I was awoken last night to the sound of gunfire. It sounded rather close and was able to wake me up in spite of the sound-muffling hum of the fan. I wouldn’t say that it makes me tense since it happens frequently enough but it does keep me from sleeping for a while during an otherwise silent night. It naturally causes my ears to remain on alert trying to pick up further sounds – the continued popping sound of AK-47s, yells, or whatever. At some point my 19-month-old’s flatulence broke a period of silence, seemingly to mimic the rhythm of the shooting. The innocence and contrast of a toddler’s fart just as I was imagining the violent scene taking place up the hill from us made me smile to myself (though I should say that her gas is not always that innocent). The shooting proceeded off and on over the period of about ten minutes or so.
Waking to gunfire should only happen to people who fall asleep at their job on a shooting range (I’m assuming that’s possible). Sadly it’s a daily part of life for thousands in various troubled parts of the world. I should say that it doesn’t happen here as much as it used to. But with the elections now two years away, it will be interesting to see if there is a corresponding incremental increase in violence.
I get various security reports on a daily basis, some pertaining to the region and some pertaining specifically to Burundi. Rarely does this sporadic gunfire make it on the local reports. Are people being injured or killed and no one is reporting it? Are both sides poor shooters? In their defense, Bujumbura does have very little street lighting so I do imagine some wild and crazy firing into the dark. Whatever the case and as nasty as the information is in the security reports, it does make me wonder if loads of information is missing – whether by design or not.
This place, as beautiful as it is, does have its sobering side. I do know people that have lived here for years and are generally oblivious to the daily violence. They don’t track security information and they stay within their bubble of international friends and colleagues, attending barbecues and rarely if ever traveling to the interior of the country. It’s certainly possible. As such you end up with a skewed idea of the dangers of living here. Not that it’s terrible here. It's not. But you do need to remain vigilant and realistic. It's also good to be aware that even if the gun is generally not pointed in your direction, a large percentage of the population faces significant threats on a regular basis.
After the shooting died down my brain shifted to work issues and other nonsense such that the remainder of my sleep was doomed. Oh well. Soon enough it was time to get up and change another diaper.