Bye, bye Bujumbura central Market!

Right to left: Sinunguruza, Rukara, Rufyikiri and Ntavyohanyuma

Right to left: Sinunguruza, Rukara, Rufyikiri and Ntavyohanyuma

When World Trade Center was heated by terrorists attack on September 11, 2001, in the United State of America, George Bush, US President called it a tragedy.

It is the same word that Peter Nkurunziza, Burundi President used on Sunday to qualify the apocalyptic fire that destroyed the whole Bujumbura central market, 19 years after it was built by French Cooperation and inaugurated by late CyprienNtaryamira in early 1994. It was the only project he inaugurated.

This president who died 2 months after he has sworn in used to call people to have discipline.
“Discipline in army!
Discipline in schools” and so on.
May be on the day of the inauguration ceremonies of that market, he called also for:
“Discipline in the market”.

This discipline is among one of the main elements the market was missing. Everyone remembers how there was a great anarchy in this market. No enough ways to allow fire fighters to arrive in the market to stop the devastating fires. Shops have been built until the evacuation ways.

Our main market is also very dirty. May be it is time to think of making something close to international standards and educate people to having insurances of their goods.

Economic impacts following the holocaust

Central Market after the fire

Central Market after the fire

Let me tell you that the fire was seen as a tragedy I said it above. But remember that a tragedy never has better outcomes.
This is also what will happen to Bujumbura market shops’ owners. Some of them have opened their shops after they got loans from local banks and microfinances institutions. This means they are today paying interests for the loans they got. What are they paying whereas they are not working in their shops?

It is important to note that if we believe in some economic analysts sayings, 5000 Burundians were involved in Central Markets activities and today they have no job. Many of them are intellectuals who missed jobs and decided to start their business, and be their own boss and gained well their lives. Others are demobilized youth who have fighting for years and who did not have the time to go at school as you or I did. These are some of the people who are today in the streets without knowing what to do.

But there are also some indirect losers. They are those people who gave their money to relatives, friends, and children to try their chances by doing business. I am among them, frankly speaking! This “loans” have been destroyed by this apocalyptic fire and no one will pay back. The game is over now!

Let’s talk of these people who came by the phenomenon called rural exodus. They are many and were known for their role in the market. They were strong enough to carry around 300kg of goods once. Now, they are in the streets struggling to have something to eat.
Streets’ children too are crying today. Beggars too. Both the two groups were living over good-hearted people will, who were passing in front of them and give them a coin of BIF 50, BIF 10 that allowed them to buy some water, drinks and food. Now, the game is over for them!

But the Government is the main looser. It is waiting taxes every day from various shop owners. Expert say that transactions that were done in the market a day were around BIF 1 billion, what is think is very small. Burundi Revenue Authority known in its French acronym as OBR Commissioner Manager DomitienNdihokubwayo told reporters some days ago that his institution will lose around BIF 5 million from taxes of the Central Market totally destroyed by the fire.

This official of the Government highlighted that the loss will be recorded on the import taxes. These central market shop owners were the same who import goods from EAC countries, Hong Kong, Dubai, Kenya, Congo, etc. Meaning that OBR 2013 collection projection will hardly be achieved.

Bujumbura Central market was also of great importance of Congolese people, especially those living in KIlibaOndes, Uvira, Bukavu, etc; because people from there were among the main customers of the central market’s shop owners. Today one can imagine what will happen to them.

Burundi francs is weakening, and no official answer has never given to that problem. In December 2012, Burundi year on year inflation, in this landlocked Burundi was around 11.9%. Meanwhile Burundi Francs continues to lose strength in front of dollars, Euro, Pound, etc. The loss of the central market that I can compare to Burundi Wall Street will deepen Burundi currency into the ocean of devaluation. As an example, Monday 28, 24 hours after the fire was declared at the central market one dollar was BIF 1600, but some hours after it was BIF 1620 (even though it seems to have stayed at that until Thursday evening). These are red indicators that push me to fear about Burundi’s tomorrow.

Hope: Government decisions

Extraordinary Cabinet meeting over the crisis on Tuesday

Extraordinary Cabinet meeting over the crisis on Tuesday

I am not defending or accusing my Government. But there are some encouraging elements that it is important to mention. President NKurunziza himself decided to come back to his country after he has learned that “Wall Street” caught fire. He was partaking in the AU Head of State Summit on Mali and Congo crisis. He promised that the Government will assist the victims of the fire. That is encouraging.

Early before, his deputies, Burundi watchdog, MPs, senators and others were assisting to this sad event trying to south the suffering burundians. That is also encouraging for the shop owners who were crying on the market assisting their goods being decimated by the fire.

There is also the new account in the central bank that was opened to receive contributions from good-hearted people who want to help these citizens who were engaged in commerce especially in central market. That is also something good.

Another sign is the arrest of the Manager of the Market CyprienHorugavye, who spent his first night in Mpimba prison in Musaga (Bujumbura). I am not accusing him, he is innocent until justice proves the contrary. But he has something to say about his market. There, journalists found that some of the water valves on which extinguishers truck are supplied on water were hidden due to constructions anarchy.

Shop owners accuse him, and his whole service not to have intervened as early as possible saying that the fire fighters arrived after 2 hours. Here, it is important to note that the Cabinet said, in its press release which is posted on president Office web site that fire fighters arrived 20 minutes after the fire has started.

The man has something to say may be, but let us wait the full investigation report expected to be handed to General Prosecutor in two months. But here, the Government wants it to be available in 20 days.
Lessons from the incident

Everyone here with this incident feels as if it is the World Trade Center attack and Government, diplomats, and others are showing compassion to the families of the victims of the fire, I mean those who lost their shops.

But Bujumbura Central Market (BCM) is not the first to be burned until it is totally decimated. Kayogoro market, Rushubi market, Kamenge, Gitega, Ngozi, and others caught fire but apparently no lesson was drown from the previous incidents.

Now it is up to the time to oblige all the business dealers in Burundi to have their activities assured. No one can ever understand why less than 10% of the goods had assurance in assurances companies of the country.

It is also time to no longer allow anarchy in markets. Why building shops until fire fighters trucks cannot get access to the interior? Who can save the business if there is no way to arrive in the center of the market?

Today, it is also time to eradicate corruption in all the spheres of the Government. An intelligence official told me that corruption is sinking Burundi Economy in an ocean of poverty. To pull out the country from this ocean will require more efforts than keeping it from sinking. Bye bye Central Market, you were as the Mom!
These are my personal views.

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