So, first things first, this is not an article about Nkurunziza, rather his passivity of choice in appointment. In specifics, this article refers to the recent appointment of Eric Nshimirimana to head up the RTNB (the state run media of Burundi). Not to put too fine of a point on it; but such an appointment is affront and threat to the creatives, free speech and forms of expression within Burundi. This is before going over the well-sourced accusations that Nshimirimana is a leader of a faction that engages in horrific practices of rape as a weapon of oppression against the female relatives of members of the Opposition within Burundi.
It goes as obvious that such promotion of a man as vile as Nshimirimana is enough to make one stare blankly into the middle distance, contemplate whether to become some sort of hermit monk and begin actively drinking oneself to death. There is another layer to this that should be somewhat thoroughly explored as part and parcel to the central issue: the suppression of creative expression within Burundi.
The country doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation within the East African Community under the recent leadership of Nkurunziza; with dissent not only being chased after, but stamped out with willful glee.
Through the lens of the creative industry, this can translate into a more serious issue. Art is the best reflection of a society as it stands, songs written in times of plenty ring out hopeful; the art of the oppressed gives a voice of dissent that one surely won’t get from the government.
The new head of RTNB will only serve to be another tool of systemic oppression of the creative voices of Burundi; serving as a fascist gatekeeper for the nation’s artists to pass through to garner more of the national audience.
Under his stead, musicians will have their songs played less, artists must curtail their imaginations, writers will have to self-censor and play-rights will have to veil possible satire thickly. It is unclear, and shouldn’t be speculated upon as to who he will appoint within the organization, but one could bet safe money that they won’t be of the open-minded persuasion. This pattern has been further reflected in the actions of Ugandan Minister of State for Ethics & Integrity Simon Lokodo and Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) Dr. Ezekiel Mutua. Their tenures have been defined by ‘faith’ being used as a shield to suppress artistic voices in their respective nations.
The question must also be asked, with such extended control over the messaging, will artists who don’t ‘follow suit’ be targeted in the media a la Donald Trump? What will the consequences be?
From our end at the EA Scene, anyone who would fuck with the rights of creatives in East Africa is an asshole. As such, it is our editorial opinion that the appointment of Nshimirimana is, in scientific parlance, a chicken-shit move. The subversive works of creativity coming out of Burundi can and should continue to be promoted.