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Meet the 3 Popular Burundians Who Have Put the Country on the World Map

Since it gained independence from Belgium in 1962, Burundi has not found lasting peace as ethnic tensions continue to wreak havoc in the country.

Nevertheless, the country has been blessed with personalities who have distinguished themselves in various fields.

As the country celebrates its 56th independence today, here are 6 people who continue to place Burundi on the global map.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

The internet journalist has been arrested on several occasions for speaking against issues of corruption in government. In 2011, he was charged with treason after publishing a piece that criticized the Burundian forces for not defending the country following a Ugandan attach by suicide bombers resulted in several deaths and injuries.

Kavumbagu was arrested, questioned without a lawyer and imprisoned. Many people, including international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, condemned his arrest and asked for the charges to be dropped.

After spending ten months in prison, Kavumbagu was released. The 35-year-old subsequently received an award from the National Association of Black Journalists for his “extraordinary work while overcoming tremendous obstacles that contributes to the enrichment, understanding or advancement of people or issues in the African Diaspora.”

Francine Niyonsaba 

The Burundian runner carried the flag for her country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where she concluded her competition with her first Olympic medal. Her silver medal was the first Olympic medal for Burundi since 1996. She finished the women’s 800m in a time of 1:56.49, behind Caster Semenya of South Africa.

In 2017, Niyonsaba earned a new personal best and national record at the Monaco Diamond League after winning the 800m there in a time of 1:55.47, ranking her as the World No. 1. heading into the 2017 World Championships in London.

Born into a poor family in eastern Burundi in the province of Ruyigi, the 25-year-old has gone on to become a role model for many women in Burundi and an icon in world athletics. She recently won the 800m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018.

Gerard Niyungeko

Gerard Niyungeko is a Judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a position he was appointed to in 2006. At the time of his election, he was Professor of Law at the University of Burundi at Bujumbura, where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace and Conflicts Resolution.

The 64-year-old who obtained a PhD in Law from the University of Brussels, Belgium was also the president of the Constitutional Court of Burundi between 1992-1996.

He has worked as an International expert for the United Nations Program for development in the Judicial domain and in the domain of human rights among several other positions. He has also authored several publications, including Les Droits de L’Homme, Cours Destiné aux Formateurs (1994), and La preuve devant les juridictions internationales, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2005.

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