Monday, 24 March 2008

Burundi

It's been five days so far in Bujumbura. This is my first experience of Central Africa, and the first time I've been south of the Sahara since South Africa, when I was still only a little boy (now a big boy), in 1994.

The nights are hot and humid, geckos are climbing the walls. In the mornings, I look out of my window and see mist over the mountains. I can hear the sound of tropical birds. It's already warm by 8am, and I climb out from under my mosquito net, still drowsy after some very vivid dreams brought on, I think, by malaria medication.




I'm here to cover a landmine clearance operation, one that - when completed within the next two months - will make Burundi the first 100% landmine free country in the world. Burundi, as tiny and internationally obscure as it is, has its own horrific past of genocide and civil war. One thing it doesn't need now is landmines and unexploded ordnance littering the country. Violence continues despite a 2000 ceasefire and the parliament has been paralysed for over two months after Alice Nzumokunda - the head of the ruling party CNDD-FDD - was dismissed for "undisclosed" reasons.

I interviewed the new head of CNDD-FDD, Colonel Jeremie Ngendakumana, and asked him directly why Alice was removed from office.



He smiled and said "This is internal party matters, I don't think it is right to discuss it with people outside of the party."

The Colonel had, so far, refused to discuss his party's reasons with anyone in Burundi, neither journalist or non-party member. "But everyone in the party knows why," he assured me. This wasn't a good answer from a Colonel, in a country accustomed to military coups, who is now being accused of being a dictator.

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