I’m currently on a flight from Bujumbura to Nairobi. It’s a relatively short flight and can be quite beautiful when it’s clear. That’s not the case today.
I’m a bit behind in my blog postings. As usual I’ll try to methodically catch up.
A few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon we were at home with the girls. Saturday tends to be a day guided by routines and, if I remember correctly, this day was similar to the others: gym workout (me), beach, lunch, nap, tea, play, dinner, bed (girls), happy hour (parents). At some point around tea time we heard the popping of gunfire. If you read this blog much you would know that this is not an unfamiliar sound in Bujumbura. However this was far earlier in the day and a bit louder than normal. The other oddity was that it went on for over a half hour and there were occasional sounds of some sort of explosives going off.
I went outside to listen and see if I could get a better idea where it was coming from. In my role it’s also important for me to know what is going on since I may have to guide my security focal point regarding communications to staff and determining any sort of actions that need to be taken (informing people to stay home or at least avoid certain areas).
An exchange of text messages with my security guy confirmed where it was and what was going on. An opposition protest had gone awry. Rocks were being thrown. Tear gas was being used to disperse the crowd. Two hostages were taken (but were later released unharmed). The shots being fired were mostly directed into the air (fortunately) and though scores were injured, no one was killed.
The elections are still more than a year away and there is some serious positioning going on. Violence was anticipated but it’s starting earlier than most had anticipated. Opposition as well as the ruling party are sending signals. No question that the government is putting the hammer down. In the aftermath, a couple dozen protesters were given life sentences. Yes, that’s what I said. A bunch of young people who got carried away are now doomed to spend the rest of their lives in a dingy, hellish prison. The message is clear to the opposition. My hope is that once the point is made, once the dust has settled on the elections, that level heads will prevail.