President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree a few days ago that aims at a strict control of the use of the famous drums of the country, which were inscribed in the intangible heritage of humanity of UNESCO in April 2014. A will to restore the blazon of a secular tradition and symbol of royalty in Burundi that has become too commonplace in recent years according to the authorities. The government now requires that drums be beaten only at official ceremonies unless special permission is given and a high fee is paid. These rules are supposed to apply equally in all the countries of the world but voices are raised against this text, which formally forbids women to beat the drum.
Beyond being the perfect symbol of kingship in Burundi, chopsticks and drumming play also represent male virility and drum the body of the woman. Hence the ban made to them to touch. A tradition that has remained alive in modern Burundi.
But a local association believes that this decree must be repealed because it violates the country’s constitution. “This decree violates article 22 of the Constitution of Burundi which stipulates that no Burundian may be the victim of discrimination of any kind, by sex, religion, ethnic or political affiliation “, explains President of the Fenadeb, Jacques Nshimirimana.
But the discomfort goes further. A young drummer wishing to remain anonymous and contacted by phone denounces a presidential decree that he thinks could put thousands of young Burundians who were living in weddings and other baptismal feasts out of work.
The drummers of the Burundian diaspora, are now also supposed to the same government thousands of euros each time they perform. ” It’s a pure aberration because some groups like ours are registered as not-for-profit organizations,” says Emmanuel Nkurunziza, 33 years of practice behind him, who has been living in Canada for years. It’s as if Pierre Nkurunziza thought he was controlling the whole world.”
As for Pacific Nininahazwe, one of the figures of civil society in exile, he believes that ” with this text, the drum no longer belongs to the Burundian citizen, but to the government“.