen floating on River Rusizi.
Tell me, at this rate are we going to have a national army for this sorry country, Burundi?
Our ‘brother and colleague’, why choose belligerence over collaboration for a neighbour who once, before you turned rogue, was happy to help you out with payment of the East African Community membership fees? Without forgetting about helping you out when a fire was gutting part of your capital city?
Knowing how this neighbour, Rwanda, is strongly and effectively averse to any group that goes against the grain of constitutional order, wouldn’t it be the same today, with helping you to get rid of these rebels, lift your people out of poverty and live in harmony with them?
Well, Pierre, you chose a thorny bed and must therefore lie in it.
For I don’t see you regaining your jolly jumping and pious-presidential cheer any time soon.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.