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Shazza's Escapades Light hearted look at my travel escapades

Burundi - Heart of Africa Aug 2014

BURUNDI | Sunday, 3 August 2014 | Views [208]

It’s been awhile since I visited a poor country. Most people always associate any country in Africa as being a poor country. Don’t get me wrong by western standards they are but I always compare African countries with other countries on the same continent. And Burundi by far is the poorest country I have explored. There probably are worse off countries or more war torn but I haven’t had the privilege of visiting them yet.

As soon as we crossed the border from Rwanda in to Burundi, you witnessed the stark contrast immediately. The weather turned from lush green to dry and arid, populated towns and villages gave way to sparse refugee blocks dotted with the odd person begging on the roads. Children who are skinny, clutching their bellies and telling us they were hungry and needed food were dotted along the road to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. The kids come from the nearby refugee towns built by the government during the civil war. The only problem is they are half built and the land it is built on is not fit for anything let alone growing crops or keeping animals. So they have no food and they have no way of getting jobs so they beg. An ingenious way of the kids trying to make money but probably do not succeed is to fill the potholes and wait for a passing car to give them money for their efforts. This is not the case as our driver a local man from Burundi didn’t even give them a cent and discouraged us to do so as well.

That was my first impression of Burundi. After the long drive into the capital it got very busy. The throngs of the crowds in the city were amazing and colourful and loud just as I would expect in any African country. We stayed near a business hotel away from the noise and pollution. Our neighbour was the UN compound which was fortified in barbed wire, great views from our balcony.

After visiting two of Burundi’s national parks and other local towns like Gitega, Butare and Ruyigi, I realised the best thing Burundi has to offer for now is their beautiful Tanganyika Lake. It is a huge lake and you feel like you are by the sea when you are in it or like we were having dinner and breakfast by it. With time I think their national parks will go back to how it once was teeming with animals before the civil war. Although as there is a lot of money being made with tea and coffee a lot of the national park land is being used by greedy plantation owners. They keep encroaching on the national parks and the Government does nothing about it as it employs people (pittance as it is) and brings money to their economy with the exports. It’s just a shame that the Burundi Government feel that this is ok and the demise of their national parks is something they can live with.

It is a valuable source of fresh water for the local people and they can fish in the lake too. As it is so bid there is an abundance of fish and therefore people living near or by the lake live quite a comfortable life which I mean they are not starving. Unlike the people we first encountered just after the border crossing, there was no water or any good land to grow food on.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Burundi to get back on its feet like it’s neighbour Rwanda or even DRC which although war torn is developing a good economic foundation. People don’t realise that Burundi also went through their own genocidal war between the Tutsis and Hutus. It wasn’t covered in the media like it was in Rwanda. Burundi is such a tiny country; I hope that it is not forgotten by the people of Africa because technically it is the heart of the African continent.


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