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Special Report

Understanding Museveni Through The Byanyimas




Back in December, 2005, Boniface Byanyima (2nd right front row), the recently-deceased Ugandan Politician, bared all to Benon Herbert Oluka in a special interview.

Museveni spent a good part of his early life at Mzee Byanyima’s home and the two remained close until mid-1990 when they fell out. Here is a reproduction that is still fresh in more ways than one.


I don’t remember the year but he came to Mbarara High School when I was teaching. It was in 1950s I think. He came in [Senior] One. That is when I first met him.

It took me time to understand him because Museveni is secretive. You cannot understand him at once. There is one side, which he shows you, and another side he keeps to himself. So, it took me time to understand him.

At first, he appeared to be friendly to me and my family. He visited us frequently. He liked me and my family,…my children. We treated him as our child. Those were the first impressions we got; he was a friendly person, a friendly young man.

Mzee Byanyima (seated 2nd R) and some members of his family

Even when he went to Ntare School, he used to come to my home. When he was staying in my home, he didn’t appear to be political. But he was interested in learning like other students, like the [Eriya] Kategayas. He was an ordinary student.

He was not actually one of the bright students, but he was trying to learn. When he was staying at my home, I would give him little pocket money like all the [needy] students. We stayed with him but it was on and off. He used to come for holidays. Even when he went to Dar es Salaam, he used to come here to our home and we stayed with him.


He was a young man of ambition, always trying to show that he was better than other students. And he appeared to be ambitious in small things. Whenever he got a chance, he wanted to show that he was an important person. He wanted to be respected.

For example, at one time when I was MP staying at Uganda Club [present-day Kampala Club], he came to see me. I had my nephew there and I wanted to give them lunch at Uganda Club where I was staying. I wanted to take them to the dining room, but he said: ““No. Me I can’t go there. I can’t dine with this young man who is a son of Kanyamunyu.” Kanyamunyu was the treasurer of Ankole kingdom.”

He said: “Me Museveni, you give me my small money, I will go and eat in Shauri Yako. I can’t eat with big people.” Small things like that. He wanted to show that he was different from others… to be recognized.


When he was in Dar es Salaam, he started coming to my home with communism literature. He was talking of Russian-type communism. He was praising Lenin and other communist leaders. He was talking about communist slogans and phrases like proletariat, common man…

He never told me of his political ambitions. He only told me that he was fighting for the common man. He was praising people like Che Guevara, a South American revolutionary. He was praising the [Julius] Nyerere leadership and talking of crushing capitalists. That kind of language.

One day he came to my home and said he had been to Mozambique. He came towards the end of his holidays, and I asked him why he was late. He told me he was in Mozambique fighting the Europeans who were grabbing African land.

And he was boasting that he killed a white man there. I said I don’t want that sort of language here. He kept quiet but whenever he got a chance, he would boast of his activities against capitalists.


When he came back from Dar es Salaam, he joined [Milton] Obote’s government. He was in the intelligence section, and I interacted with him at that time very often. He was talking of overthrowing the Obote regime because Obote was a capitalist. Before [Idi] Amin overthrew Obote, there was talk of elections which Obote was proposing in 1970. They wanted a type of election where a candidate would have four constituencies; it was called three plus one.

He would have to stand in all regions of Uganda; his home constituency, then plus three others in other regions. And Museveni took the opportunity to become a candidate, to stand against Vice President [John] Babiiha.

He was trying to stand in North East Ankole against Babiiha because he was opposing Babiiha for establishing ranches in Ankole. Museveni said he did not want ranches because ranches were capitalist institutions. He was trying to show me that he was fighting for the common man.

But I didn’t believe him because I could see that he also wanted an opportunity to show that he was important. I thought that even if he took power, he wouldn’t put into practice what he was talking about. I looked at him as the kind of person who wanted to promote himself rather than working for a principle because he would say one thing now, then another time a different thing. He didn’t show me consistency.

Then one day he came to me to help him, to give him DP young men to campaign for him in my constituency because DP had been banned. I told him I could not because my party is banned and I am not practising politics at the moment, and in any case I don’t want your party, UPC. It was 1970.

So, he tried to campaign for himself against Babiiha. When they were campaigning, Amin overthrew their government. Obote ran to Tanzania and Museveni and others followed him there.


I did not meet him throughout the time Amin was in power. I met him after they returned from Tanzania when Amin had been overthrown. Then he came here and deceived me. He told me that Obote was not coming to Uganda. Nyerere would not allow him because he knew that Obote had committed mistakes in Uganda.

He never revealed what kind of government Nyerere was intending to establish in Uganda. He only kept on saying that Obote would never come back here but Nyerere would restore democracy. At that time I had no other information; so, I believed Museveni. [Yusuf] Lule was appointed president, in two months he was overthrown.

[Godfrey] Binaisa came. But Museveni kept on telling me that Nyerere is going to bring democracy back in Uganda. How? I didn’t know, but one day… one night it was 9 O’clock, I saw a Tanzanian Land Rover coming into my compound here.

Then [Chris] Rwakasisi [former Obote minister now pardoned from death row] jumped out. He told me he was going to Bushenyi to prepare the way for Obote’s return.

I said: What? Obote is returning? He said: “Yes. That is why I have come to tell you as chairman of DP to start reviving DP so that we can compete.”

I told him what Museveni had been telling me. Rwakasisi told me it was a lie.

“We know that Museveni has been lying to the people of Uganda, telling them a lot of lies. Museveni is trying to find his own political line in Uganda. We know him,” Rwakasisi said.


The next morning Museveni came here. I told him Rwakasisi had been here at night and had told me Obote is coming. Museveni appeared shocked. He said: “

”What? Has Rwakasisi told you that? You see, these people are bad. He is revealing Mwalimu’s secret.”” So, I said:“ Museveni, that means that you have been deceiving me all this time. You knew that Obote was coming back. So, you have been working for Obote. You always come to my house while you are working for Obote and you tell me Obote is not coming back?

That is Museveni. He is secretive. He has got his own line of thinking and he can’t reveal it to you. But he appears friendly, talks to one person one language, then talks to a different person another language. So, from that time, I trusted Rwakasisi more than I trusted Museveni.


After a few months, Obote arrived. He started campaigning. But all along, Museveni had been pursuing his own political line; he had been recruiting his own soldiers and calling them Fronasa, giving them guns…I was seeing that.

I think the money was coming from Tanzania. They were bringing money to recruit soldiers to replace Amin’s soldiers. Obote came like a president. He was accompanied by Tanzanian soldiers, he was treated like the president of Uganda, and Museveni was lying low. He was not meeting him.

I could see that because he had been undermining Obote’s plans of returning to power, and Mwalimu Nyerere’s policy of returning Obote. When the 1980 elections came, the elections were rigged in favour of Obote and Museveni went to the bush. He was already well-equipped. He had soldiers, he had guns. He was prepared.

I don’t think [Museveni was right to go to the bush]. When you go to the bush, you go for a purpose and for a good purpose. Museveni said he went to the bush because elections were rigged. But do you think it is true? Then why does he rig elections himself?


When Museveni was in the bush, I never saw him. He sent me his men, and he wrote to me a letter. This was about 1983-84. They continued to come here. For example, this [Maj Gen Jim] Muhwezi came here. In the letter, he was sending a message of cooperation. He was asking DP to cooperate with his soldiers.

I never believed in him but of course when his people came here, I wouldn’t hand them over to Obote to be killed. For humanitarian reasons, I sent them away, but I avoided direct cooperation with Museveni because I knew that Museveni was a liar and a troublemaker.

But whenever his men came here, I treated them nicely. I gave them food and transport to go back. These Muhwezis, until [Tito Okello] Lutwa overthrew the Obote government.

Then Lutwa asked Museveni and [Dr Andrew Lutaakome] Kayiira to come from the bush and work with him to form a government. But when he came from the bush, he again undermined Okello’s government. He overthrew Okello and took over power himself. I knew that was typical Museveni because by that time I had understood him. I wouldn’t work with him.


Karagwa [Winnie Byanyima] joined Museveni in the bush [but] she did not tell me she was going to join them. She was at school. She had gone to Europe as a refugee. She was at Makerere University first. When her cousin, a young man called James Kanyamunyu, was killed by the Amin regime, Karagwa got frightened.

She ran out of university and went to Europe. She joined Manchester University. She stayed there and took a course in engineering, and when she was finishing, she found Museveni.

I can’t remember when or how she joined them, but she became one of the guerrillas, and then she was in their government. When they came from the bush, she came here and I warned her. I told her not to join the Museveni government. I told her that Museveni was not a reliable character. But she wouldn’t listen to me.

Then Museveni came here proposing marriage. He wanted to marry her, which I opposed. I told my daughter Museveni was not a reliable character. I think it was in 1987. By then he was married to Janet [Kataha]. I knew that.

First, there came his father [Amos] Kaguta to propose. I said no. Then Museveni came here when he was president. I said I can’t agree. I said if you are marrying her, …if she wants, it will be her responsibility. Me I don’t want that.

They stayed together for a while. When people are staying together, you can’t know for how long [but] they were staying together at Entebbe. Then Karagwa realised that Museveni was not a good person to stay with. I think she discovered what I had told her about the character of Museveni; so, she left Museveni and his government.

When Museveni became president, after a month or two, he started coming here. He was always coming here every week or every month to see me.

First, he came to ask me to marry my daughter, which I refused. He was not annoyed because he knew that I would not allow it. He took it lightly. That didn’t prevent him from coming here often just to say hello. He continued to appear friendly.


No. He knew I wouldn’t because I was even trying to block DP from joining his government. I told [then DP president general Paul] Ssemogerere never to join his government. When I heard that Ssemogerere had joined his government with some senior DP members, I went there and told them that they had made a mistake.

The Museveni government was not a proper government to join. They would be disappointed. I told Ssemogerere, [Robert] Kitariko, [Evaristo] Nyanzi and [Joseph] Mulenga that they had made a mistake because that was not a broad-based government.

He was deceiving them. He was only employing them as individuals. So, I proposed approaching Museveni to make [an] agreement with him about a broad-based government so that all parties might work together with a purpose of having direct elections at a later stage.

Museveni kept on dodging us without agreeing to form an agreement as a basis of cooperation. I told Ssemogerere and others to quit but they didn’t. They stayed until 10 years later when they were disappointed, and some of them were imprisoned like Nyanzi, some dismissed. Ssemogerere got out. He tried to stand against him, he was defeated and Museveni went on strengthening his regime and killing parties until now.


At a personal level, when he attacked my ranch. It was in July 1990 when soldiers and many squatters entered my ranch with guns. They beat up my people, heaped [the squatters] everywhere. When I went there, I could see that they were [sent by] government because soldiers were driving the cattle of squatters which were entering the ranch.

Museveni had given me his telephone, the direct line; so, I rang him and said I am being attacked. Museveni pretended not to know [about it]. He said: “Who are they? I am sending my bodyguard, Kavuma, to check so that we can deal with them.””

Kavuma came to my ranch. He found many people [camping with their cattle]. He was surprised and went back. I waited for two weeks, nothing happened. Then I rang Museveni again. Museveni pretended again not to know.

He said: “Nothing has been done? Even police has done nothing? I am now sending another guard called Kabwisa.”” Kabwisa came here; I took him to the ranch.

He saw people were still camping there, causing damage on the farm. He went back to report.  I waited and another month passed, nothing happened. I telephoned him again.

He said: “Now I am sending a high-ranking soldier who will do something.” But by that time, I had noticed squatters were not invading my ranch only, they were invading other ranches in central Uganda. The high-ranking soldier came, a man called Mugume Chagga. He found my cattle had started to die because of ticks, he was surprised. Then he went back.

I waited and nothing happened. So, I knew that Museveni…well, it was not the first time of course to know that Museveni was treacherous. I had already formed an opinion that Museveni was not a man to trust.

So, I went to Entebbe. I asked for audience. I went to his office. I told him, face-to-face, a piece of my mind. I told him I had now confirmed that he was not a leader. He couldn’t lead Uganda because he was a tribalist, treacherous and not a person to trust. And now I had ceased my cooperation with him altogether, and I would join forces to overthrow his regime.

Then he said: “How can you fight me? How can you fight my regime?”” I said: I have no guns but I will join people who want to fight your regime because your regime is a bad regime.”

I said: “I kept your mother when you went to the bush; you left your mother in Mbarara township, she was stranded. She was attacked by hooligans. I took her to my house, I kept her, looked after her while you were in the bush, until you came to government. And when you come to government; that is how you have paid me! You have been treacherous to me. He kept quiet. I went out.

I went home, waited for him to remove the people he had put on my land. After two or three years, when he didn’t, I took the matter to court. I won the case and the government appealed, I also won it. The court awarded me compensation of about [Shs] 100 million.

But for the damages and animals which had died and the pasture destroyed, it was not enough. And these people are still there. Government has refused to remove them up to today. And it is not only my ranch. It occurred on all ranches, from Mbarara to Buruuli in central Uganda, which the government grabbed to settle in Bahima.


When he was young, he appeared to be friendly, but when you closely observe all his actions and moves, he is a selfish person. He works alone, is secretive and his politics is like that.

I wouldn’t describe him as a nationalist because a nationalist works for the benefit of a nation as a whole but Museveni is selfish person…he is looking for the promotion of his own clan, his own family. He is not a straight kind of person.


Past leaders were not selfish. Obote was a nationalist. Although I opposed him for 10 years, I can describe him as a nationalist. He was trying to work for a nation but he made blunders.

Amin was a nationalist. People hated Amin but I thought Amin was more nationalist than Museveni. He was trying to work for Uganda, but they never gave him chance.

He made mistakes because he was not educated. All the mistakes Amin made were not intentional. He failed as a person who was not educated. But I would say the people he killed, he killed them in self-defence. They wanted to kill him too.

But in my view, he was genuine. He was not working for self-interest. He was not working for his family, for example. I would say Museveni is like Amin in one respect. That he is using militarism to keep himself in power. But unlike Amin, he is promoting his family against the wishes of Ugandans.

He is too selfish, and I wouldn’t say that Amin was selfish. And I wouldn’t say that Amin, for example, was taking money from this country, or was looting Uganda, or was looting other countries around.


Has Museveni done anything good of lasting importance? I don’t see it. For example, he hasn’t built hospitals like Obote. Whatever Museveni does is of temporary value and it is to promote his interests. He does it for politics.

This UPE is nothing to boast of because the schools have deteriorated. The quality of teaching has deteriorated because imagine one class containing 100 children! How does one teacher teach 100 children?

He simply ordered that tomorrow, all schools are free. There were no preparations for it. So, as a result, the quality of education in primary is poor.

If they say the army is disciplined, why are they slapping people? Is that discipline?

No, his army is not disciplined. His army is politicised. I think it is even worse than Obote’s because if you study the causes of the northern war, I think it is indiscipline in the army, which caused that…

I was told by my friends from the North that they had to take up arms again because they were being killed for tribal reasons. So, the [Joseph] Konys and others went to the bush again.

When [Lutwa’s regime] collapsed, Museveni’s soldiers went up to the North and continued to hit these people, to kill them. So, I don’t see any good things he has done. If anything, he has caused tribalism because [in the past] an MP of UPC was recognised anywhere in Uganda. If he was a Langi, Ankole or easterner, he was accepted by Ugandans wherever he went.

But these Movementists in parliament, they don’t appear to be nationalists to me. An MP from Mbarara, for example, I don’t think he is accepted in Acholi, or even in the East. He is being looked at as a Munyankore looter.

Whereas Obote was trying to unite the people of Uganda, I think Museveni has divided them. I think people of Uganda now are more tribalistic than they were during the Obote regime.


When they went to the bush, they looted [commercial] banks. When they came here, they changed the money and for a man who had one million shillings, he came out with seven thousand shillings. I think this was looting. Where did this money go?

Now, neighbouring countries are not free from Museveni. I hear Congo has been looted. They are being accused.

They looted properties of Uganda that were set up by previous governments. [Uganda Development Corporation] is no more. Government houses are no more. Government institutions are no more. They sold them up cheaply. That is the strong point of Museveni. It is the only one.


His greatest weakness is lying. When this man took over, he said he had come to bring democracy back, which we had been denied by Obote. And he set up a system which he called the all-embracing Movement government.

But it was so funny that those people from other parties who went there found that it was not all-embracing. They were elbowed outside. Only the hardcore Museveni men were inside.

Then in parliament, he told parliament that they were one family. There was no division, no debate. It was called a democracy…they were to discuss things as one family. But behind parliament, he had what he called a caucus which he told his secret policies. And the caucus consisted of members of one tribe, who steered government policies. The rest of the MPs knew nothing.


First of all in parliament, he said MPs were being elected on individual merit. Then he deceived them on that and they went to parliament on individual merit so that they may not unite and discuss a point there. No, everybody should be for himself. He divided them like that so that he could push his [interests].

Now, when these people found that Museveni had divided them like that after 20 years in power, he brought this other element of one person with a vision. Now these people of individual merit are nothing. They are not being encouraged now. He is encouraging himself as a man of vision, and a man of vision is himself.

That is why he says a man like Kizza [Besigye] cannot rule because he has no vision. Nobody [else] has a vision. But who appoints this man of vision? He appoints himself. It is him who appoints a man of vision. And who is the man of vision? It is himself.

No. Museveni has spoilt this country.

Editors note: This article was first published in the Uganda Observer in 2017 under the title The love-hate relationship between Museveni & the Byanyimas

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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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Special Report

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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