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Mixed opinions as Burundi marks anniversary of unity charter adoption

Burundi on Monday marked the 26th anniversary of the adoption of the unity charter despite some worries over ethnic differences once again dividing citizens of the African nation.


Ceremonies took place in major towns in Burundi’s provinces and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza were in the northeastern province of Muyinga for the celebration.

By adopting the unity charter on Feb. 5, 1991, the three main ethnic groups in Burundi — Hutus, Tutsis and Twas — accepted to "live in harmony and avoid confrontations" as it happened in 1965, 1969, 1972 and 1988.

Yet on Burundi’s streets, opinions on the unity progress 26 years after the charter adoption seemed to be mixed.

"We cannot say that Burundians are united because of the adoption of this unity charter. Problems arise when it comes to striving for political positions," said Jacqueline Niyonzima, a secondary school teacher in Buyenzi.

She said despite the harmony between the the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority groups in rural areas, ethnicity remains an issue when politicians claimed to fight for the interest of their ethnic group.

"In the countryside, people live together, share everything and cross-marry. So, there is no problem. The only problem resides amongst political actors," she said.

Charlotte Gahimbare, an internet cafe agent in Bujumbura, worried about divisions during elections.

"When it comes to big events like elections, politicians divide Burundian citizens ... If unity starts from the top, we will get it also at the grassroots level," Gahimbare said.

Other citizens believe that unity is getting consolidated even if some problems still exist.

Tharcisse Nizigama, who sells second-hand clothes in Bwiza neighborhood indicated that ethnicity problems are almost over.

"The situation of unity amongst Burundian people is now better. There are so many inter-ethnic marriages. This shows the creation of more confidence and trust between Hutus and Tutsis," he said.

He indicated that Burundian leaders should "urgently" do their best to repatriate people living in exile so that their life continues on their mother land.

Despite the adoption of the unity charter in 1991, one of the biggest crises broke out in 1993 with the assassination of the first democratically elected Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye, which sparked deadly violence between Hutu and Tutsi groups and a massive forced exile.

Jimirasire

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