I’m sorry it’s taken some time for me to write back to you. I’ve read all of your messages and I know you’ve been worried sick. I truly am sorry, but with everything that has happened lately I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, let alone reach out to you.
They killed Jean last week. A group of people found him lifeless on the side of the road with his arms tied and three shots in his back. I ran all the way from home when a friend called but I couldn’t believe it when I saw him there. They killed my best friend and I don’t know what to do anymore. He never did anything wrong, he just lived in the wrong neighborhood. I’ve cried every day since. My mother keeps praying things will change, but I don’t think prayers work anymore. I don’t know how to tell her. How do I tell her that I found myself playing Marco Polo with God in a pool of my best friend’s blood but I couldn’t find him?
I argue with my mother more and more lately. She still insists on stepping out of the house to visit her close friends in our neighborhood and run errands even though I don’t think it’s safe for her to do so. She told me about what happened to two women she knows who live in Jean’s neighborhood, what armed men did to them, and she expects me to be okay with her being outside. She says she will be fine but she can’t know, and I swear every time I hear gun shots in the distance and she’s not at home, my heart skips and starts to ache. If only my father wasn’t so sick he could maybe talk sense into her. She is strong, stronger than me and she keeps us all together, but she takes too many risks. I feel like a coward every time she leaves home. I feel like a coward every day I stay silent and at home, every day I don’t speak out against this tyranny. She says that I need to stay safe but she doesn’t understand that if, God forbid, I lose her then I’ll die inside as well.
I’ve read about talks planned in hopes of putting an end to this. Right now I doubt they would lead to anything, if they actually happen at all. And if they do, it will take a long time, too long. By then too many of us will have died for one man’s greed. While diplomats and politicians debate on the crisis, our own policemen discuss where to dump the next of our generation’s youths.
I’m sorry if this isn’t a cheerful message. I’m not in a good place to give you good news. I just want to let you know I’m alright. As alright as one can be in this situation. I’m glad you’re at a safe distance from all of this. I would never want anything terrible to happen to you. I hope you still understand why I couldn’t leave with you. It’s so depressing staying here but the thought of being with you again one day still manages to keep me sane. I love you.
X Umurundi (not real name) is a writer from Burundi currently seeking refuge in Rwanda away from the turmoil in his home country. Since April, more than 400 Burundians have been summarily executed and murdered after citizens rejected the bid by President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third bid. To date more than 200, 000 Burundians have fled from their homes, and with no peace deal in the offing, the fears of another civil war in the country are now more than real.