Who is Léonce Ngabo?

I am going to introduce you to an extraordinary man. Don’t think that the word is too strong.

You yourself will be surprised by all that he has accomplished.

To his university degree in chemistry, he has added many other degrees in life by directly confronting the clash between raging ethnic groups.

He didn’t let himself be dragged down by the painful splashes of these shocks and clashes. He came out of it with strength.

He is an accomplished artist – musician and composer, director and filmmaker, and it is through his art that he is undertaking the long road to truth and reconciliation in Burundi.

Although he had carved out an enviable place for himself in the Canadian cultural and artistic landscape, he abandoned the comfort of that status to become resolutely involved in the democratization of political life in Burundi.

After a long stay in Canada, where he was director of a film festival until 2004, he still carries in his pocket this capacity to create.

He manifested it by creating a festival in Burundi that has reached, today, an enviable reputation.

He has publicly expressed his desire to work for the cause of national reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burundi. He was elected in a vote held in Parliament by 91 votes out of 111 members.  Since then, he has continued to work hard within the commission to achieve the mission entrusted to it and his invaluable contribution has been highlighted many times.

Through his work within the commission and his testimonies on the history of the country, he resolutely contributes to the emergence of a new Burundi, turned towards the future.

One of his songs has become a strong symbol of reconciliation between ethnic groups, so much so that it is sung in every school in Burundi;

His dearest wish is to build bridges between the ethnic groups because he says that as a young student he saw his fellow students savagely killed. He wants to keep their memory and he works in a unifying spirit using art, reflection and empathy in order to create a space for peaceful coexistence between peoples.

He could not be in the room with us tonight due to work reasons, but he will be with us via video conference.

The extraordinary man I am talking about is called Léonce Ngabo

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to give him a hand in applause.

Thank you.

John Philpot