Before colonial interference and eventual drawing of imagined boundaries, Rwanda and Burundi were once one solid nation known as Ruanda-Urundi later Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial territory, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.
The People of Burundi and Rwanda speak a simillar language and practice the same culture and various norms.
Now two independent countries with extremely diverse visions, their recent past relationship has not been one to boast about. Their militaries repeatedly clash, governments slam doors on each other and trade unending accusations but also surprisingly return to roundtable and mend fences without mediation.
In 2019, Burundi Accused Rwanda Of Stealing Drums Culture And Doing It So Badly.
It all started in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda from brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime as he was seeking a forced third term in office contrary to constitutional provision leading to a failed coup.
Among those that fled Burundi, included a group of Drummers organised under Himbaza group. In 2019, this group applied to take part in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya.
The group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they were Burundian refugees who had been living in Rwanda since 2015.
Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s former President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.
“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.
However, “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them to the next round.
Organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.
“Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right to residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The contestants are legal residents of Rwanda and therefore are legitimate contestants on the show,” said organisers.
Demonstrations against the Government of Rwanda in the Burundian capital were the order of the day, hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses were targeted but Rwanda refused to be provoked.
In 2014 UNESCO registered the ritual dance of the royal drum a Burundian tradition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity with hope to preserve and share with the world.
Rwanda and Burundi currently maintain a closed border and have clashed several times since 2015 but the two sides have been involved in shuttle diplomacy and have announced that anytime the border may reopen.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is currently enjoying his annual leave, chose to traverse the country and visit various touristic destinations. He has been seen with his family enjoying boat ride, walking through a forest and most recently he visited Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora) in Gitega province.
He garbbed drum sticks cheerfully spotting the red, white and green national colors of the famous Burundian drummers. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to harmoniously sketch a few dance steps. He even sang some patriotic songs.
“You who have devoted your life to the drums, I did not barter the zither for the modest sum of 80 francs, I did not throw away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not betray my country for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift in well-watered parties”.
And the guardians of the sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora loudly proclaim their approval by responding loudly with their cry: “Eeeeh! ”
The sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora: “It houses the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, 119 years, and served as a place of refuge for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was organized.”
Ndayishimiye’s visit at the site hosting sacred drums of Gishora may have been a signal to end the Drum politics that had pitted the two countries against each other in 2019 and could pave way for opening a new chapter with Rwanda once accused of stealing these drums.