H.E. Mrs. Vestine Nahimana with Radboud University Students
By Roy Lie Atjam.
On Tuesday 22nd May 2018, a group of about twenty-five enthusiastic students of the Faculty of Public Administration, Radboud University Nijmegen, made their way to the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi in The Hague. The reason was a study visit. H.E. Mrs. Vestine Nahimana Ambassador heartily welcomed the students. The Ambassador subsequently introduced her country and touched on some min topics. A Q&A was also part of the interactive encounter. Extracts of Ambassador Nahimana’s presentation now follows.
“It is always a good opportunity to get to know foreign countries through this kind of visits, notably for students with your background and aspirations.
Inspired by the questions you have prepared in advance, I will give you a presentation of my country Burundi, although I know that you have done your homework.
Burundi is a landlocked country, located in the African Great lake region, Tanganyika, commonly known as Swiss of Africa because of its hills similar to those of Switzerland. Burundi is also referred to as the heart of Africa because of its geographical location. Its surface is 27,834 square km with a population estimated at about 12 million.
It is a country with a young population of (65 %) and agriculture is the activity most practiced by the population (90%). Burundi gained independence from Belgium in 1962 thanks to Prince Louis Rwagasore (killed a year earlier). In 1965, Burundi inaugurated the era of the Republic by the late President Michel Micombero. Then, in order, Colonel J. Baptiste Bagaza and Major Pierre Buyoya. All these presidents came to power through military coups.
In 1993 the first president to be democratically elected was invested. H.E. Melchior Ndadaye, he was killed later that same year (three months later) during a coup by the then mono-ethnic army. This triggered a decade-long war that left about three hundred thousand (300,000) dead and millions more went into to exile.
In 2005, after three years of transitional government, H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza was appointed by the Parliament and Senate to the Presidency of the Republic of Burundi.
The Government of Burundi is composed of the executive organ, the legislative organ composed of two chambers (National Assembly and Senate) and the judiciary organ, all independent.
On the economic front, Burundi is one of the developing countries. Endowed with rich natural resources, the country fights to take advantage of its minerals for development. The other main source of its development is the exportation of crops grown in the country.
- The relationship between the Netherlands and Burundi
The Netherlands and Burundi enjoy friendly relations and this is illustrated in several ways:
Diplomatically and politically, both countries are represented by Embassies respectively installed in each other countries. We can also note also frequent courtesy visits by official authorities.
On the Security front, Burundi and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a “memorandum d’entente” for the implementation of the Security Sector Development Program.
On the economic front, both countries benefit from mutual cooperation in the fields of food and agriculture. Many Dutch NGOs and start-ups operate in Burundi in the sectors of agriculture, food, security and health.
- Recent tensions in Burundi and the current security situation
In 2015, Burundi witnessed protests turned into insurgency, these insurrections that later led to an attempted coup were planned by some politicians who did not support the idea of participating in the elections. But this period is over. Burundi enjoys peace and security throughout its territory. Nevertheless, cases of banditry and delinquency can be recorded, as is the case in all countries of the world.
- Tensions between Hutu and Tutsi
The tensions between the two groups are almost over, thanks to the Constitution and the Arusha Agreement that allowed the two groups to collaborate and not to exclude themselves, which was one of the reasons for the civil war in Burundi for a very long time. During the 2015 Attempted Coup, some political actors attempted to divide the population with this ethnic rhetoric. But the Burundian people have resisted the division, and I believe this is a huge victory for the Burundian people.
- The example of Rwanda (economy, government)
I will not talk about governance or the economy of Rwanda, but rather about Burundi. But let me answer very clearly, Rwanda is not an example for Burundi because the two countries are not the same and do not have the same challenges. What you need to know about Burundi is that it tries to solve the needs of its people rather than designing plans and imposing them on the population. I think this is important.
- The importance of African integration like the European Union.
African countries have been aware long time ago of the imperative necessity to work together to achieve common goals. It is in this sense that the African Union was created. There are also sub-regional communities in Africa. Burundi is part of the East African Community for instance. What is important to note is that challenges, goals and purposes of Africans are different from those of the European Union. Integration in terms of effective free movement of goods and people is still a big challenge for example.
Yes, Africa’s future lies in sound and stable integration. Burundi enjoys its full integration into the East African Community. Thus, the country can enjoy access to the sea via Mombasa or the port of Dar-Es-Salam.
Dear students, I now invite you on a video trip to Burundi through this short report that will show more about the landscapes, the resources, the culture and even opportunities that abound in the country.”
The students were impressed when learned about a 30% quota for women in institutions.
The group’s coordinator Jelle Lammers presented Ambassador Nahimana with a token of appreciation. Enriched with a better insight of Burundi, the students bid goodbye to Ambassador Nahimana.
Photography by the Embassy of Burundi in The Hague.