Rwanda-Burundi Drum saga, a story of two countries with the same culture, language but different views.
Prior to colonial intervention and the subsequent drawing of imaginary borders, Rwanda and Burundi were once one united country known as Ruanda-Urundi, then Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial colony, formerly part of German East Africa and governed by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.
Burundians and Rwandans share the same language, as well as a culture and set of conventions.
Their recent history has hardly been one to brag about, despite the fact that they are now two sovereign nations with very different views. Their military battle often, administrations slam doors on each other, and ceaseless accusations are exchanged, yet they also, astonishingly, return to the roundtable and patch wounds without mediation.
Burundi accused Rwanda of stealing drum culture and doing so badly in 2019.
It all began in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda to escape the brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration, which was pursuing an unconstitutional third term in power, resulting in a failed coup.
A group of Drummers organized under the Himbaza organization was among those that escaped Burundi. This group applied to compete in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2019.
The group claimed to be from Rwanda. However, when they introduced themselves to the crowd, they said that they were Burundian refugees who had been in Rwanda since 2015.
Himbaza organization Taking part in the television program ‘East Africa Got Talent’ in Nairobi.
Willy Nyamitwe, a top aide and spokesperson for former Burundi President Nkurunziza, was not amused.
“Not Original and Authentic at All,” he tweeted on August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for lowering the quality and cultural uniqueness of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.
However, the judges thought the “Himbaza Drummers” were so brilliant that they advanced to the following round.
In response, the show’s organizers declared in a statement that they “truly regret” any offense caused by the participation of the Himbaza drummers.
“Entry to the exhibition was available to everyone with the legal right to dwell in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, or Tanzania, regardless of nationality.” “The competitors are legal citizens of Rwanda and hence genuine contestants on the program,” organizers said.
Demonstrations against the Rwandan government were the order of the day in the Burundian capital, with hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses attacked, but Rwanda refused to be provoked.
UNESCO designated the ceremonial dance of the royal drum, a Burundian custom, as an intangible cultural property of mankind in 2014, with the intention of preserving and sharing it with the rest of the world.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye (right) plays the holy drums.
Rwanda and Burundi now retain a closed border and have battled multiple times since 2015, however the two countries have engaged in shuttle diplomacy and have said that the border may reopen at any moment.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is presently on leave, opted to travel about the country and see different tourist attractions. He has been spotted with his family on a boat trip, going through a forest, and most recently visiting Gitega province’s Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the holy drums of Gishora).
He happily donned drum sticks, recognizing the famed Burundian drummers’ national colors of red, white, and green. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to design a few dance movements in a harmonic manner. He even sung some patriotic tunes.
“You who have dedicated your life to the drums, I did not trade the zither for the small amount of 80 francs, I did not toss away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not sell my nation for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift at well-watered parties.”
And the guards of Gishora’s holy drums sanctuary loudly express their approbation with their cry: “Eeeeh!”
Gishora’s holy drum sanctuary: “It holds the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, which have been there for 119 years, and provided as a shelter for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was formed.”
Ndayishimiye’s visit to the location of Gishora’s holy drums may have been a signal to cease the drum politics that had placed the two nations against one another in 2019 and might have paved the way for a new chapter with Rwanda, which had been accused of stealing these drums.