We returned to Burundi from our holidays in the evening on April 10. Before we left the airport, I had heard from colleagues that the youth of the governing party (CNDD-FDD) would hold a big rally on April 11 and that it might get violent. It did not, as it turned out, but the president's April 25 declaration that he would be the CNDD-FDD presidential candidate sparked protests around Bujumbura. Police responded with disproportionate force, and the protesters became violent in response.
On May 13, a military general announced by radio that he was dismissing the executive branch of the government (president, vice-presidents, ministers) but not changing anything about the constitution. The coup failed, and on May 14 battles of machine guns and grenades raged through Bujumbura. In response, the embassy sent all non-emergency personnel out of the country (and all the pets as well).
Ian and Bertie, along with 75 other U.S. citizens (and some other nationals) evacuated to Kigali, Rwanda, on May 17 via charter plane. With support from the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Ian set up shop in a slummy long-stay apartment/ hotel to wait for whatever would happen in Bujumbura. We were separated for 175 days (they returned to Bujumbura for another 5 weeks on November 5), but I managed to visit a half dozen times or so.
There are not very many pictures from these months because we did very little beyond maintaining our sanity. All the same, we had a marvelous little boy who brought endless delight and grew up while we were watching!
Still in Bujumbura - The Final Days
Feeding the Bean
Bertie is a growing young Zaur, and Ian struggled to feed him enough. The slummy apartment did not have potable water on site, so Ian carried water from the embassy in five-liter jugs for the entire 175 days of his exile. All the fruits and veggies had to be scrubbed with dish soap, bleached, and rinsed in clean water (the stuff Ian carried) and then consumed before they went bad. It was a herculean effort, but Ian kept Bertie's body and soul together!
For himself, Ian used a service called Hello Food!, a sort of restaurant delivery taxi system. In his 175 days, he ordered from a variety of restaurants that used Hello Food so often (at least once per day, often twice) that he became a highly valued customer. He won a major award (a bottle of wine) from them at the end of his stay.
Back to Bujumbura for 15 minutes!*
On November 5, Ian and Bertie came back to Bujumbura. The week they arrived saw more gunfights and explosions, and worse fighting near our house, than any other week since the coup.
At around 3 AM on December 11, rebels attacked three military installations to steal weapons, and fighting continued until about 5 PM. Our flight to Portland for three weeks of Christmas holiday (my first since the France trip in April) was supposed to leave at 5.15, but although the airport stayed open, nobody was working and no commercial flights came in, for obvious reasons. We were amazingly lucky and got out on December 12; in spite of everything in Burundi, our holiday was only 24 hours delayed. After the holidays, Ian and Bertie stayed in Chicago for six weeks while I packed out of Bujumbura, finished what I could, and got our next assignment (Praia, Cabo Verde - come visit!). It was a whirlwind process, but we're getting ourselves back together!
*It was really five weeks and three days, but whatever.