Burundi's new President Evariste Ndayishimiye delivers his speech during the national funeral of late Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died at the age of 55, at the Ingoma stadium in Gitega, Burundi, on June 26, 2020. (Photo by TCHANDROU NITANGA / AFP) (Photo by TCHANDROU NITANGA/AFP via Getty Images)

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “there is a cost to not showing up fully as a leader.” In recognition of the monumental cost of evasive leadership, His Excellency Evariste Ndayishimiye, the President of Burundi, has not only chosen to lead by example, but he has also elected to lead from the front.

“I spend less time in the presidential mansion”, he says, as he conducts the African Leadership Magazine team around his private farm in Gitega. “There is so much work to be done on the field, so I spend most of my time with the people, to understand their problems and how we can tackle them,” he concludes, underscoring his commitment to lead from the front.

With President Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s vision 2040 is not some empty rhetoric – far from it. His commitment to the country’s economic growth is palpable, and the war against poverty is being waged with gusto.

In this exclusive interview with the African Leadership Magazine team in Gitega, he describes himself as the field marshal in the fight against poverty. At the same time, his appointees are the field commanders. He also talked about his government’s steadfast commitment to prioritize jobs and wealth creation industrialization, among others. Excerpts;

Your Excellency, we are excited to see your farm. We see that Agriculture is a priority for your country. What’s your vision for Agriculture in Burundi?

First of all, our aim is to fight against poverty and we also implement agriculture to fight against hunger. It is my priority to achieve this. It is why I organize people to work together in cooperative groups. It is easy for the State and the Ministry of agriculture to help these people work together when they are organized. In this regard, I see we are succeeding. For example, we employ irrigation during the dry season for the farmers and we succeed on a large capacity due to this organization. Usually, I say that the cooperative is like a battalion in the army. To fight against poverty is like the military who fights the enemy. So, our enemy is poverty and the cooperatives are in battalions. The State servants are the commanders and I am like a Chief commander in that regard. Agriculture is a priority, and now, we are looking at how to transform the agricultural products because Burundi is one of the countries where we don’t import food. Everything we eat is from here.

The US has lifted the sanctions on Burundi because they cited that the reforms you are embarking on will fight against corruption. Consequently, Burundi is open, and the world is beginning to accept Burundi again. What has inspired this approach?

First off, I think it was a bad interpretation of the situation of Burundi that led to the whole thing. They were not happy with the coup. That’s why they took sanctions on the people who fought the agonists in the coup. Now, they see that the situation is normal and push them. As I told you, I am the Chief Commander. They are the commanders and I push them. Together, we succeed. About the forum, I wanted the participation of everyone, not political parties or groups. I want everyone to be together and work together. That’s why I chose Professors, intellectuals and bright minds to come in and suggest to the government what we can do. They are there to also criticize the government because when they criticize, that’s when we know exactly what the people want.

From there, when we know what the people want, we look for a solution. Now, we are going into an action plan for the next year. I want that from January we begin to apply the dynamism available to us. I don’t want people to be angry with me because they are not participating in governance. So, I brought everyone together.

The problem I have is that there are people who don’t like to work in government because of salary.

Click HERE TO ACCESS THE FULL INTERVIEW on pages 12 – 15 of the February 2022 edition of the African Leadership Magazine.