Libere Dusabe was born in 1973 as the sixth child of a Christian family living in one of the villages of Burundi. Today the country belongs to the five states that make up the East African Community, a sub-Saharan African region that president Obama seeks to revitalize through trade and economic development .
Burundi’s northern neighbor is Rwanda, Tanzania to the east, Congo to the west, and Lake Tanganyika forms much of the southwestern border. Today the population of Burundi and Rwanda are composed of almost two ethnic groups: 85% Hutu and 14% Tutsi. The civil war that started in Burundi in 1993 dispersed Libere’s family and he believes that besides his parents, all but one of his nine other siblings have died during the ten years of civil war.
A 2004 Amnesty International report, posted by the White House, asserts that “Over ten years, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people, mostly civilians, are reported to have been killed in Burundi by government armed forces and armed political groups. Over 280,000 people are currently living in camps for the internally displaced, with up to 100,000 others fleeing their homes temporarily on a regular basis due to insecurity. An unknown number of others, possibly tens of thousands, are classified as “dispersed” and generally without specific humanitarian assistance. A further 500,000 Burundians are refugees in neighbouring Tanzania.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/
Libere was among the 500,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania.
He was in high school in 1993, having three more years left, which he finished by enrolling in different schools as he moved from board school to board school in search of safety. His High School graduation came in 1998, but instead of returning home, his fellow villagers told him, “don’t return to the village, your home was burned down, they threw grenades at it and we’re fleeing the village because of insecurity.” The safest city was Bujumbura, the capital, where he went and in 2000 enrolled in the University of Burundi. He married Donate Sue the same year, and soon after Libere decided to leave her in Burundi while he would try to find a safer destination for them.
He first went to Congo, then to Tanzania, and in 2000 ended up in Zambia, where Donate Sue joined him and soon after they had their first child.
After four years in Zambia in 2004 the UN High Commission for Refugees decided to place them as refugees in the USA.
Libere, Donate and their first daughter arrived in the USA in August 2004 and were under the care of the Bethany Christian Services refugee program. As he was trying to find a church, Libere ended up connecting with Covenant CRC, who previously donated to him a table chair through their furniture ministry. Grateful to God for his protection and provision for his family, Libere remembered the promise he made while in the refugee camp, “God, if you bring me to the USA, I would work for you the rest of my life.”
Upon his arrival in Grand Rapids Libere began working two jobs to provide for his family and to allow Donate to take first ESL classes at GRCC, and then today to pursue a BA in International Business at Davenport University. Libere is also taking classes for his BA in Business at GRCC.
Libere did not forget about his country and the struggle of the refugees.
He always dreamed that he would do something back home and in 2010 he started Impact Burundi, a non profit organization, with the purpose of creating jobs, eradicating hunger, promoting health and reconciliation (http://impactburundi.org). Many of the Burundi rebels need hope and help in reintegrating in society, and thus creating employment opportunities for them is a critical challenge for the country.
Today Burundi is one of the five most poor countries in the world, with an annual GDP of about $600 per capita. Libere says that 75% of people are poor, and 58% of children under 5 are suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Impact Burundi is focused on “empowering Burundian communities to lead healthy lives” by developing profitable fish farms, particularly in the village area where Libere was born.
The devastating decade long war defertilized the soil and demotivated the farmers from working the land.
Fish Farming seems a wise way to use the agricultural land that is not cultivated, and to involve 118 people from Libere’s village. The plan is to help farmers own their own fish pond and be able to raise their own chickens, pigs and cows, an initiative rewarded with $25,000 by the French Embassy in Burundi after their first visit to the fish farm. The chicken houses are built upon the pond so that they fertilize the fish pond.
The first fish harvest is coming soon and they plan to divide the harvest in three parts: share some with the 118 people, use some to sustain the business, and sell some to create a small fund that the 118 people can borrow from in order to start their own fish farm. They are looking for freezers and a truck to transport the fish to the city, and have plans to build an office building.
Libere will visit Burundi again in September 2013, his previous trip this year took place in March.
He would like to invite us to pray for their work, to support financially Impact Burundi, and to take a trip to Burundi and visit the fish farm as they are tirelessly working towards the rebuilding of his war devastated native country.
One of Impact Burundi’s partners is Covenant Christian Reformed Church where Lisabe and his family are members.
I, Daniel Bud, had an interview with Libere Dusabe for this article.