Wargames and Christmas Celebrations during the War Years

Updated blog first posted in 2010.

This is the second reblogging of past Christmas celebrations here in Burundi, the first being:

An African Christmas, Burundi-Style

Here is what happened in 2003, by way of wargames, Christmas celebrations, and related events.  Most of the pictures were taken 2003.

22nd December – Putting up the christmas tree.  Every year, I have all of the staff in to help, followed by popcorn and drinks.  A few years ago the government decreed no more live Christmas trees (to help combat deforestation), and so we now use banana ‘trees’!

Decorating the tree, by the project staff

Our staff who looked after the goat herds and the compound consisted of nearly 20 strong young men.  During the war-years this was a great deterrent to rebels thinking of breaking into the compound.  (Except 2 times, when we were invaded, and I’ll write about that in a separate blog).

Some of the Project staff enjoying drinks and popcorn during Christmas season

23rd December – Below, enjoying the Christmas tree – Staff come in to enjoy the tree and listen to the Christmas carols on the cassette every night as long as the tree is up.

Herders seated in front of the Christmas tree and listening to Christmas carols

I invented a tree-dismantling fete, enjoy by all the staff:  After being dismantled, the tree is cut up and made into a little bonfire.  Meantime, I have purchased hotdogs, chips, and drinks.  The hotdogs are roasted over the Christmas tree fire and thus the final Christmas celebration is enjoyed.    (I do have a picture of this, but cannot find it right now.)

24th. December – Army exercises and target practice with AK-47s and bazookas are enacted next door to the compound, beginning at 6am.  Christmas and New Years were the favored times of attacking (by the rebel groups) during the war years, and this exercise was a military show of force.

Variations of AK-47’s. Source: firearmsfirst.com

Bazooka practice. Source: olivedrab.com

24th December – evening – Christmas celebration for the staff; gifts and a large meal.

Some of the Herders and Workers, 2003

The list that I have gives the following items purchased for all of the staff – near 20 – who work with our goat herds and chores in the compound – at that time, crossbred goats numbering about 130 improved (crossbred) goats.

Presents for the staff:

Transistor radios
Large umbrellas
Large handkerchiefs

Food for the staff meal:

Rice – 10kg
Beans – 10kg
Cabbage – 4 lg.
Green beans – 2kg
Tomatoes – 4 kg
Tomato paste – 2 tins
Eggplants – 3 lg.
Meat – 6.5 kg.
Palm oil – 1 l.
Pineapple – 2 lg.
Makakuja – 2 kg.
Bananas – 4 bun.
Onions – 3 kg.

Tharcisse – one of the herders – sketched this lovely picture with colored pencils as a present to me (he did not have a gold pencil for the star).

Here is Tharcisse, feeding Ana, the only donkey in Burundi.

24th December – A village child is killed by a land mine near the compound.  Land mines have been a terrible danger here; not only people from the village, but also animals have been severely wounded or killed.  Every time one hears a mine, there is a hope that perhaps it was a hippo – not a person or a dog.

I’ve had 3 lovely dogs killed by mines, and one badly injured.  Don’t know of any rebels or robbers who have been killed by them, but perhaps the mines have acted as a deterrent

Spock was badly injured by a land mine – some of the scars can be seen faintly on the right side of his face. His friend Toto was killed by the same mine.  He’s on the beach in front of the compound.

Hamdy and Hind, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, half grown. Hind was killed by a landmine.

25th December – The Agroforestry technician of the project is killed while going home on his motorcycle – wore no helmet.

25th December – Officers of the UN peacekeeping forces, the South African army, the Burundi military, and others are invited for a visit and a meal, consisting of:

Tahina sauce & veggies
Pita bread
Omer’s Burundi beef
Herbed rice
Spicy beans and eggplant
Denise’s Ratatoui
Linga-linga (amaranths)
Nikki’s Yum-yum Cornbread
Carrot-cabbage salad
Fresh fruit

Friends from several international organizations and from the Burundi military come out to enjoy the holidays.

Several trucks filled both with Burundi military and UN troops guard the compound, to whom we give a case of drinks and all they could eat.

25 December – the Papal Nuncio (Papal ambassador to Burundi)  is assassinated by unknown rebels or others, while driving back to Bujumbura on RN 3 (see U.S. Embassy warning about this route, here.).  Catholic Relief services had offered him their armored vehicle for this trip, but he had refused it, stating that he did not want to show fear.  The rebel groups denied the killing, and it remains a mystery.  It is the only assassination of a Papal Nuncio in over 500 years.

David Courtney, the Papal Nuncio to Burundi, assassinated 2003

27th December – The Abbe N. visits, to discuss the assassination, security issues and related events.

28th December – Dr. Banuma comes out to help with a serious parasite outbreak in the goat herds.

Dr. Banuma, the only veterinary with a European vet degree left in Burundi, during the war

29th December – Emm nearly dies of cerebral malaria – unable to get to the hospital for reasons of security on the roads.

30th December – Purchases for the New Year:

Mung beans
Brown flour
Chick peas
Tooth brush (probably for me!)
Large rooster (live – our old rooster had contributed to the staffs’ Christmas meal :-))
Large basket (have no idea what that was for)
Sorghum beer
Mukeke fish

31st December – Pakistani UN troops come out ‘en masse’ to have a picnic next door to us.  Better than the shooting of the 24th by the Burundi military, which took place in the same area!

Pakistani UN troops enjoying a New Year’s picnic next door to us

We also have had a blundee similar to this one stationed by the military near the compound during the weeks of Christmas and New Years:

The military has several of these at the nearby airport, which they have sent over to us on occasions of rebel threats. Source: UN


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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2 Responses to Wargames and Christmas Celebrations during the War Years

  1. Clanmother says:

    Thank you for sharing….


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