A letter to the President, from a mother…

Mr. President, when you tell us that you have further plans for our country for the next five years, I understand that you want to take us, citizens of Burundi, to 2020 with a vision of a united democratic country.

Mr. President, I have a few things that I need to understand: will the hope of a united nation live on to the confusion? Will the wellbeing of our children be assured, despite the fact that schools are closed and other social services are on a standstill? Will Burundians hold on to the once strongly held pride of belonging to a beautiful green mountainous country?

Mr. President, after the Arusha Peace Agreement, Burundians slowly overcame the ethnic divide, and timidly, we set out together on a journey of healing our wounds and scars. Hopes and dreams began to spring in the hearts and minds of our youth. If today, any democratic claim is met with polarization speeches by State officials today, can our hopes of unity remain?

Mr. President, our country is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 81% of our population living in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1.25 a day[1]. We face thousands upon thousands of challenges just to keep our children well fed, in good health and with decent education. How can we help keep their dreams of a good future in refugee camps, in displacement homes and in the face of dead bodies and fear of the police? Mr. President, ten years ago, we celebrated you. We did not celebrate the person, but the system. A system that made us expect a sense of progress and a sense of urgency to rebuild our country on a foundation of strong institutions, Ubuntu values. That system was not in a person, but in the letter of law. Mr. President, are we wrong to want to hold on to that system, and to give it a chance to unfold its changes that will lead to sustainable democracy and economic progress?

I also hear you Mr. President, giving reasons to why a third term is constitutionally sound and justifiable, and why we should validate the process of the changes in our constitution based on the Arusha Agreement which insists that two terms are enough. May we be forgiven for comparing and contrasting our national institutions with others around the world which we emulate and with which we interact; where constitutions are respected, political plurality is common, strong values are deeply rooted in public and civic institutions and appointments. We watch and see the world rising to a set of values we would like to see diffused in our home country. Mr. President, can we still hope to proudly stand among other nations and declare that we are proud to be Burundians?

Mr. President, I once felt the fear of an uncertain future; I once bore the shame of dictatorial leaders, and then, there was hope written all over the Arusha Peace Agreements. But today, Mr. President, that hope is lost and so little remains.

The experience of the past two months, from the day you decided to run for a third term, I do not know what to tell my son. Then came the public manifestations and violent oppressions. Over seventy people mostly youth have been reported dead. Mothers like me do not count loss as a statistic, but a piercing of the heart. I hope, Mr. President that they are not statistics to you either, but represent lost potential, shattered hopes and most of all, a call to turn around.

As an adult, as a mother and as a citizen of Burundi, I have plenty of reasons to pick a side, to interpret what is happening through different lenses, but I prefer to speak the universal language of all mothers around the world. Through our children in Burundi, we see future hopes and dreams, we share the values of love, duty and care. We aspire to offer them the best education some never had. As mothers we expect our health system to provide healthcare for our children, regardless of their socio-economic status. We want them to be safe, to be immersed and engaged in the life of our nation. Our children are the future of our country, we are trusted with the greatest assets any nation has – our children. This is why as said by Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “We are fighting for the things we care about”. The government must be the first to be organized and totally committed to serving the interests of its people as said by Samora Machel. Therefore, Mr. President, would you help heal our wounds and wipe away the tears of mothers?


Cynthia Munwangari
The woman who has no title
June 28, 2015

[1] World Bank, 2014

3 thoughts on “A letter to the President, from a mother…

  1. very well placed. The problem with African leaders. Mr. President, don’t fear those who have run away, fear those who are still within, for they are not weak, but strong, not poor, but rich in spirit, not hopeless, but hopeful for tomorrow, and you may not stop that river when it begins to flow.


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