The elephant in the room was never the jogging, it was always power-hunger, selfishness, and anti-Africanism. Nkurunziza can stop the people from jogging but their desire to see a country free of his increasingly oppressive rule runs still.
In 2007, China set the bar for ridiculous bans pretty high. The State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 was passed that year with the aim of regulating who reincarnates and who does not. Yes, you read that right. China assumed control over who comes back from the dead. The law stated, "The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups, and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country." Sounds like madness? Of course, it is madness but in a world where North Korea only allows 28 government approved haircuts, it starts to look very average. Equally average, but still shocking, is Burundi's ban on jogging in Bujumbura.
In 2014, Burundi banned jogging groups from the capital with Candide Kazatsa telling AFP, "Marches or jogging in the streets is prohibited if it is done en masse, but if someone wants to do sports individually, they can do that for sure." The ban might seem inconsequential but Burundi is no ordinary nation. There is a culture of jogging in the country. Peter Wright, writing for Outside, pointed out that to legally jog, "...you must first join a jogging club and register with the government. Then you must choose one of nine approved venues. After that, the police may have some questions. How many people will be there? When? Give us their names." It is a tedious process meant to frustrate even the most passionate runners but it begs the question: Why?
The simple answer is that Pierre Nkurunziza runs scared. In 2014, the Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD) decided to protest against Nkurunziza's attempts to hold on to power beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms. The incumbent was using all manner of chicanery to stay on top and the MSD decided to employ a few tactics of its own - like running in protest. It was a silly idea to think jogging instead of walking in protest would make that big of a difference. A running battle between police and joggers ensued and there are no prizes for guessing who won. After the foiled protest, joggers assembled at the MSD offices where they were later to be surrounded by trigger-happy police who shot ten people and arrested seventy. It was just the warped reasoning officials needed to ban unregulated jogging. What if all street jogs were a protest? What if all street jogs were a "treasonous subversion" of an unconstitutional government?
The silliness of this ban lies in the motive. If protesters walk, do we ban the walking or we deal with what's making them walk in protest in the first place? The elephant in the room was never the jogging, it was always insatiable power-hunger, selfishness, and anti-Africanism. Nkurunziza can stop the people from jogging but their desire to see a country free of his increasingly oppressive rule runs still. Thankfully, he seems to be planning on stepping down in 2020. Now, Mr. President, that is how you stop protests.
Header Image Credit: Trade for Development Centre
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