Today we went to a meeting at the US Embassy that dealt with the tense situation in Bujumbura. Their main message was for everyone to figure out what your tipping point is, what your trip wire is when you know you must leave Bujumbura. The Embassy does not, at this time, tell us we need to go, but they leave that decision up to each individual. They know that breaking point will be different for everyone. But they did caution everyone not to wait until it is too late to make that move to get out. They also told us about a security note they sent all US citizens which warned of a possible terror threat directed at Westerners in Burundi from the terrorist group Al-she-bab. This terrorist group is unhappy with Burundi for sending troops to fight them in Somalia. I think it is safe to say that after this meeting everyone was ready to hop on a plane.
There were more vehicles burned, one more killed. The death toll is around 18 dead, over 200 injured, and over 600 arrested.
Tuesday, May 12th
Demonstrations continue, 2 more cars set on fire. This morning when Gary left for his walk to the truck, he was stopped by a group of young men. He continued on his way, but definitely felt threatened. When he returned, mightily unnerved, he announced he had found his trip wire when he was accosted by the group on the corner. He insisted we pack an overnight bag before we left for the day in case we didn't make it back to the apartment. I think we have decided we need to move out of our place and go live in the apartment over the Van Wagoner's. Their place is in one of the 2 safe neighborhoods in the city. The sister missionaries have been living there, but they are leaving today.
We tried to get the Uvira elders' passport again today, but no luck. We then had a meeting with the branch missionaries in 2 and 3 as we set in motion a plan to continue the missionary work with no full time missionaries here in Bujumbura. We took 8 full-time missionaries to the airport and sadly said good-bye to them. Then we came home and started packing.
Today there were 3 more dead in violence at the protests. Two were killed in a grenade attack and one more was shot to death.
Wednesday, May 13th
This morning Gary once again went out to fetch the truck, but this time he was turned back. They said he could not leave the area until after 10:00am. We both then walked the 1 1/2 miles to get the truck, noticing more barricades had sprung up along the way. There was even one below the elders' apartment we had to drive over. Truckloads of military and police were racing down the streets. You could hear people protesting in the distance.
We had another meeting about the branch missionary plan to continue teaching, and then we went to see the apartment over the Van's where we thought we would be moving. Heaven help me, what a mess! Then we needed to take the remaining elders back to their apartment, pick up their luggage, and get them a taxi to Uvira. They are the last of the elders in Bujumbura. We found the main road was blocked by police so we drove over the center median and turned to go back the way we had come. About that time, we were passing the US Embassy, and suddenly all of the students who have been staying out front surged into the street, cheering and jumping, arms in the air. We stopped to find out what was going on, and they told us ,"Coup d'etat!" We were excited to hear that and cheered and pumped fists with them. Gary honked the horn in celebration. This day had gone from one of anxiety and uncertainty to one of joy!
We took the missionaries back to their apartment to pick up their clothes and then drove them to where they could pick up a taxi for Uvira. All along the way people were in the streets singing and shouting, waving tree branches, giving us thumbs up as we passed.
We hurried home to pack everything we own for the trip out. They say if things are peaceful in Bujumbura, we will return soon.
Just found out the International Airport is closed, as are the borders. All flights are cancelled as of this moment. There is a security company who is supposed to drive us to the airport. They have suggested we get out of our neighborhood, get over the river and wait in a hotel until we can make the flight. We are supposed to leave tomorrow at 3:10pm. My first coup---don't know quite what to expect!