The History

of our actions in Burundi since 1982

by Bernard Messner, President of the CACI and the LAJ

Fabien Gakeme, le premier président de la FBJ (ici en 1986)

The Pioneers

In 1982, I was solicited by the French Judo Federation  to go to Bujumbura (Burundi) and Kigali (Rwanda) to lead judo training sessions and to supervise belt tests. The judo section of the "Entente Sportive de Bujumbura" belonged to the French Judo Federation while there wasn't any national federation in the two countries at that time
I was not the first French expert to be sent on the Tanganyika lake banks and thus to benefit from the splendid welcome which have reserved to us our friends like André Helbois, the pioneer of judo in Buja, Libert Naïmana, at the time colonel in the air force, regretted Fabien Gakeme or Doctor Bandoucha.
From the start, I was estonished by enthusiasm, the will to learn and also the technical level. It was obviously the consequence of the action of the experts, and not the least, who preceded me. These experts were Henri Courtine, future sport director of the International Judo federation (IJF), François Besson, member of the executive board of the IJF or Didier Janicot, member of the judo national technical direction, in France.
I had only to proceed in the way which they had traced.

Bernard (à gauche) et Nicolas (à droite), en 1986, au pied des sources du Nil.

A long term construction

I have had the privilege to renew twice the experiment, in 1984 and 1986. That gave the opportunity to lead projects on a long term basis and especially gave us the opportunity to tie indéfectibles bonds of friendship.
During these three stays, I have had, apart from the tatami, the privilege to discover and learn how these two splendid countries looked like. So many souvenirs!
More especially as I was accompanied by my wife in 1984 and by my Nicolas son, in 1986 whom this trip was a splendid gift for his 13 years birthday. His passion for Burundi was born at this time.
After these moments of happiness when we had the occasion to live real adventures in the interior of Burundi, after fishing parties on the Tanganyika lake, after incursions to the country of the crocodiles and  hippopotamuses along Ruzizi, after having attended concerts of the famous "tambourinaires du Burundi" or after having climed on the Virunga volcanos to the research of the families of gorillas in Rwanda, came the terrible years. The contacts stopped after 1991, when Fabien Gakeme became the first president of the new Burundian Judo Federation.

Au même endroit 20 ans plus tard

The miracle

The miracle was that the practice of judo did not cease at the "Entente Sportive de Bujumbura", always under the direction of Andre Helbois, the guard of the temple.
In 1999, I was working at the "CREPS de Strasbourg" as the deputy-Director in charge of the high level sport. I was surprised when International Olympic committee (IOC), and specially Olympic Solidarity, asked me to accomodate Pierre-Marie Mbazumutima for a training course of several months.
Pierre-Marie was a young judoka who had obtained its first dan in 1982 at the time of one of my trip to Buja. Since then, it had made a remarkable way and had continued to practise judo, had become professor at the Institute of Sports of Bujumbura and had teached the judo to a certain number of students.

The Revival

The contacts were on again and in 2001, whereas the crisis was not over, we organized again a first trip to Burundi whose objective was to join again the bonds with the country.
Very quickly it appeared obvious that judo was not a simple sport. To develop judo in Burundi leads to develop the society.
In Burundi, judo, by the values on which it is based, takes all its social and educational dimension, like its founder, Jigoro Kano wanted it. The 2001 training course represents the revival of the actions of partnership in Burundi. A new team of young leaders, in Burundi but also in Alsace, took in hand this co-operation.

The first Results

The structuring of the federation, the setting-up of championships, the participation with encouraging results in international tournaments, the control of cooperation actions with the schools and the districts, the creation of new clubs, the bi-annual organization of technical training courses, testify to the quality of work.
It is comforting for somebody who took part with enthusiasm, thirty years ago, to actions having for engine the principle of mutual aid, to note that they bore splendid fruits and that the changing was ensured in the respect of the same principles of humanity. That makes it possible to continue to have faith in the mankind.

Bernard Messner
Président of CACI
President of the Ligue d'Alsace de Judo

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