Burundi

“I hope that someday our baby will be better off than we are now”

Today, Gilbert Nizigiyimana is 27 years old. The day his family was murdered, he was only eight. Gilbert was the only one who could escape through a window. He and his wife Violette Nimbona fled from Burundi. The couple has been living in a refugee camp with three other cousins since 2014. Three rooms for five people, no electricity, no water – that’s what life is like for Violette and Gilbert. “Life is hard here”, Violette says, “but I hope that someday our baby will be better off than we are now.”

The 26-year old strokes her belly, and for a fleeting moment her expression becomes very serious. The next instant she’s back to her radiant smile. Despite the difficult circumstances in the refugee camp, Violette has remained an optimistic person. Only when asked about their flight do Violette and Gilbert become serious. Their faces are marked by the horror they’ve seen.

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How the Foundation for Development Cooperation Baden-Württemberg (SEZ) is Helping in Burundi

For over thirty years, partnerships between the people in Baden-Württemberg and in Burundi have been building bridges that span across borders and over great distances. Initially emerging in the 1980s from the idea of a parliamentarian partnership, it has today evolved into numerous cooperation initiatives stemming from civil society, the church and politics in Baden-Württemberg. These are gathered in a Burundi network that the SEZ has set up for exchange, support and networking. This first came into particularly useful effect during the civil war in Burundi between 1993 and 2005, when official contact to Baden-Württemberg had been cut off, not, however, the many private and church-bound partnerships. The SEZ’s Burundi network upheld the communication line for information and joint action between actors. In the current conflict as well, active civil society is at the core of relations between both countries while official contact remains interrupted. The SEZ concentrates its support on groups of people most affected by the conflict and helps its partners realize their charitable efforts even under difficult circumstances.

  • Violette Nimbona and Gilbert Nizigiyimana fled from Burundi and now live in a refugee camp in Kenya.

    Photo: Johanniter/Fassio

Background of the Forgotten Humanitarian Conflict in Burundi

Since its independence in 1962, Burundi has been in a continuous political crisis. Numerous governments have been toppled since the 1960s, massacres such as the one in 1972 have occurred time and again. Between 1993 and 2005, there was a civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of victims. Refugees from Burundi live in all neighboring countries, especially in Kenya. In 2015, Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza had himself nominated for a third term of office although this went against the stipulations of the constitution. The country erupted in heavy protest. Political tensions are worsened by the lasting drought and the food and water scarcity it causes. Observers believe the country is on the verge of another civil war.

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