Op-Ed

I’m From 'The Land of Genocides' and This Election Makes Me Nervous

Karl Chris Nsabiyumva, known on Twitter as Mr Burundi, on his post-Election Day thoughts and how Donald Trump's victory troubles him.

Voting is irrational.


People vote with their emotions, their fears and their frustrations.

I used to think this was only true for Burundi—or rather, for third world countries where the masses are “uneducated,” “too conservative” and “superstitious.”

On Nov. 9, my adopted country proved me wrong by electing Donald Trump president of the United States of America.

As he gave his surprisingly sober victory speech, I refused to believe that Trump had actually won. I kept hoping that the yet-to-be counted votes would turn out to be in favor of Hillary. I was hoping for a miracle.

While I’m not a Clinton fan, I did believe in “the lesser of two evils” and I expected America to think the same way. But when I saw Trump’s numbers rising as they did, I started to question the little hope I had left in America and its people.

I’m actually something of a right wing centrist as far as my political inclinations go. Hence, Trump’s victory wouldn’t have meant anything to me if his only fault was lack of experience. Inexperienced and not-so-smart people get elected to run countries all the time. What I didn’t expect was that the American people would let a divisive bigot anywhere close to the White House, for the sake of safeguarding American values, you know, like tolerance. It’s supposed to be “One nation under God" after all. I was obviously very wrong, and this scares me.

It’s now obvious that a good chunk of Americans actually identify with or supports the things Trump says. As an African asylum seeker in the United States, this is rather frightening. On one hand, it’s scary because I’ve tasted the fruits of intolerance fueled with divisive and hateful political propaganda. I’m from “the land of genocides,” the African great lakes region, home to Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’ve lost family members and friends to genocide and war. I’m in the United States now because some people couldn’t tolerate my opinions and threatened my life. I know what hate can do; and if my own people can go as far as killing their own, how safe can I feel in this land where I’m surrounded by folks who look nothing like me?

It’s sad how in 2016, with all the knowledge and resources available in the country, there are still this many people who believe that exclusion is the road to prosperity. In a country that was built by immigrants and slaves brought from another land it’s hard to understand the depth of this xenophobia.

There is relief in one thing though. I’m consoled by the fact that Americans are not so different from many of my fellow Africans. It is obvious that many Americans are just as frustrated, angry, scared, desperate and uncertain about their futures as many of my brothers and sisters in Africa. This is why sensible decision-making seems to be a luxury in this part of the world too.

People don’t care if the president can do the job, or if he represents good values. Nobody has time for image, appearances, political correctness and other superficialities. Desperate times call for desperate measures! “Me first!” is the new motto.

The 2016 US Presidential elections reminded me of one of favorite Bible verses: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV).

The 2016 US Presidential elections have made America feel, yet again, like home.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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