Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One Brave Man Leaves Burundi

Burundi is a small country similar in size and topography as Rwanda.  Ethnically it is also similar to Rwanda with Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.  Burundi was once part of Rwanda before both countries achieved independence in 1962.

This is where the similarities end.  After Rwanda’s Genocide the country rebuilt and has remained relatively stable since 1994.  Burundi had similar ethnic strife and peace has been a fragile day-to-day balance since 1993.  In recent weeks, the balance has teetered and the world watches, no one wanting to speak aloud the word we all fear, genocide.

The current President, Pierre Nkurunziza is a Hutu, representative of the majority of the population.  He is in his second and final term according to the Constitution of this Africa nation.  Pierre Nkurunziza has done little to move Burundi forward since taking office in 2005.  The country still ranks as one of the poorest in the world and in 2013, Burundians were the hungriest people in the world according to the Global Hunger Index.

On April 25th of this year, with elections slated to be held in August, President Pierre Nkurunziza confirms he will run for a third term asPresident.  His opponents say this move is unconstitutional and violates the Arusha accords, which ended the civil war in 2006.  Africa has a long line of “leaders” who have come to power and then simply did not want to leave.  President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, many of the Arab countries.  Agree or disagree with the current US President he will not be returning to office in 2016.  As Americans we cannot imagine Presidents who never leave.  We cannot imagine someone simply voiding the Constitution for his or her own personal gain.  But on the continent of Africa, it happens more often than not.

This morning I shook the hand of man who was willing to risk everything to speak out against President Nkurunziza’s demand to seek reelection to a third term.  Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse, vice president ofBurundi’s constitutional court, along with most of the other six judges,believed it was unconstitutional to stand for a third term.  Sylvere was the only one who did not succumb to the threats and pressure to rubber stamp President Nkurunziza’s request. 

Last night Sylvere Nimpagaritse, his wife and five children boarded my flight in Kigali and left for a safe haven and refuge in Europe.  He was the last one standing saying this was wrong.

I am seeker of justice, a defender of the underdog, with an abhorrence of governments and governmental officials who take advantage of the people they are supposed to be serving.  How can one continue to seek personal power while those around him are suffering and hungry? 

The world needs more men like Sylvere Nimpagaritse.  Men, African men, who will stand up to the leaders on this continent and fight for the law, their country and their people.

I sit here knowing Rwanda will be tackling this same issue in a couple of years.  President Kagame is in his last term.  The rumblings of a third term are already gaining momentum because this President has paved the way forward for Rwanda, strengthened the economy and made Rwanda one of the safest countries in Africa.  Rwanda does not look like Burundi, but does that make it any different?  Is a Constitution still a Constitution or simply a piece of paper with words of grey, easily manipulated or simply shredded? 

20,000 refugees from Burundi have entered Rwanda.  

Godspeed Judge Nimpagaritse and your brave family. 


Make a stand.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Prayers for Bonaventure

Crashes....it's just part of cycling.  It happens.  We have been very lucky considering the congested roads with people walking on the shoulders, on the street, goats, sheep, new drivers, new drivers driving fast while talking on the phone.   Rwanda is a potpourri of road hazards.

The biggest, most common crash threat is the ignorant pedestrian.  I hit an old man years ago.  I was riding down a hill and saw an old man crossing the road in front of my path.  I started to slow down.  We made eye contact.  I thought we had a mental agreement he saw me coming and not walk in front of me.  No such agreement happened.  He backed up out of my path, I let go of the brakes, picked up speed and as I was within feet of him he stepped directly into my path.  I plowed into him.  He was knocked into the middle of the road.  I found myself on the gravel shoulder.  WTF was that all about?  You saw me, you knew I was approaching.  

Last Tuesday, Bona was descending and there he was, an indecisive villager playing frogger in the road.  Forward, backward, forward, backward...contact.  Bona hit the pedestrian and flew off his bike, head first on the side of the road in a field of boulders.  His Louis Garneau helmet saved his head, but the helmet was crushed.  

The team got him to a hospital, more like a poorly run clinic, near the crash.  Jock met up with them on the motorcycle and Kiki drove to meet them.  After hours at the clinic they finally made their way to the Musanze Hospital and several hours after that, Bona arrived back at the training center.  In Musanze they had stitched up his arm and took an X-ray but that was the extent of his trauma care.  There is no CT scanner in Musanze.  

After a couple of calls to my sister, the doctor, and consulting with some other doctor friends in Musanze, we felt confident in just letting him rest. 

By Wednesday night, Mr. AM was worried and checked on him at midnight.  By 6:00am they were on the road to Kigali to see Dr. Albert, the doctor who handles the Tour of Rwanda and the Team.  By noon I received a call from Coach and his CT scan was clear.  No bleeding in his brain, no skull fracture, no spinal damage.  The doctors decided to keep him for a day or two for observation.  That was Thursday.

Bona is still in the hospital.  It's Monday.  

Today we went to see him before leaving for South Africa.  This morning he had another CT scan because he's still not feeling better.  He's not eating.  He still has a headache.  When I walked in the room, Bona looked so small and fragile.  I just sat on his bed and held his hand.  We are still awaiting the results of his second CT but chances are its fine.  That's good, but that also means his brain just needs to heal and that takes time and we just need to wait.  That's hard.  I don't "wait" well.

Bona is the tough kid, the one who never quits, the one who doesn't give up, who never complains.  He's solid....just not right now.

I am praying and trying to keep from crying.  I don't want to leave to South Africa tonight, but as my sister said, there's nothing you can do at this point.  

I just wanted to curl up next to him in that bed and hold his hand and tell him he was going to be fine.  

Please pray for our Bona....