By Bertrand Mizero

If you’re a frequent reader of the Bible, you may have guessed that this post’s title is the first verse of Psalm 121. You’re probably thinking that I’m about to preach to you, and you’re either eager to go on reading or about to close this tab. Well don’t go… this isn’t quite a message of salvation.

I chose this verse because I believe that it can express how many Burundians feel today, considering that when we lift our eyes up, regardless of where we are in Burundi, we see, well, the hills! Then when we think about the state of affairs in our country, regardless of our religion, most of us can’t help but wonder where our help will come from… Because we need help!
Rampant corruption, a sinking economy, deprivation of human rights, killings and imprisonment of opposition party members, amateur diplomacy… brings many to think or agree that the current government, and implicitly the ruling party, has not done enough or is simply not qualified to run this country again.
Many consider that two terms have been enough for our leadership to prove their ability to govern us and relatively develop our country, or at least to show some improvements that would convince people that a change in leadership is not necessary.

But now, the million dollar question is: is there a person, or in a broad way, a party good enough to carry out Burundians’ aspirations. Is there a better alternative?

Every now and then, I spend a considerable amount of time, as any respectable Mushingantahe (at a bar) would, debating with friends about who could be a valuable replacement for Nkurunziza, taking into consideration all the high political figures who want us to believe that they can “do better” than him:
Now, on one hand we have impulsive and quarrelsome Ngendakumana and Sinduhije who have already announced their candidacy. They could be good opposition leaders, but they probably need to take anger management classes before they can try to run a state.
Then we have Rwasa whose past and controversial background (the ideology that made him popular) make it really hard to trust him.
And then we have Nditije, who has never really expressed the desire to run for presidency, but even if he did, I can already predict him being told to sort the issues of his party out before he can convince us that he can fix this country.
Some used to say Bamvuginyumvira was the man, but his recent trip to Mpimba and his conviction for 5 years of imprisonment (the reasons that sent him there are debatable by the way) basically disqualified him to run for elections since one cannot have a legal record and run for presidency.
There are other politicians like Ndayizeye (probably the only ex-President with a good reputation) and Ntibantunganya whom you could say are qualified, but their involvement in “pre-democracy” politics can easily be used against them. Let us not even mention our dear “Major President”, a well-known diplomat with a strong authority in Africa, but also known to be a specialist of “chaotic” situations (meaning he could seize the current political situation as an opportunity for a legitimate comeback). Well, I actually honestly don’t see him leave his position as High Representative of the African Union in Mali and the Sahel with much more career opportunities as an international diplomat for a déjà-vécu.

What then?

The Christian that I am believes that our salvation comes and will always come from God. But every time God had to act, He used people.

I am of those who think that Burundi has a great potential to develop despite many criticisms about his economic potentiality. My analysis may be biased but I do think it bears a big part of truth in it:
We have more water than many other African countries, except maybe countries like the DRC and some EAC countries. Water is a great asset to develop a market-oriented agriculture which can later be the engine for our development. The mineral resources recently discovered, if exploited, can generate some income which can at least help or allow the industry sector to take off. And the most importantly, we have a skilled Diaspora, and a large local workforce which can sustain our economic growth.
Hundreds of Burundians are working as experts with big international firms; others serving as UN or other International organizations diplomats. Many have chosen to settle in western cities aspiring or hoping for better lifestyles. How I wish all those skilled, smart, intelligent people were here in Burundi.
A few months ago, I was very sad while reading a very thoughtful analysis of a Burundian on the education reforms that had been presented a few months before by the government and amended by the parliament. I wished he could be home; maybe his voice would have been heard or his ideas considered in the (re)design of the reforms.

All countries in this world, in a way or another, leaned on their work force to develop. Most great African leaders are those who after schooling abroad returned to build their countries. Strong and good leaders are those who, besides having umutima w’ubuntu n’uwo gukunda igihugu, are skilled and intelligent enough to discuss and bargain for the interests of their countries. Unfortunately we seem to have missed those in Burundi.

Most of us Burundians love to criticize what is happening back home but take no or very little action to make things change. I really liked the article by MRG when she called the Diaspora and our “elites” out saying how we criticize so much and do so little “essentially sounding like high school ‘cool kids’ not mixing with the ‘losers’” .
I wish more people could see the ultimate need for the Diaspora to return home, and for the elites to become active in shaping the future of our country. Sure it requires a lot of sacrifices; but wouldn’t they be worth it in the long run? And wouldn’t it make things easier for God to choose who He will appoint to lead our beloved Burundi?

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Bertrand currently lives and works in Bujumbura. Follow him on Twitter @mzro_b