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Don’t Despise ‘Sumbiligi’, They Are Edible And Cure Malnutrition




Five years ago Nicole Iradukunda was aged 5, her health had been deteriorating over a long period but her parents didn’t understand why. They live in Kimihurura a suburb just a stone throw away from Kigali city centre.

Her mother Priscille Bihoyiki couldn’t bear the daughters plight and decided to take her to a nearby AVEGA clinic and sought the doctor’s advice.

The doctor collected samples of saliva, urine and blood from Iradukunda and took them for screening. She was diagnosed with Kwashiorkor disease – a form of malnutrition that occurs when there is not enough protein in the diet.

By standards, Iradukunda’s parents are poor. Her mother told the doctor that they could not afford to provide their sick daughter with a balanced diet because it was expensive to buy the prescribed foods.

However, the doctor had another alternative. He advised Bihoyiki to at least find Guinea Pigs saying they are cheaper to buy and rear at home but also very rich in proteins.

Bihoyiki returned home with her daughter after meeting with the doctor and later informed her husband Jean Bosco Ndinzemenshi.

Ndinzemenshi thought very hard about where to find a Guinea pig. Since the 80’s Guinea Pigs have been reared in Rwandan homes until after the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994, these beautiful rodents are very scarce; they are locally known as Sumbiligi.

He remembered that one of his friends in Musanze district in the Northern Province was rearing these rodents and the following day he boarded a bus for a three hour journey.

By luck, Ndinzemenshi found that his friend was still rearing Guinea Pigs; “I bought one gestating female for Rwf500 and returned home. When my wife first saw it, she did not believe it would cure their daughter. She had never seen or eaten this rodent.”

He told Taarifa that a few days later the Guinea pig gave birth to 12 puppies including 9 females and three males but his wife always disregarded the guinea pigs which according to her looked like giant rats.

He says that his wife gradually changed her mind and the contempt against guinea pigs vanished when she found out about the healing power in these animals’ flesh and blood.

Priscille Bihoyiki was advised to feed her daughter on Guinea Pig meat and soup that is rich in proteins. This would held her daughter recover from Malnutrition

Everyday, Neighbours pass by to have a glimpse of Guinea Pigs and learn how they are fed. Many times they ask some questions and Iradukunda’s parents keep explaining the benefits of rearing ‘Sumbiligi’

Ndinzemenshi would slaughter one and his wife would cook the meat for Iradukunda to help her recover. “She really enjoyed the food” until they noticed that was gaining weight.

They continued feeding Iradukunda on Guinea Pig meat until she completely recovered from kwashiorkor and began playing with other children in the neighbourhood.

Bihoyiki and her husband did not keep the secret to themselves. They even gave some guinea pigs to neighbours and friends who had children suffering from malnutrition.

Because of the importance of guinea pigs in improving nutrition, local leaders and community health counsellors in the neighbourhood recommended other households to come and buy one guinea pig from the family.

The family advises anyone who despises these rodents or feel shy about breeding them to start raring some because apart from their meat, guinea pigs provide high quality manure.

Now they have 20 guinea pigs but because they reproduce very quickly, they hope that in the next two years they will have tripled.

Iradukunda’s family has improvised a small room where Guinea Pigs are being reared . Currently they have 20 but expect to triple the number in the next two years

Guniea Pigs [Sumbiligi] feed mostly on grass and various types of leaves. They are highly rich in proteins and multiply quickly

Quick facts about Guinea Pigs 

The guinea pig was first domesticated as early as 5000 BC for food by tribes in the Andean region of South America.

How these animals came to be called “pigs” is not clear. They are built somewhat like pigs, with large heads relative to their bodies, stout necks, and rounded rumps with no tail of any consequence; some of the sounds they emit are similar to those made by pigs, and they also spend a large amount of time eating.

Guinea pigs are large for rodents, weighing between 700 and 1,200 g and measuring between 20 and 25 cm in length.

They typically live an average of 4 to 5 years, but may live as long as 8 years. According to the 2006 Guinness World Records, the longest living guinea pig survived 14 years, 10.5 months.

The guinea pig natural diet is grass

Guinea pigs are good swimmers.


Editors Note: Article was first published February 14, 2018

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Special Report

PART II: Why Is Uganda Provocative, Disrespectful?



This is our second article in the series expounding on the historical and current dynamics that are relevant to the frosty relationship between Rwanda and Uganda.

Intimately, we are recollecting moments that help us to expose President Yoweri Museveni’s hostility against Rwanda. In this piece, we focus on what transpired in the early 90s. We pick key and strong instances that shade light on how Museveni’s behavior has been consistent despite the fact that the two countries have shared social-political milieu with varying degrees of interludes.

Shortly after the liberation struggle to stop the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, regional countries had become home to thousands of Rwandan refugees, particularly elements of the Habayarimana regime that had participated in the genocide.

The largest majority had established themselves in the jungles of DR Congo (Zaire). The Kinshasa government had also gradually lost its grip on management of the state, creating a conducive environment for the Interahamwe to mobilise, organise and return to Rwanda and complete their mission of exterminating the Tutsis.

Meanwhile, Congolese Political and armed groups, too, were battling for control.

Kisangani wars

In view of security concerns, Rwanda deployed in DRC to flush out genocidaires who had established themselves in military and refugee camps along the DRC common border with Rwanda, ready to strike and accomplish their mission to exterminate the Tutisi.

This was in late 1996 when they fought alongside Laurent Desire Kabira’s side of Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo to overthrow Mobutu.

The establishment in Kigali wouldn’t sit idly and wait for trouble to spread back home. They had identified the right group to give support.

Meanwhile, the RPA was receiving accolades from the world over for winning battles yet Museveni regarded them as “boys” he trained.

It is said that when Rwandan fighters were advancing towards Kinshasa, Museveni asked Kigali that his brother, Gen Salim Saleh to command the final assault and capture Kinshasa, the capital city of DRC.

This sent a bad taste to the Rwandans. Museveni’s audacity was unbearable. His arrogant and disrespectful demand was decline. He proceeded, nevertheless, up to Kisangani during what is known as Congo II.

During Congo II, Museveni struggled to justify deployment of his troops in DRC, but he proceeded and up Kisangani which had been liberated by Rwandan troops (RPA).

Ironically, Museveni insisted that RPA withdraws from Kisangani and allow Ugandan troops to occupy it, which Rwanda refused. Apparently, Museveni’s plan was to establish a break-away faction from RCD led by Wamba Dia Wamba.

In August 1999, on a Saturday morning, fighting broke out between Ugandan and Rwandan forces.

Ugandan army forces backed the Kisangani-based faction of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD-Kisangani) and the Rwandan forces backed mainstream RCD-Goma.

The fighting broke out – with clashes for control of the city centre and one of two airports – after RCD-Goma had disrupted a “tour of explanation” around Kisangani to brief the public on the Lusaka agreement, according to RCD-Kisangani Spokesman, Sessanga Ipongo.

In this gun battle, Uganda was defeated.  For Museveni, the defeat was painful. He kept looking for a chance to vet his anger on Rwandans. He engaged his commanders in Kisangani to secretly create room for another clash against the Rwandans. The two sides clashed three times, including in May and June 2000. Ugandan troops were walloped again almost to a total inhalation.

Notably, on June 5, 2000, heavy gun fire was heard blaring into the skies between the two sides.

Uganda provoked Rwandans by shelling their positions in Kisangani in mid-morning on June 5 and lied that its forces had simply responded to an attack on one of its army vehicles. The shelling was followed by a ground attack.

In response to Ugandan provocation and arrogance, the well-organised and commanded Rwandan troops counterattacked UPDF in a fierce seven-hour battle that ended a week of terrifying, indiscriminate shelling. Uganda suffered heavy losses that Museveni has never forgotten until today.

A few remaining Ugandan fighters almost ran into Congo River before Rwandan commanders voluntarily ceased fire.

Museveni is said to have pleaded for mercy with Rwandan authorities as the fighting ensued. .

According to witnesses at that time, bullet-riddled bodies of over 2000 Ugandan soldiers lay strewn along the gravel road that leads to the bridge where Rwandan troops halted the Ugandan push into the Congo River port city. The stench of death was everywhere, and there was no water, electricity, food or medicine.

Meanwhile, Museveni was humiliated when he learnt that dozens of his fighters were being held by Rwandan fighters as prisoners of war. He openly denied it. When Rwandan repatriated the prisoners of war, Museveni welcomed them as heroes.

It was reported then that the prisoners were being held at a military camp in the central prefecture of Gitarama. “Ugandan authorities should stop to posture by denying that we don’t have their prisoners. It is normal to take prisoners in any war,” Rwandan government Spokesman then, Joseph Bideri said. “As a matter of fact, the army leadership in Uganda is negotiating their release with the military authorities here,” he was quoted as saying. Read: (

Back in DRC, unarmed UN observers were in place to monitor the cease-fire called by Ugandan forces. The UN raised its flag and declared that any further fighting would be considered an act of aggression against the international community.

At that time, Rwandan soldiers had captured tons of ammunition, guns and an anti-aircraft battery left behind by the Ugandans.

“I am not proud of this,” a Rwandan commander said then. “But we were fired at. We won because our soldiers know what they are fighting for. We are now leaving Kisangani regardless of Ugandan intentions.” The fighting ended.

This was another loss for Museveni which added more salt to injury. Museveni has never forgiven Rwanda for this. Ominous as he is, Museveni has never buried the hatchet.  His hatred and bitterness against Rwanda are alive and kicking.

Our next article will be published on Monday.

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Special Report

Rare Peep Into Espionage Fights Of Rival Koreas



Song Chun-son, a duck farm worker, endured two and a half years in a North Korean labour camp and said she was later coerced to work for its secret police, the Ministry of State Security. Then she defected to South Korea in 2018. She studied to become a caretaker for nursing home patients while working part time as a waitress.

That was until South Korean counterintelligence officers caught up with the details of her past in North Korea, where they said she had been involved in the effort to lure or blackmail North Korean defectors in the South into coming back to the North.

Ms. Song, 44, said she had no choice but to do what the North Korean spy agency asked her to do while she was living there and that she was unaware of being part of a coordinated scheme. Still, South Korean officials arrested her in May on charges of helping the North’s Ministry of State Security. Her case has since provided rare glimpses into the clandestine battle the rival Koreas have waged over North Korean defectors living in the South.

Under its leader, Kim Jong-un, North Korea has plotted to bring North Korean defectors in the South back to their former homeland using whatever means it could, including recruiting people like Ms. Song. But the South’s counterespionage authorities are equally determined to thwart the North’s operation, carefully screening newly arriving defectors from the North, like Ms. Song, to catch anyone linked to its efforts.

On Tuesday, a court in Suwon, south of Seoul, sentenced Ms. Song to three years in prison. Instead of enjoying her new freedom, she finds herself sitting in a prison cell in the South, having become a pawn in the cloak-and-dagger war between her old and new home countries.

“When I came to South Korea, I confessed to what I did in the North to make a fresh start in the South,” Ms. Song said in an August letter she sent from jail to her sister, also a North Korean defector in the South. “I was coerced to do what I did — but they say that doesn’t erase the crime.”

A photograph of Song Chun-son, who is in prison on espionage charges, is displayed by her sister, Song Chun-nyo, on her smartphone in Seoul on Nov. 16, 2021. The case offers a rare look at the covert battle the rival Koreas are waging over North Korean defectors living in the South.

More than 33,800 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the 1990s. But since Mr. Kim took power a decade ago, at least 28 of them have mysteriously resurfaced in North Korea. How and why they went back to the totalitarian state they had risked their lives to flee has been one of the great mysteries in inter-Korean relations. (South Korean officials fear that some of the hundreds of defectors who have disappeared in recent years may have also ended up in the North.)

North Korea has used the returnees for propaganda, arranging news conferences where they described how lucky they were to escape the “living hell” they found in the South to return to the “bosom of the fatherland.”

Ms. Song’s arrest showed that South Korea’s counterintelligence officials were not sitting idle. Between 2009 and 2019, they arrested at least 14 North Koreans who entered South Korea as defectors, accusing them of arriving here on spy missions that included plots to bring fellow defectors back to the North, according to government data submitted to the National Assembly.

Ms. Song told the court about how she ended up going to South Korea. A native of Onsong, a North Korean town near the Chinese border, she had been working as a broker, helping North Korean defectors in the South transfer cash remittances to their relatives in the North when the Ministry of State Security recruited her in 2016.

Confronting her about her illegal work as a cash broker, the ministry gave her a stark choice: serve time in a prison camp or cooperate with agents. For Ms. Song, who had already been in a labor camp from 2007 to 2009 for the crime of illegally entering China for food in the wake of a famine in the North, the choice was obvious.

“She had to cooperate to stay alive, she had no other choice,” said her sister, Chun-nyo, who defected to South Korea in 2019.

In the court hearing on Tuesday that sent Ms. Song to prison, the presiding judge, Kim Mi-kyong, dismissed her appeal, saying that she had helped the North Korean secret police for personal gain as well.

A North Korean soldier stands guard on the banks of the Yalu River at the North Korean town of Sinuiju across from the Chinese city of Dandong, in northeastern Liaoning province on April 10,2013

During her trial, Ms. Song admitted providing a secret police agent named Yon Chol-nam with the telephone number of a North Korean defector in South Korea she had known while working as a broker. She also admitted calling the defector to ask him to help Mr. Yon, lying that the agent was her husband and that he worked for North Korean families trying to reach their defector relatives in the South.

With the defector’s help, Mr. Yon located three North Korean defectors in the South, prosecutors said. He tried to persuade them to return to the North by putting their North Korean relatives on the phone with them. One of the defectors, Kang Chol-woo, and his girlfriend, also a North Korean defector in the South, returned to the North through China in 2016 and later appeared on North Korean TV.

In August 2016, the ministry sent Ms. Song to China to spy on North Korean migrants there and on Christian missionaries who helped them flee the North. It gave her a code name: “Chrysanthemum.” But after two years, she fled to South Korea, where she told her debriefers what she did for the North’s Ministry of State Security.

“She thought she was cleared when she was released from the debriefing center to live a new life in the South,” said her lawyer, Park Heon-hong.

However, Ms. Song had unwittingly stepped into the fierce spy war over North Korean defectors.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a huge metropolis where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets.

Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has tightened its control over the border with China, the main escape route for defectors. And it has intensified its crackdown on the South Korean TV dramas and music smuggled from China through which North Korean defectors learned of life in the South.

Partly as a result of these crackdowns, the number of North Korean refugees arriving in the South dropped to 1,047 in 2019 from 2,914 in 2009. The number plummeted to 229 last year, as the pandemic led to further border restrictions.

North Korea has called the defectors “traitors” and “human scum.” But its online propaganda channels have also interviewed family members who tearfully appealed to defectors, telling them that Mr. Kim promised to forgive their crimes if they returned home.

South Korea has put its guard up, catching North Korean agents disguised as defectors who entered South Korea on clandestine missions to assassinate fellow defectors or lure them back to the North.

But South Korean counterintelligence officials also have a history of fabricating evidence in their overzealous hunt for North Korean spies. In 2016, South Korea announced the arrival of 12 young North Korean waitresses and their male manager, billing their defections as a major coup against Pyongyang. The manager later said that the South’s National Intelligence Service plotted with him to bring the women here against their will.

“Ms. Song thought she escaped from the grips of the Ministry of State Security when she defected to the South,” said Jung Gwang-il, a North Korean defector who leads No Chain, a civic group working for North Korean human rights. “But waiting for her in the South were counterintelligence officers eager to make what little score they could against the North.”



Adapted from NYTimes

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Special Report

Expert: ‘President Ndayishimiye’s ‘Vision 2040′ is Just a Slogan’



Last week President Evariste Ndayishimiye convened a national development forum aimed at presenting his vision, a new development agenda and setting the tone for his leadership since he came to power.

According to Prof. Julien Nimubona a political scientist [pictured above], what President Ndayishimiye presented was not worth to be described as a vision.

“Compared to the forum in general, unlike speeches, I didn’t see a vision. Saying that “the goal is for Burundi to be an emerging country by 2040″. This is not a vision. In political science, this is called a slogan,” said Prof. Nimubona.

 “A vision is a coherent strategy based on specific objectives to be achieved with resources that can be mobilized to achieve them,” he said in an exclusive interview.

Below is a detailed analysis of the forum through the lens of Prof. Nimubona.

By organizing this forum, what do you think is the message behind?

In my opinion the forum was more than the meeting of the Estates General on Development.  For the first time, this forum allowed the debate between intellectuals and politicians all coming from the system in power.

The panelists, the guests, were what are called “organic intellectuals”. That is, intellectuals organically linked to power. Which means that what they said or the recommendations made were not coming from the opposition. All members of the executive were seated, listening like students in class.

Before this forum was convened, President Ndayishimiye had made a number of interventions deploring bad practices within the State, criticizing the judiciary, the administration, even if it meant sacking certain senior executives, questioning mining contracts.

Lost investments (example of the Mpanda dam with its 54 billion FBU, etc.) A propensity which connotes a desire to want to destroy these bad practices within the system. Nevertheless, he encountered indifference from his close collaborators.

By organizing this forum, it seems to me that he got it right by opening a window within what I call the big mute of the Cndd-Fdd: this majority made up of the intellectuals of this party. And if we don’t look closely, this class is constantly dominated by a power, admittedly military-civilian.

But, a militant power where partisan power prevails over technocratic power. While it is the latter that promotes development. Through this forum, I think the Head of State wanted to give a voice to this category of people.

“Make Burundi an emerging country by 2040”, the first edition of the National Forum on the Development of Burundi was opened on Thursday, November 18.

What is the point of System experts talking to system managers?

The biggest question that torments President Ndayishimiye is how to implement changes with the managers at the controls for the past fifteen years.

Implementation of recommendations made requires the correction of the deficiencies of managers that have been at the helm for the past 15 years.

The question is, “Why will they want to change all of a sudden when they never have in over 15 years?” In view of all this, one comes to wonder: “If this is the case, does the Head of State have the right men in the right place? to drive its long-awaited changes? “.

For you, this forum starts the debate within the Cndd-Fdd?

This forum is going to soon trigger an unavoidable debate within the ruling party. Like in 1992, With the start of multipartyism in Burundi, this greatly disturbed the Uprona party. I remember Nicolas Mayugi, at the time secretary general. He spoke of “a possible democracy within a single party.

Currently within the ruling Cndd-Fdd party, there is debate whether strengthening of democratic culture is still possible. With this forum, I fear that the President of the Republic has opened a Pandora’s box.

Do you think all relevant themes have been explored?

It seems to me that the disturbing themes were not mentioned. In this regard, I have listed four other topics that could have been discussed in this forum.

The first forgotten theme: it is the issue of opening up the democratic space. A prerequisite for the stabilization of Burundi. No briefing was made on how to borrow to get Burundi out of this cycle of political violence.

Nevertheless, I have the impression that the actors present did not take this into account. In the absence of a more integrative democracy, the democratic majority is confused with the partisan majority. An unnamed mistake because it results in the systematic exclusion of opposition parties and ethnic minority groups. Knowing that investments are conditioned by internal stability, I believe that this point should be discussed.

The second theme not mentioned is the issue of demography. Which one could associate with climate change. Whatever you do, the demographic pressure on the earth, on the education of children (crowded classrooms), puts pressure on the quality of health care.

The other unmentioned problem is the environment. For a country like Burundi, over 95% of which depends on agriculture, climate change must be a priority. All the more reason, it was advisable to study the strategies. The third theme little mentioned is administrative governance.

The quality and access to public services is a headache. Because of patronage, neo-patrimonial, ethnicist practices, a dispute persists between the population and the State. In my opinion, an opportunity which would have made it possible to identify the main axes, beyond building confidence.

Governors of Southern Province and Eastern province respectively listen as their Burundian counterparts speak

Is the ongoing contact with the Rwandans a possible normalization of bilateral relations?

The 4th theme that has not caught the attention of experts is regional integration and international development. Knowing that our economy, to a certain extent, also depends on that of the countries of the sub-region.

This theme would have made it possible to show how much the antagonisms between States (case of Rwanda, Uganda) weigh on our economy.

Political realism has always prevailed in Burundi-Rwanda relations. As evidenced by the post-colonial history of these two countries in the management of the issue of Rwandan refugees, etc.

Currently, the problem is that public opinion, especially Burundians forget, what are the issues behind the rapprochement between these two countries.

Of course, Burundi has communicated more about its desiderata, in particular, the delivery of alleged putschists.

The big question that persists: is Burundi ready to make concessions with regard to the grievances of Rwandans? However, I have no doubt that over time a solution for a possible resumption of bilateral cooperation will be found.

The recent lifting of sanctions by the United States against certain Burundian politicians. A good thing ?

A nuance. Even in the decree of President Biden canceling the said sanctions, he welcomes a marked improvement in governance, the rule of law, etc. It is only necessary for the Burundian authorities to think that this is recognition.

Sometimes international decisions can be a way of encouragement. History of moving quickly while respecting democratic principles. In the case of the lifting of these US sanctions, it is indeed an encouragement from the head of state to continue his reforms. The same strategy used by the EU in initiating this dialogue for the lifting of their sanctions.

On the one hand, the United States lifted the sanctions. On the other, the EU, which is renewing them. Your reaction.

One thing should be known: the United States of America as well as the countries of the Union of 27 are for the imposition of respect for democratic principles (human rights, good governance, etc.). However, the literature on these kinds of issues varies from power to power.

Americans get information through a network of government services (embassies, NGOs, intelligence and information services (CIA, FBI, Medical Corps, etc.). And these services are so marked by the logic of government policies For them, only the politico-economic issues count.

However, in the case of Burundi, since 2015, China has gained a foothold in Burundi, strengthening its positions in the sub-region. by the Americans and the EU.

However, who says cooperation of China with Burundi, refers to its penetration into the east of the DRC, with as a corollary the armed groups which abound. In light of all this, the United States of America felt it was better to protect its strategic interests, rather than cry out about human rights abuses.

Are there sufficient prerequisites to release counterbalance?

Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that in the United States of America, democracy is an elitist democracy. Often the president decides without consulting his people. A situation poles apart from the EU. European countries are fundamentally democracies of opinion. However, not all 27 countries have the same perception of respect for democratic principles.

For example, during the dialogue with the EU, some countries like France and Belgium were somewhat open. The opposite of the Germans. Another thing to note is that EU diplomacy is heavily influenced by civil society organizations.

This is why, when the European Parliament wanted to rule on the resumption of cooperation, the reports of these human rights organizations undoubtedly tipped the scales in the deliberation of MEPs, blocking the action of ministers. which, quite possibly, would have allowed the situation to evolve. I think that is currently the case with this renewal of the sanctions against these personalities.

Is this to say that lifting of EU sanctions against Burundi is not coming soon?

For tomorrow, I don’t know. But, if ever, it intervenes it will be a purely politico-realistic decision. A decision which tends to encourage the President of the Republic to translate into concrete actions his many speeches of reforms on the national and international level. Also, we must separate individual sanctions from those against a country.

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