Pastor John Bosco Kwizera is in charge of emerge poverty free projects in Gitega, Burundi. ‘Bosco’, as he is commonly known, fled Burundi at the end of April with his family following the political unrest there and now lives temporarily in Kigali, the capital of neighbouring Rwanda. Both his parents were hacked to death with a machete when he was 15 in the Burundi civil war in 1993.
1. Why did you have to flee from Burundi?
I was given 2 hours to leave or be killed. I had to flee in my vehicle with my wife and 4 children, my youngest daughter was just one month old. The others are boys and are aged 7, 5 and 3. I had to leave most of my life possessions behind. People warned me that I was a target because I had tried to install electricity to the African Revival Ministry Centre in Gitega (composed of a children’s home and health centre). The leader of the local commune told me I had also to provide electricity for all the local people so the government could get their votes. It was far too expensive so I reluctantly said no. Then I became a marked man.
2. Do you know what is happening there now?
Yes because I am in regular contact with my friends and the staff of the African Revival Ministry Centre. The situation changes day to day but a lot of top government officials have now gone to Gitega so it is still unsafe.
3. Emerge poverty free supports 40 street children, 20 boys and 20 girls, in separates children’s homes in Gitega. Do you know what has happened to them?
When I fled the children were still at the homes. They are still there now. However, they are concerned that their families may flee and they could get separated from them so they are very upset. I keep in regular contact with the staff there and speak to the children.
4. Emerge set up a health centre in Gitega including an HIV/AIDs clinc, a nutrition centre and a maternity ward. Have you been in contact with the staff there to find out what has happened to the centre?
Yes I regularly talk to them. Last thursday I went to the border to meet the staff who had papers for me to sign and to update me. More people than ever are coming to the centre because of the political situation and they know it is a safe place. We are struggling to help everybody. We are having to ration medicines because of the number of people coming from the capital Bujumbura which has seen a lot of violence.
5. Emerge also have a pig breeding project. Do you know what has happened to them?
Before the conflict we had 46 pigs and gave the young piglets away to the local population. However, now we want to sell them because we fear that the local people may steal or kill them because they are so hungry. So we plan to only keep a few which we are able to feed and are not so obvious.
6. You are a pastor. How has your faith helped you during this difficult time in your life?
Leaving all the children was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I cried so much and I had to pray hard that I was making the right decision. After I was threatened I prayed to God I would get to Rwanda safely. When I was escaping they told me not to use my car but I had no other way of getting my family out. My children had no passports. He answered my prayers because the Rwandan police let me through and we all arrived safely. I had very little money when I arrived so I rented a cheap empty house. However, people here have been really generous and I have been given a cooker, tv and mattresses. Now I pray everyday for peace, the children and the staff in the centre.
7. You sound very sad to have left. Do you hope to go back one day?
Yes I would love to go back one day. I miss everyone, especially the children. My wife who is a doctor has also had to give up her job and my children miss their school. I pray one day it will be safe again so I can go back home.
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