Open letter to my ‘Old Boy’ in Burundi


My Old Boy Pierre Nkurunzinza


Hello Mr Pierre Nkurunziza, I hear you have returned to Burundi and secured your seat as President. Congratulations!.Anyway, as I write this letter you are somewhere in Burundi but not at State House. I have just checked.

On Wednesday, May 13, amid bursts of heavy gunfire and artillery, I came to State House in virtual form, you were not there and your frenzied guards told me that you were somewhere in Dar es Salaam, holed up in a hotel room. I hear at that time your colleagues from the East African Community (EAC) were deliberating on your position as President of Burundi and the crisis your bid for a ‘Third term’ had created.

Of course you know that some of them in the EAC are against your continued stay, while a few may be interested in your stay. They are only four so you must be able to know who likes you and who doesn’t!

That aside, the situation you experienced in Dar on that fateful day reminds me of ‘our time in secondary school and at university’. At the time, if we students went on strike, which is a collective effort, and the strike flopped (with the headmaster holding on to his position) strike participants would be sent home, only to face the wrath of their infuriated parents, individually.

That is what happens even at Head of State level; you can ask General Yakub Gowon of Nigeria, who was ousted while attending an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Summit in Uganda. He has the details of how he was shown the exit door from the conference room at Nile Mansions (now Serena Hotel) after soldiers back home in Nigeria, including current Nigerian president General Muhammad Buhari, staged a coup on July 30, 1975.

“You are no longer part of this meeting,” Gen Gowon was reportedly told while being escorted out. So, as for the meeting in Dar, it is only you who knows what your colleagues told you after news of the (attempted) coup seeped in.

Anyway, your temporary ousting was the work of soldiers but then there is also this troublesome group of people called wanainchi, they can just throw you out if they are fed up of your deeds. So, if they employ you, make sure you don’t steal their resources, don’t bring your relatives and give them jobs (nepotism); generally you must be well behaved if you want to work for that group for about ten years.

And you must remember, after ten years they don’t need your services, unless otherwise. That is why they demand that you have a written contract detailing your job description as their employee; yes that contract called the Constitution. And they demand that you must respect it, not just change it faaa.

In your case, you attempted to change the details of the contract just two months to the general election; what were you waiting for all this time, I ask?!

Anyway, I remember the last time you went begging for the job of President, you were humble, used good language, exhibited good manners and I think that is why it was given to you.


That noted, earlier in this letter to you I hinted at something about schooling and being a teacher yourself, I hope you remember our three history teachers at the University of Virtual Learning in Africa: Mr White House, who lectured to us about democracy; Mr European Union who lectured about good governance and Mr United Kingdom, who lectured about Constitutionalism.

Then there was this colleague of theirs called Mr. International Criminal Court (ICC), who lectured us about the law including war crimes, crimes against humanity blah blah.

Together, those four men had sought to make our future one of morality and uprightness but in class you did not pay attention to what they taught. You missed their wise counsel.

I remember one particular time when Mr .White House told us about history and how it repeats itself. Then, he gave us some funny examples which made all of us burst out into uncontrolled laughter, but for you, you were playing Solitaire, just like one Ugandan Member of Parliament who was caught at it while his colleagues discussed matters of national importance.

But back to Mr White House’ lecture that particular day; he told us about the Arab Spring, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

He also talked about Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast and Blaise Campoare of Burkina Faso. Do any of those names mentioned ring a bell in your mind? I don’t think so because you were still playing your game of cards.

Well, Mr White House said Gadaffi is no more; Ben Ali is hiding somewhere in Saudi Arabia; Mubarak is in a local prison in Egypt, brought to court in a cage like an animal.

Ah, he also said that Campoare is in hiding in Ivory Coast and that Gbagbo is in a cell at The Hague, where, if you recall, Mr. ICC who taught us years ago about crimes against humanity, currently lives and still gives strong lectures on abuse of human rights.

Mr Nkurunziza, you also have to remember that both Mr. White House and Mr. United Kingdom have taught history for over 100 years, while Mr European Union, the youngest of the trio has taught history for about 40 years.

And one thing I learnt from their vicious lectures while at the university is that you ignore or miss their teachings at your own risk of peril; you fail the political history subject which includes topics on constitutionalism

You were inattentive when Mr. United Kingdom was discussing that subject, and later you said you only heard the words ‘ the Constitution is just a piece of paper that can be torn any time’. Well, I listened to the entire lecture and disagree with you.

My old friend the constitution is a sacred piece of paper you don’t just change it for convenience purposes, yes you might have a point in trying to capitalize on the “universal suffrage” wording in Burundi’s “piece of paper” but you forgot that stubborn wanainchi on the streets are not well educated like you, to them a 5-year mandate is a 5-year mandate.

Whether or not you were elected by parliament or whoever for your first term, this group of people on the streets, who also happen to be your employers do not care, all they care about is your finishing up your second tenure and retire, it seems they no longer need your services.

Alternatively, earlier in your second term, you should have engaged your employers about the problematic phrase “universal suffrage” in the Burundian constitution, who knows maybe you could have succeeded in convincing them that there’s a distinction between being elected by parliament (representative of the people) and the people themselves. But now, today, time is not your best friend, you cannot teach this topic and have your students (employers) fully grasp the difference between the two.

And comrade if you continue turning a deaf ear to their demands, you are in deep, deep and deep trouble.

Anyhow Old Boy, this letter is very long and since I am not sure if you have arrived in State House yet, I have quick quips for you since you are back to Burundi.

First, try to talk to your former host of two days, (President) Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, he has some really good advice on how and when to leave the type of employment you are engaged in, after 10 years.

Then, on how to secure yourself once back home in Burundi, you can ask (President) Salva Kiir of South Sudan, how he has managed to pull off that one. By the way, are Ugandan soldiers still in South Sudan? And one more question, what in the world will you do to those rogue boys who jokingly tried to cut your employment short.

Bye for now,

Yours Sincerely,

Old Boy at the University of Virtual Learning of Politics in Africa

Ah, what a long and boring name for our former school