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Drummers from Burundi play music in the midst of incredible danger Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by globalfuture, United States Aug 7, 2005
Peace & Conflict , Human Rights , Popular Culture   Interviews
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It was Monday, August 4, 2005 and I found myself standing on the golf course of Stirling University in Stirling, Scotland, with three young men from the country of Burundi, Africa. The four of us were part of the six hundred youth from one hundred and thirty six countries attending the World Youth Congress in Stirling, Scotland. All youth attending this Congress were selected for their efforts in youth-led development and action projects creating social change.

All together there were seven young men from Burundi, Africa, were representatives of an organization called Jeunesse Volontaire Sans Frontier and had been invited to the Congress to share their stories and to to put on a huge exhibition of African Drumming and Dancing.
Over the course of our stay we all got to know each other very well and the layers of cultural misperception peeled away. As I stood on the golf course that afternoon, I was captivated by the story of these future Humanitarian leaders of Africa.

As a child I had always enjoyed golfing, one of the most popular American sports, but this experience like no other. In fact, golfing with my new friends turned out to be one of the most rewarding and hilarious experiences of my life. It was an excellent opportunity for Yves, Mamu, and Amedee to get to know me a little, as well as a little bit about the culture I came from. Eventually they all got the hang of it, but our opening tee off was filled with laughter, as Mamu could not seem to hit the ball. Each time he missed his face would grimace and Yves and Amedee, would fall to the land laughing and saying, “Aye Yae Aye Yae Aye Yae Aye!”
After Mamu hit the ball (a pretty good one I might add), Amedee got up and missed on his first time as well. Again, all three of us bent over laughing with him. “No, No No!” he said.

“Mamu, that is only once. You miss four times.”

He was finding any way he could to compete. If Mamu missed it four times, and he hit the ball on the third, then he would be the champion. Amedee kept asking me, “So how does one win?”

Yves as well, “So if I do this, do I win?”

It took us thirty minutes to finish one hole. I followed along, holding their ID tags while they swung. As we got closer to the green they had all really got their swings down. The only problem was since they were close to the pin they kept hitting the ball over onto the other side of the green!
I cannot explain the joy these men had while they were playing. They were so excited to learn the sport. At the end of the hole they all shook my hand and said with big smiles “we have to go again!”

There is something amazing about the amount of joy and happiness they are able to generate. It perplexes me, perhaps because I was raised in such a privileged society. I catch myself confining these human beings into “lesser stereotypes”. I find too many of us are “helping” Africa because it allows us to perpetuate our helper-helping-the-pitied-complex. Even though I haven’t had any obvious issues with this complex, I have no doubt that at a subconscious level I do.

Instead of being so quick to give money to a Non-Government Organization, or religious charities, I believe each privileged person across the world could give a tremendous contribution to Africa by simply becoming better educated about the country. One could do this by studying a map of the continent and learning a simple amount of geography. Such an easy effort can open the doors to a deeper knowledge of the culture, challenges, and political situations of these countries. Without any preliminary knowledge of Africa how will any money given to Africa be of genuine Humanitarian intentions?

Take a look at a map of Africa, count about three countries north of South Africa and you will find Burundi. Burundi and Rwanda are two comparatively small countries in the middle of its bigger neighbors; Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Kenya. The population of Burundi is made up of three main ethnic groups: the Twa, the Tutsis, and the Hutus, the same as Rwanda.

What many people, including myself, did not know is that genocide broke out in Burundi in 1993, a year before genocide of Rwanda in 1994. For a longtime the Tutsis remained in control of the Burundi government, but in 1993, a Hutu, by the name of Melchoir Ndadaye, was elected President for the first time in Burundi history. Just months after coming into office, Tutsi soldiers assassinated the new Hutu president and the country erupted into violence. Tutsi forces (essentially the Burundian army) fought various Hutu rebel groups across the country. According to my friends from Burundi, this violence killed close to 800,000 people.

One of the most powerful Hutu rebel leaders was named, Peter Nkurunziza, which is Kirundi for “good news” but as Amedee said with a subtle laugh, “at the time it wasn’t good news.”

His forces were spread out across Burundi. The Burundian military negotiated a cease-fire with Nkurunziza in December of 2002, brining peace to most of the country. Now, Nkurunziza is set to become the president of Burundi, and has allied his forces with Burundi government troops in fighting the only remaining significant rebel faction. This rebel faction is led by Chief Agaton Rwasa.

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Tassie | Oct 12th, 2008
i think its great that most people, in third world countries seem to be happy. they are always smiling. it is so easy to make them happy, people in our society are spoilt and it takes more us happy.

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