A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jean-Marie Bukuru, Political Refuge from Barundi

On Thursday evening, at my father's invitation, with Mabel at our feet, I had a conversation with Jean-Marie Bukuru of Barundi, a man of science, a truly noble, uncorruptible man, the kind of person who risks his life to take a stand of generational consequence on behalf of his nation, based on logic and reason. As Jean-Marie shared with me details of how corruption works, I began envisioning the possibilities of an epic movie based on the true story of a man who refused to accept even a watch during a high stakes negotiation.

Because Jean-Marie, in his position as lead negotiator for
Barundi, as Head of Land Planning and Development, Ministry of Water, Environment and Land Planning, forcefully defended Barundi's upstream water interests along the Nile in international courts, ceded by his country to Colonial powers to benefit Egypt at Barundi's expense, because Jean-Marie persuaded Barundi's President to sign an agreement which allowed Barundi full rights of access to the Nile, including for the purposes of irrigation and hydroelectric power, and because Jean-Marie pointed out the logical flaws in the argument that Al-Shabab, at the service of Mubarik, posed a realistic military threat to Barundi, Jean-Marie was made an assassination target by foes within his country who had been corrupted by Egyptian agents.

Jean-Marie left his wife and ten children behind in Barundi, becoming a political refuge, escaped certain death, and eventually found his way to my parent's home in Arlington, after the expiration of his 2014-2015 Humphrey Fellowship. Today, Jean-Marie is seeking urgent funding for the introduction to Barundi of kenaf, which is in Jean-Marie's estimation as an agricultural scientist, the ideal cash crop for Barundi, based on Kenaf's of it's unique properties:

  • 6' taproot, which enables it to thrive with minimal rainfall.
  • Can be harvested 3 times per year.
  • Used in bioreactors to generate electricity
  • Used as an insulation product in automobiles
  • Inexpensive and easy to grow
Below is Jean-Marie's statement, which I have taken the liberty of posting on my blog, as I am sure Jean-Marie would not object:

Statement of Jean-Marie Bukuru
(May 20, 2015)

I am Jean-Marie Bukuru from Burundi. Because of the current political crisis in Burundi, where I am considered an opponent of the current President Pierre Nkurunziza, I am seeking assistance to relocate myself and my family out of Burundi, until the democratic political process is restored.

My background is in Agricultural Engineering. I have worked as an official of the Burundian government with various international development institutions including The World Bank, the European Union and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved with poverty reduction, human rights, water supply, water productivity, food security, rural infrastructure development, wetlands management and climate change adaptation projects.

Today I am in the US as a Fulbright scholar and Hubert Humphrey Fellow, having recently graduated from a one-year professional development program at Cornell University in Agricultural Economic and Rural Development.

Officially my Hubert Humphrey Fellowship will be completed on June 12, 2015 after I finish my professional affiliation at the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) and Equity Expansion International (EEI). I am supposed to return to Burundi to implement the professional and leadership skills I have learned in the US.

Unfortunately, there is now a political crisis in Burundi caused by the current president who wants to run for a third term, in violation of the constitution and Arusha peace accord. He has been the President of Burundi for the past ten years in two consecutive, five-year terms from 2005 to 2015.

During his second term, President Nkurunziza has acquired a widespread reputation for nepotism and corruption, assassination of innocent people, suppression of free speech and the private media, and establishment of an authoritarian regime.  By seeking to change the constitution in order to run for a third term, he has provoked protests by opposition parties and other civil organizations. Using police acting under his militia name “Imbonerakure,” the President has recently jailed more than 500 and killed more than 20 peaceful protestors. He has rejected advice not to run for the third term from the US Government, European Union and African Organization Union.

As a founder of Burundi Sustainable Development, Agenda 21 (a Burundi non-profit organization opposing all human rights violations, corruption, lack of leadership and bad governance), I fear for my life if I go back now to Burundi, because I am considered part of the opposition to the current President.

I have been a political target since 2011, when I fled Burundi and became a refugee for 2 years in Sweden. At that time I was a Technical Advisor and Committee Member in charge of the Nile River Initiative Program for Burundi. I was responsible for negotiating a new Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) on the Nile River. The purpose of the new CFA was to create a program which authorizes all countries sharing the Nile River to develop rational use water programs for the benefit of all member countries including Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On May 14, 2010 Egypt and Sudan (“downstream” countries) refused to sign the new agreement, and tried to influence other “upstream” countries like Burundi and DRC by bribing officials of those countries not to sign the agreement. The result of this would have been to deny the right of upstream countries to develop their own irrigation and hydroelectric systems connected to the Nile River.

In January 2011, I convinced the protocol chief of the current President of Burundi who persuaded the President to join other countries in signing the CFA. Because I didn’t support the high-level Burundian officials who had been bribed by members of the Egyptian government (under former President Mubarek), these corrupt Burundian officials accused me of acting against the institution of the Burundian Presidency. One colonel named Leonard Ngendakumana, a former Director of Burundi’s Intelligence Agency, threatened me with imprisonment. I decided to seek asylum in August 2011 and lived in Sweden for two years.

In January 2013, I decided to go back home because the current President invited all Burundian refugees to return home, following his promise to the international community that he would establish peace and human rights, and that no returning refugee would be mistreated. But when I arrived in Burundi, the Minister of Water, Environment, Land Management and Urban Affairs refused to let me return to an appropriate professional position, even though I had brought home new skills in urban and land use and environmental planning.

I was sent by the Government to work in the countryside near the Tanzanian border. I was given an office without a chair, desk, computer or telephone, to make it clear to me that I would not have essential resources to perform my responsibilities, and that I should quit my work. Instead, I decided to create the “Burundi Sustainable Development, Agenda 21,” a national association dealing with human rights protection, fighting corruption, evaluating projects and programs affecting the Burundi community, training people in leadership and good governance, empowering thinking for change, and promoting broad-based ownership opportunities among people who want to be the pioneers of market-based economic democracy in Burundi.

Our Association, which operates with an all-volunteer staff, received its authorization signed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs on June 14, 2013. This was at the same time I was applying to the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program for 2014-2015.  I was selected among 176 qualified candidates out of 3,500 applicants from all over the world who applied to this competitive program.

Today I am a Fulbright scholar and Hubert H. Humphrey fellow in Agricultural Economics and Rural Development. I am seeking help so that I can provide leadership and exercise my professional skills within my country and other countries in Africa. Additionally, I need to be able to support myself and my family outside of Burundi, until I can return to my country to implement the knowledge and skills I have gained in the US from Cornell University and other institutions of learning.

Jean-Marie Bukuru, CESJ Research Fellow
Center for Economic and Social Justice
4318 North 31st Street, Arlington Virginia 22207
Tel: 540-449-9067