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  • Keith Scott

City Centre Standstill

Well here I am, back in Burundi, teaching students at Bujumbura Christian University. Last year I arrived and found it all very new and strange. This year I am an old hand, and I was met by old friends. Burundians are huggers and I merited the Burundian one-armed embrace. A couple of days later I went to the home of one of my Burundian friends and was greeted the same way by all the members of the family.

The problems faced by most Burundians are huge. Everyone expresses frustration with the way things are. Last year, when I was here there was a shortage of petrol. This year it’s actually worse. Petrol and diesel are both in short supply all over the country. I went out into the city with some friends one evening. The traffic around a small area of the city centre was pretty much at a standstill. We went down one very narrow street, which, I was told, is supposed to be a one-way street. Vehicles of every size and shape were parked either side of the street and what little traffic that was actually succeeding in moving down the middle of street was trying to go in both directions. There was, inevitably, a cacophony of horns and words uttered in both Kirundi and French which don't warrant translation here.

The cause of all this chaos? A fuel station nearby had, or was about to have, a delivery of fuel, and every street in the area was blocked with drivers trying to get a precious drop. The queues stretched for a kilometre or more every which way. The forecourt was log-jammed with vehicles pointing in every direction. When this happens further out of the city centre small motorbikes also pack into the forecourt, adding to the log-jam. Often there are police hanging around looking suitably threatening with their weapons. The government, I am told, have been promising that everything will be fine in a week or two. It’s been a long two weeks.

Part of my job in all this is to teach Revelation. Powerful apocalyptic visions encouraging resistance to, and invoking every possible disaster upon, an autocratic regime. Being back in Burundi, such teaching takes on a different hue. With a bit of luck I will get home without needing bail money.



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