In a move that could spark a potential 'drum war' between Burundi and Rwanda, thousands of Burundians staged a protest Saturday against what they called a cultural aggression against their country, accusing Kigali of stealing their culture.
The demonstrations were organised to protest against the latest performance by a group of Burundian refugees in Rwanda which is competing at a regional competition taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, local media reported in Kigali.
Reports said that demonstrations spearheaded by the Burundian government took place in all provinces across the country as Bujumbura accused Kigali of pretending that the Burundians taking part in the competition were Rwandanese.
Rwandan officials are yet to comment on the accusations.
At the ongoing ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya, modeled on the famous ‘America Got Talent’, a group calling itself “Himbaza Drummers” presented a performance using drums.
During their performance, “Himbaza Drummers” played in semi-circle formation, with the painted Inkiryana lead drum which is played by all of the drummers in turn before each piece ends.
The drummers leap, twist and spin around the Inkiryana with tremendous energy, dancing with as much skill, expressiveness, and thunderous excitement as they drum.
In 2017, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, signed an act that would deal with the legal regulation of playing drums.
According to the controversial law, although from Senegal to Madagascar, all over the African continent, drums have been the centrepiece of cultural expressions, but from now, not everyone is allowed to perform these ancient musical traditions in Burundi anymore.
Yet Burundian officials argue that this ancient cultural tradition has been known in the country for a few hundred years as it dates back to the ancient kingdom of the Burundi people.
At the event, the “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them into the next round of ‘East Africa Got Talent’.
Reacting to this performance, Burundian authorities have accused Rwanda of stealing their cultural pride, drumming, and doing it very badly.
The show was only meant for four of the East African Community, but performers have also come from South Sudan and Burundi presenting themselves as refugees.
Burundi has been in a political crisis since President Pierre Nkuruziza declared his intention to seek a third term.
Relations between Burundi and Rwanda, rarely warm, have been on the downswing in recent months.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has criticized Nkurunziza’s decision to seek reelection and accused him of harboring a Rwandan rebel group.