North-West Burundi Field

By Niyorugira Simeon

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Niyorugira Simeon is president of North-West Burundi Field since 2015.

First Published: April 2, 2021

North-West Burundi Field is a part of Burundi Union Mission in the East-Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists. It was organized in 2018. Its headquarters is in Buganda, some 39 miles from Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi.

Territory: Bubanza and Cibitoke.

Statistics (June 30, 2020): Churches, 202; membership, 103,065; population, 1,073,873.

North-West Burundi Field is the largest among the four fields of Burundi Union Mission (BUM).1 It is the place where the missionary work started for the first time in Burundi.2

Organizational History

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Burundi began in 1925 with David E. Delhove.3 God’s work continued to grow until Burundi Mission was joined to Rwanda in one administrative entity called the Rwanda-Urundi Field, composed of two stations in Burundi, one at Buganda and the other at Ndora, and three more stations in Rwanda (Mugonero, Rwankeri, and Gitwe). The Rwanda-Urundi Field reported to the Congo Rwand-Urundi Union Mission with the headquarters located at Elizabethville in Congo.

After the independence of Congo on June 30, 1960, the Congo-Rwanda-Urundi Union Mission branched into two, Rwanda and Burundi emerging as one union, the Central Africa Union Mission (CAUM). Congo remained with its own union located at Elisabethville in Lubumbashi, while the CAUM headquarters was located in Bujumbura, Burundi. CAUM belonged to the Trans-Africa Division until 1980, when the General Conference voted for it to come under the administration of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division (AID, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast).4

In 1983 AID dissolved CAUM. Rwanda remained a union mission and Burundi was designated as an attached field under the division. Thus, the entire country was downgraded to mission field status; consequently, the West Burundi Field whose headquarters was at Buganda and led by Pastor Muhitira Pierre, and the East Burundi Field whose headquarters was at Gitega and led by Biyayire Laban, were both dissolved.5 Burundi Mission was renamed Burundi Association of the Seventh-day Adventists.

West Burundi Field

Buganda had been the birthplace of Adventism in Burundi. It stood as the first nucleus of Adventism. As the missionary work evolved, Ndora became the second nucleus of Adventism. It even surpassed Buganda because the Adventist influence shifted from Buganda to Ndora Station, which later became the official headquarters of the only field in Burundi and was inaugurated in 1960.

With the independence of Congo on June 30, 1960, CAUM was launched with its headquarters located in Bujumbura, Burundi. Thus, the church in the joint Ruanda-Urundi region came under the leadership of CAUM. The church in Burundi was organized as a field, whereas the Ruanda side had three fields—North Ruanda, South Ruanda, and West Ruanda. The Urundi Field, which comprised the entire nation of Burundi together with two communes in Rwanda, Buyenzi and Nyarugusa,6 had its headquarters located at Ndora, zone Ndora, commune Bukinanyana, in Bubanza province.

Three years later, in 1963, Burundi field split into two administrative units along the main road running north from the capital, Bujumbura, to Kayanza: one in the eastern part and another in the western part of the country. Until then, the western part covered the provinces of Bubanza, Bujumbura, and Ngozi, whereas the eastern part covered the provinces of Bururi, Gitega, Muramvya, Muyinga, and Ruyigi.7 The eastern section was called East Burundi Field with headquarters in Gitega and was organized in 1964.8 The western unit was called West Burundi Field and contained the major portion of the church membership. In 1973 the headquarters of the Western Field was transferred from Ndora to Buganda, the birth place of Adventism in Burundi.

Meanwhile, the work had developed at Ndora and in its surroundings. However, the government, in 1950, had devised a plan of moving the population from the mountains to the Rusizi Valley for agricultural purposes,9 and this governmental decision had impacted the church in a specific way. People who had received the Adventist message moved to the Rusizi plain and brought with them their Adventist faith. Consequently, the church strengthened in the area around the former Buganda Station. As a result, native leaders took action to move the field headquarters back to Buganda.10 The church’s center of influence shifted from Ndora to Buganda, so the headquarters of the West Burundi Field moved from Ndora to Buganda.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Crisis of 1982-1987 in Burundi

The regime that was in place during that time was the same as the previous one in that it persecuted the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In fact, it went further than the preceding regime and, in addition to programing community service on the Sabbath in order to trap church members, a decree was issued to ban all denominational activity, including church attendance.

The government did not want to be convinced by the reasons church leaders were providing on the issue of our belief in the seventh-day Sabbath and so they decreed that it was an unchanging state program. The church leaders and members did not comply on the basis that it was persecution, and the government declared persona non grata all foreign missionaries.11

The persecution came to its peak in 1984 after the governors of Gitega and Bubanza had suspended all activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Besides imprisonment, some people were threatened with being buried alive, especially by the Bubanza governor who would order church members to dig their own graves and, when they had finished digging, he would say, “These people are ignorant, leave them.”12

Church leaders and members were thrown into prison.13 All the church belongings were nationalized, churches were closed, and the schools and health centers were taken by the government (for example Lycée Maranatha de Kivoga, Ndora Health Center, Marembo Health Center, Nyarunazi Health Center, Mishiha Health Center, and Nyanza-lac Health Center).14

The West Burundi Field suffered much from the persecution, as many church and educational buildings were located in the same territory as the majority of the Adventist membership. The national headquarters of the Burundi Association of Seventh-day Adventists was used by the government to serve as the municipal police station; several houses in town were transformed into mayoral offices, workers’ and government official’s residences, while the church buildings served as courtrooms or army barracks.15

There was joy in Adventist circles in Burundi when the government lifted the ban on religious activities towards the end of 1987.16 The government of the Third Republic, led by Major Pierre Buyoya, restored freedom to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and returned all church buildings and schools. That declaration event occurred on a Sabbath day when the president, Major Pierre Buyoya, was visiting the province of Cibitoke. Following that declaration, AID immediately resumed its activities in Burundi by reorganizing the church and appointing officers.17

West Burundi Mission

After this period of persecution, the entire church in Burundi, under the name of Burundi Association of the Seventh-day Adventists, was reorganized into three missions. The idea came from the general assembly of the Burundi Attached Territory which was chaired by Carlyle Bayne,18 with Nteziryayo Samuel as secretary, and Ndikubwayo Joseph as recording secretary. That assembly was convened on September 26, 1999. By action no. 43/99, it was “Voted to recommend to the Africa-Indian Ocean Division (AID) to accept the reorganization of Burundi Association into three missions.19

AID responded positively to the request. By action no. 02-272, it upgraded Burundi Association on May 28, 2002. A further vote was taken to request the General Conference to study the upgrading of Burundi Association to a union mission with responsibility for three missions: North Burundi, West Burundi, and East Burundi.20 The West Burundi Mission was the largest of the missions. It covered the northwest and the southwest of Burundi territory and included the capital of Bujumbura.

By action 02-359, AID proceeded with the request from the Burundi Association to appoint officers for the three missions.21 Baranyizigiye Uzziel was appointed as president of West Burundi Mission, and Barute David as secretary-treasurer.

The process became effective on September 9-10, 2002, when Charles Montille22 and Carlyle Bayne organized the former West Burundi Field, which was dissolved in 1983, into the West Burundi Mission. A constituency meeting was held at Buganda, the headquarters of the West Burundi Mission. Delegates came from all the organized churches and evangelical districts of the field. After the nominating committee was appointed, it nominated administration officers and executive committee members and gave them responsibility for all activities and programs of the mission.

The officers appointed to lead the West Burundi Mission were Uzziel Baranyizigiye, president, and David Barute, secretary-treasurer. Three years later, during the 2005 union session, these two leaders were maintained as mission officers, and P. R. Nsengiyumva Martin joined the team as mission secretary.

During the 2010 Burundi Association Session, the nominating committee replaced the three officers and nominated Pastor Barishinga Lamec as president, Pastor Manirakiza Jean Claude as executive secretary, and Niyikiza Marc as treasurer of the North West Burundi Mission.23 As this mission was growing fast in membership and covered a huge territory, the 2015 BUM session voted to split it into two missions. The deciding factor in launching a new field within West Burundi Mission territory was that the West Burundi Mission was the largest and the strongest among its administrative unit sisters. The size of its territory extended to seven political provinces out of a total of 18 provinces in the country. Also, it included 37 evangelical districts out of 72 districts in the entire union.

North-West Burundi Field

When the Burundi Union Executive Committee met on April 13, 2013, it voted two important recommendations. By action BUM, 13 EXECOM No. 40, it voted to set up a survey commission to explore the ways of splitting the West Burundi Mission into two administrative entities.24 Further, by action BUM, 13 EXECOM No. 41, the members of the survey commission25 were appointed. Pastor Lambert Ntiguma was appointed chair, and Pastor Lameck Barishinga was appointed recording secretary.

Once these actions were taken at the union level, the West Burundi Mission endeavored to launch a mission station at Bujumbura. This became effective when the West Burundi Mission Executive Committee met on December 15-16, 2014, and voted action 14MOB.COM. EXC. No. 139 pertaining to that issue. The mission station was expected to oversee the work in the provinces of Bujumbura Mairie, Bujumbura Rural, Bururi, Muramvya, and Rumonge.26

Having a mission station located in the city of Bujumbura has compelled church leadership to make further plans to consolidate the work in this new territory. In December 2015, when the BUM session was held in Nairobi, Kenya, the survey commission on splitting the West Burundi Mission into two units gave its report. By action BUM, 15, EXECOM No. 061, it was agreed to temporarily split the West Burundi Mission into two units with different headquarters—one located in Buganda and the other in Bujumbura.

Further, by action BUM, 15 EXECOM No. 062, official names were given to those two entities. The new mission was called South-West Burundi Field, and the remaining part of the former West Burundi Mission was called North-West Burundi Field. North-West Burundi Field was left with only two provinces—Cibitoke and Bubanza. The executive committee of the East-Central Africa Division approved those recommendations without any amendments. Consequentially, on November 13, 2017, by action BUM, 17 EXCOM No. 067, the Burundi Union Mission Executive Committee endorsed the action of the division pertaining to the split of the West Burundi Mission into two administrative units: North-West Burundi Field and South-West Burundi Field.27

Presidents

Baranyizigiye Uzziel (2002-2010), Barishinga Lamech (2010-2015), Niyorugira Simeon (2015-present).

Sources

Burundi Union Mission Archives, Documents: Minutes 1999, 2010, 2013, 2017, Kiriri, Bujumbura; Burundi.

North-West Burundi Field Archives, Statistical report Documents, 2002-2021, Buganda, Cibitoke; Burundi.

République du Burundi, Ministère des Finances, Institut de Statistiques et d’Etudes Economiques du Burundi (ISTEEBU), 2021.

Robinson, J. I. “Missionary Volunteer Evangelism in Central Africa.” Southern African Division Outlook, October 1, 1932.

Samuel Ndikumana, The Fruit of a Work String: Beginnings of Seventh-day Adventism in Burundi, Research Paper, Friedensau Adventist University, 2010.

Sang, G. K. “A Church Captured: The Battle for the Control of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Burundi.” Spectrum, May 1, 2021. https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2020/church-captured-battle-control-seventh-day-adventist-church-burundi-part-6.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Notes

  1. The other three fields are: East Burundi, North Burundi, and South-West Burundi Fields (“Burundi Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook [2021], https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=13597).

  2. Samuel Ndikumana, The Fruit of a Work String: Beginnings of Seventh-day Adventism in Burundi, Research Paper, Friedensau Adventist University, 2010, 9.

  3. J. I. Robinson, “Missionary Volunteer Evangelism in Central Africa,” Southern African Division Outlook, October 1, 1932, 4.

  4. Uzziel Habingabwa, retired pastor and former Burundi Association president, interview by the author, January 24, 2021.

  5. Godfrey K. Sang, “A Church Captured: The Battle for the Control of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Burundi,” Spectrum, May 1, 2020, https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2020/church-captured-battle-control-seventh-day-adventist-church-burundi-part-6.

  6. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1964), 247.

  7. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1982), 109, 110.

  8. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1983), 43.

  9. Samuel Ndikumana, The Fruit of a Work String: Beginnings of Seventh-day Adventism in Burundi, Research Paper, Friedensau Adventist University, 2010, 15.

  10. Ibid.

  11. Sang.

  12. Uzziel Habingabwa, retired pastor and former Burundi Association president, interview by the author, January 24, 2021.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Ibid.

  15. Ibid.

  16. Barute David, retired pastor from North-West Burundi Field, interview by the author, Buganda, October 6, 2020.

  17. Pastor Silas Senkomo has been appointed as new president of the Burundi Association Attached Territory to AID; Mitsindo Rudatsikira as secretary, and Gordon Gray as treasurer.

  18. Carlyle Bayne was then the Stewardship Departmental director of Africa and Indian Ocean Division, Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

  19. Burundi Union Mission Archives, Association des Eglises Adventistes du 7eme Jour au Burundi, Assemblée Générale (Session), Dimanche, September 26, 1999.

  20. African and Indian Ocean Division Mid-Year Committee meeting minutes, May 28, 2002, Action 02-272, Burundi Association Upgrading.

  21. Africa and Indian Ocean Division Committee meeting minutes, July 25, 2002, Action 02-359, Burundi Association, Appointment of Officers for the 3 Missions.

  22. Charles Montille was then the executive secretary of African and Indian Ocean Division, Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

  23. “Le Travail de la Commission de Nomination, BUAU, 10 EXECOM No 62 » dated December 5, 2010.

  24. Minutes of North-West Burundi Field committee meeting, April 18, 2013, North West Burundi Mission archives.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Later Rumonge became a political administrative entity, following the split of former Bururi province into two: Bururi and Rumonge. Bururi comprises the communes of Bururi, Matana, Mugamba, Rutovu, Songa and Vyanda; whereas Rumonge covers the communes of Muhuta, Bugarama, Burambi, Buyengero and Rumonge.

  27. Year-end Executive Committee Minutes, November 13-14, 2017, Burundi Union Mission Archives.

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Simeon, Niyorugira. "North-West Burundi Field." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 02, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CFG2.

Simeon, Niyorugira. "North-West Burundi Field." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 02, 2021. Date of access June 20, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CFG2.

Simeon, Niyorugira (2021, April 02). North-West Burundi Field. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 20, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CFG2.