RENEWED VIOLENCE THREATENS BURUNDI’S TOURISM GAINS
(Posted 05th January 2015)
Ongoing political disputes over the eligibility under the Arusha agreements of Burundi’s President Nkurunziza to stand for a third term in the upcoming June elections and the outbreak of renewed violence last week have cast doubts over the immediate and medium term future of the nascent tourism industry.
A year ago did the appointment of Carmen Nibigira as Director General of the Burundi Tourism Office prompt a significant rise in visibility for the country in East Africa’s tourism circles, and beyond, but since the end of her contract has the flurry of activities notably reduced again.
Various international news organizations, including Al Jazeera, have reported over the weekend that ‘scores have been left dead’ after the latest rebel attack, which originated from across the border with the Congo. While official government sources on Sunday said that the rebel force was wiped out, can future such attacks not be ruled out in the run up to what appears to be highly controversial elections.
Said a Nairobi based source with close connections to Burundi: ‘This does not help Burundi Tourism. Foreign missions will immediately step up travel warnings for that country, and we in Kenya know what devastating consequence this can have. Tourism was just really starting last year but try to sell an extension to Burundi to someone in Nairobi when they have just seen the news broadcasts. This will be a big setback for the industry in Burundi. Personally I expect this to continue right up to the elections in mid 2015, especially if their president is seen to be in breach of the Arusha constitution under which the coalition government was initially formed and the cycle of violence broken 10 years ago. We have challenges in Kenya but this can actually wreck the Burundi tourism industry if these attacks go on’.
Another source tried to downplay the impact of the fighting, saying it was geographically limited but five days of what others described as ‘intense fighting’ making its way on to international TV channels tell a different story. The impact of it was made worse when allegations emerged that some of the captured rebels were summarily executed, claims denied in Bujumbura but not disproven.
Burundi tourism had over the past year tried hard to promote travel from across the region and beyond – flydubai commenced flights to Bujumbura in November last year – and highlighted the natural beauty of the Kibira National Park and other protected areas. It is in Burundi that the legendary meeting between Livingstone and Stanley took place. For added information about Destination Burundi click on www.burundi-tourism.com