Appeal from Burundi Unitarians for Emergency Support

By Eric Cherry

Since Sunday April 27th, the capital city of Burundi has been living in a difficult situation. Many areas of the city have seen people on the streets demonstrating against the third term of the current president. Communes like Kanyosha, Musaga, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke and now Kinindo have joined the demonstrations by burning tires and pieces of wood blocking the streets to prevent people from moving from place to place and to prevent the police from coming to destabilize the demonstrators. The behavior of the police was criticized by many because they acted against the demonstrators by using real bullets and excessive force, killing 5 people to date, arresting more than 400 people and leaving dozens wounded. In Kanyosha, some people had to flee their homes out of fear that they will be attacked by the police or the ruling party militia. Some of our church members fled their homes, others decided to send children and women in places believed to be safer. The church is seeking to arrange a temporarily shelter in a place where it is relatively safer for people to stay. The church will provide food, water, medicines for members in the shelter and those in other places. The church is appealing for funds to cover these needs and the needs that will come up in the next few days and weeks. We know we are not alone and thank you very much for your support. (Note - Please see updates below) Thank you. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi To donate online, please use the link below to give using your credit card or PayPal account. If you wish to donate by check, bank transfer or other means, please email for more information. It is expected all donations will be needed for this emergency effort, but any funds not needed for this purpose will be applied to the ICUU Global Fund for Unitarian Universalism for ICUU work in Africa. CLICK THIS LINK TO DONATE ONLINE


The situation in Burundi is far from being over. Demonstrations are still going on after over a month, people on the streets are clearly tired and the problems not solved. There is another heads of states summit tomorrow, Sunday in Dare salaam, Tanzania and people have high expectations of the decisions? Looking at what the government and what the president has announced this last week, it is likely that not much will come from Tanzania and the question is whether the demonstrations will go on or whether new strategies will be explored to confront the government. Local and parliamentary Elections are planned next Friday and the major opposition parties have decided to boycott the process and only the ruling party will go to elections with only some satellite parties, rather very close to the party. The government is now isolated with all the major funders gone and obliged to fund its elections. One way was to create even more deficit and take all the money designed for other ministries including funds to fight Malaria, funds for fertilizers subsidies, funds for education,… these are difficult times! The independent electoral commission comprised by 5 members may have lost 2 of them. If this information is confirmed, things will be even harder. We are all in the waiting mood. We need all the prayers and thoughts that we can get. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi


Dear friends, after nearly 3 weeks of demonstrations in the streets of bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi, which pushed 50,000 people towards Tanzania, Rwanda and DR Congo , killed 25 people, there was an attempted coup on Wednesday May13th. The coup was defeated and showed a divided army and a police mostly behind the president. The reason people are on the streets is because the president is trying to run for an illegal third term after 10 years in office. The attempted coup occurred when he was in a meeting in Tanzania. During the fighting between the military loyal to the president and those against him, 5 radio stations were attacked and cannot function now. The pressure to withdraw his candidacy came from all over the place to non avail. Donor countries have freezed the funding for elections, the cost of which was 80% donor funded. They all call for the withdrawal of the candidacy and fair , inclusive and transparent elections. The people had hoped for a conciliatory speech this afternoon but he was even more radical stating that peace prevails everywhere and he will deal with those against peace. He promised to put a special elections tax since donors are not funding elections. The country may be on the bleak of a civil war once again . Regional and international efforts are being made by The UN, African Union, European union, USA so that peace is saved. The unitarian church has set up a shelter for members who have to leave their homes and forms of assistance as needed and available. Thanks to a recent emergency grant, the church will extend this support to the larger community as well. The ICCU has set up an emergency appeal and we are grateful to those of you who are supporting our efforts and those who are able and willing to do so. Neighboring unitarian churches in Rwanda and Uganda have offered our members to go stay with them as needed, and you from afar have offered prayers, thoughts, good wishes and financial support. It is a living testimony that we are not alone! Thank you very much. Rev. Fulgence


Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi, has just emailed to say: "A military coup is being carried out as I write this note. We definitely do not know what to expect. The president left this morning for Daresalam , Tanzania summorned by heads of states from East African Community and it was not clear whether he was going to change his mind. We will keep you posted if we can."


Today was another day of bloody interactions between the police and the demonstrators. In Kanyosha commune, 9 grenades were thrown into the crowd and into the homes by some of the youth from the ruling party; no one is reported to have been killed, 3 people were wounded. This happened less than 500 Meters from our church building. Demonstrations were also held in the northern areas of the city like Ngagara, Mutakura, Cibitoke, Buterere and the central areas like Bwiza, Jabe, and Nyakabiga. Life in Bujumbura is on hold, banks are closed, schools are closed and other businesses are not working. It is now confirmed from different sources that people who have fled Burundi so far are 25000 people who are in Rwanda, 11000 people in Tanzania and 7000 in DR Congo. As we write this update, a politician, who is among the organizors of the demonstrations and an independent presidential candidate, Ndabitoreye Audifax has just been arrested during a meeting of East African foreign affair ministers. He holds a dual citizenship of Burundi and the Netherlands. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi


Today, demonstrations continued in most of the communes of Bujumbura city. Something to mention is that the police was less brutal today. A grenade was thrown in a family home in Mutakura, in the northern part of the city, and 2 children 8 and 5 years were seriously wounded. People in the demonstrations were generally appreciative of the way police men and women conducted themselves today compared to the previous days. In total 6 people were injured; 4 in rural area of Ijenda and 2 in Bujumbura city. Demonstrations were also reported in the province of Bujumbura where schools were closed and roads were not operational. In other news, today the constitutional court made public the decision about whether or not the third term of the president is in accordance with the constitution. According to the court, the current president is free to run for another term because he was elected by the people only once. The decision didn’t impress neither the people in the streets nor the politicians and civil society organizations leaders. The decision was expected, the court is controlled by the president and the members of the court were pressured to make the decision in favor of the president. The decision was made while the vice president of the court had to flee Burundi for safety after he refused to support the decision. People vowed to oppose the term even strongly despite the decision. People are now wondering whether the national exam allowing children from primary school to go to secondary school will be held. It is scheduled for this week and teachers and other actors think it should be postponed. The government announced the date will not be changed. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi


Today was the beginning of another series of demonstrations after the weekend break. People increased in numbers but the police was brutal in some places, 3 People were killed , many were injured and 15 policemen were injured. Roads were blocked in many places and eve the access to the airport was blocked in the afternoon according to sources from local radio stations. Buses were not on the road, banks, schools and offices were closed. The city centre looked like a dead city because demonstrations were held in different areas of the city. A group tried to demonstrate in town but was quickly dispersed. The muslim community has just announced that they are in solidarity with people on the streets. It is clear that the movement is getting stronger despite the police brutality and the use of excessive force including life bullets. Keep Burundi in your prayers. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi


The situation is getting out of control and we do not know how the situation will develop. Last night was a particularly difficult one and rumours went around that people in Kanyosha and other parts of the city will be attacked in their homes and people decided to flee Kanyosha. This morning, militia men attacked journalists who were covering events here in Kanyosha. So far, we have church members who have fled their homes in Musaga (xxxx and her family had to leave their home last night) and some others left Kanyosha and at the current rate, more people may leave later today. The fear is mostly due to armed militia that are now touring Kanyosha with visible weapons on them. I am booked to see xxxx in the afternoon today and I will give her some financial support from the money that I have and we may have to do the same with other people once I know where they are and the current situation. One of the options, even for me, will be to leave Kanyosha and move to a different place of the city, we are not there yet but we may. I managed to come to church today but gun shots could be heard from the church office, which is scary to say the least!! I think it is time to launch a special and emergency appeal to support people during this time of crisis and displacement. Banks didn't open yesterday but some did open today . In fact, the city center is more secure but its hard to get there. Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi XXXX - names deleted for personal safety

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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