Moral Courage



Tour Diary


Tour Diary
Not everyone who saves others is an inkingi
Maggie Barankitse, a Tutsi, used to be a school teacher. During the troubles in 1993 she attempted to hide seventy Hutu from furious Tutsi. "They were found and killed right here, in front of me," she said, pointing to the garden in front of her house.

We went inside. She insisted I accept a banana and we continued talking. In the chaos that ensued, she managed to save 25 orphans. Their numbers soon grew. A few of the kids she looked after were horribly injured and would have been left to die. She cared for them and managed to send some for treatment in Europe. One of them was a pleasant young woman who served us. She bore a nasty machette scar on her neck. I asked Maggie if she had any children of her own. "I have 10,000," she smiled. La Maison Shalom cares for them in three 'children's villages'. Maggie does not believe in big orphanages. "I build nice family houses in my villages and place no more than four or five children in each. This way they can be looked after and loved."

When I commented about the name of La Maison Shalom and told her that I was Jewish, she started singing 'Evenu Shalom Ha-lechem'. It was a little surreal, but quite touching to be in this woman's house in Ruyigi and hear her sing in Hebrew.

Later, when we returned to the cinema, I asked Maggie how she thought the day went. She indicated that she was generally pleased, but that she was upset with one individual who spoke at the performance. She had confronted him afterwards. Yes it was true that he had saved people, she said. But he was a Tutsi extremist who rescued only people of his own ethnic group. "He was standing there with this Tutsi woman he had saved and kept saying: 'Look! See what the Hutu did to her!'"
[I was not able to verify Maggie's allegations about this man and his photographs do not appear on this website. - DST]

That evening we made our way back to Gitega, in Central Burundi, where we were to spend the night. We were hungry, and joined the drummers at the Mid-Land Restaurant. By that late hour, the restaurant had run out of most items in its menu. Even more distressing was the Moslem owner's refusal to serve us beer. After a long drive around Gitega, we settled on the outdoor Chez Samuel and their mutton brochettes, boiled plantains and warm beer.

Maggie Barankitse

© Burundi Voices Project, 2006.