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From the Streets to the Ballot Sheets

When civil war erupted in Burundi in 1993, like many children, the teenage Dieudonné Nahimana fled to the capital, Bujumbura, and ended up destitute. He became the de facto leader of a group of 40 street children, surviving in the shelter of abandoned buildings. It was an experience that drove his ambition higher, sowing the seeds for a nation-building project and his decision to run for president. Burundi goes to the polls on 20 May and Nahimana, standing as an independent, has a manifesto of unity. “In our country political parties have developed out of ethnic divisions,” he says. “But the people helping my campaign come from all ethnic groups. Together, we are showing it’s time to value life in Burundi.” As the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission has worked to repair rifts, the government has recognised Nahimana’s “healing memories” project, bringing together the genocide’s young victims and perpetrators. “We raised them to live as one community without considering where they came from.”