Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed

Saturday June 22 2013


By Charles Onyango-Obbo

If you were in Nairobi, Kampala, Dar-es-Salaam and I suspect Kigali by the afternoon of Friday, June 14, you would have read the details of the budgets of all the East African Community countries except one — Burundi.

Indeed, The East African, which came out a day later, had extensive reports on the EAC budgets – except, again, Burundi’s.

This conformed to a pattern that we have seen since Burundi and Rwanda joined the EAC in 2009. Burundi rarely gets any action.

This Burundi isolation is puzzling. Some people argue that it is because its main foreign language is French, unlike the other four who speak English.

However, Senegal, which is far away in West Africa, is French-speaking, and no one there can utter even a word of Kiswahili, which many Barundi speak, but it still gets more play in the East African media than Burundi.

Okay, it is one of Africa’s smallest countries, yes, but it is bigger than Rwanda, which cannot complain of inadequate coverage. In fact, Rwanda gets too much press, although some of it, according to Kigali, is of the “wrong” kind.

So size is not the issue.

One could say that it uses a currency, the franc, which East Africans don’t understand. But then so does Rwanda.

Burundi only appears when the regional media go the extra kilometre to cover it. So what can Burundi do to get East Africa’s attention?

Well, to start with, it needs to host a big private sector event, not just government and state sector stuff. If I were President Pierre Nkurunziza, I would channel money through a civil society group or something not directly associated with the government, and hold a big East African Bloggers conference.

True, that will bring a lot of badly dressed people to Bujumbura, but they are smart and would get Burundi’s story not just around East Africa, but the world.

Second, Nkurunziza needs to ensure that a Burundi football club becomes the winningest team in the region.

However, that alone w