Eric Nsabiyumva, 46 years old former drug addict, narrates his story on drug substance abuse and how he overcame it.
Creating an association to help addicted individuals from overcoming the nightmare, the mission now is to create a drug free society.
The national coordinator of BAPUD (Burundi Association of People who Used Drugs), Eric Nsabiyumva, began experimenting with marijuana at age of 15 due to the peer pressure and the 1993 political crisis.
“In 1991 that’s when my classmates told me to taste cannabis. Besides that there is that experimenting and tasting everything you desire that characterizes every teen which pushed me even much more to smoke cannabis,” said Nsabiyumva.
Eric found himself stop smoking a bit later in 1991 because there was rigor at school, “even if my parents did not know that I was taking something, they took time to advise me. They made me understand that the period of adolescence is awkward to those who misbehave.”
“ It was not easy to stop smoking but all I can say is that I was both very obedient to my parents, I didn’t want to fail them. I did not want to see me failing after what they told me. The other reason was the school rigor, I could not get where to buy heroin easily. I did not take drugs until Burundi got into political crisis after the death of its elected president.”
But the 1993 political crisis proved the final straw as he relapsed, it is believed that almost every adolescent was used by politicians by then and that is how many learned to test alcohol and other drugs.
“I was among those teenagers called out by politicians to take part in the crisis so as to prove myself able, I relapsed. This continued throughout my high school career.” he confessed.
According to Nsabiyumva, youth by then went through a lot during the political crisis and particularly him as from the period of 1993-1997, as he was being used by politicians during the political crisis after the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected President Melchior Ndadaye’s.
“Even if I was aware of what I’ve been through in the past. I was tempted to try the new ones. I tried pills, they were more exciting than those we smoked. I could feel very high. I started mixing all of the available drugs in Burundi until when I got my graduation in 2000. I kept on years later in vacation even very often because I was no longer as busy as I was when I was studying.”
Eric Nsabiyumva says that it was not easy for him to be able to buy himself drugs, and hence resorting to stealing from items from neighbors in order to get money to buy the stuff.
“Like any other jobless person I couldn’t afford anything. But imagine covering drug expenses, I mean at that time I had to take both the available drugs in the country (cannabis and heroin) quite often without having any income generating activity. I went to an extent of scamming people to get money for drugs.”
According to Eric during that period, heroin by then was the most popular drug they used to get tipsy.
In 2003, he pursued his studies in Kenya, when establishing himself in the East African country, he said that he tried mixing various drugs as he discovered other ways of getting addictive to substances. However, due to poor conditions of living in a foreign country he started found a job of taxi and now him being a taxi driver.
“Once in Kenya, I discovered pure heroin and began snorting or injecting myself. OOH… it was very ecstatic. It was joyful all I can say is that I discovered something far more different from all of what I have tried so far.”
“It is not easy to live in a foreign country with difficult living conditions and with that added burden. So to survive I started driving taxis after classes until late. I could start by sniffing some stuff and then drive after. I couldn’t run that risk of taking with me the drugs because I could get busted by the police at any time.”
With now Mr. Nsengiyumva in Kenya pursuing for his studies in one of the universities in Kenya that Eric Nsegiyumva did want to be disclosed, his addiction to the drug substances got real, he said that it was too risky as he has to work extra hours to fulfill his additional need.
“I had to work very hard until 3:00 am to make more money so as to be able to cover drug expenses. I was in contact with some dealers I Kenya and I used to buy some doses and make some drug savings. so I could contact them and they would tell me where to meet.”
Despite being addicted to drugs and pursuing for further studies in Kenya, Eric Nsabiyumva managed to graduate and return back to Burundi after getting his Masters in one of the media Institutes in Kenya in 2013.
Now the addiction was worse as he couldn’t do anything without taking pills, smoking, snorting or/and injecting himself.
“After my degree, I could afford buying my drugs. I could say per day the drugs were costing me around 25.000BIF. They were very expensive in that period. I couldn’t figure out where I could get money from if wasn’t working.”
“I asked myself what I am gaining from this. All of the money I make is wasted, I could not realize or conceive a project for the future. And then I remembered what my parents told me when I was younger. I wondered if I had a future or if I had not wasted it despite the fact that I had managed to pursue my studies. What I used to take without intending to return.”
“I got myself up and get organized by working with young people in efforts to create an association according to the limited means I had while remaining in search of sponsors. I did not give up even during the 2015 political crisis because I knew what the addicted youths are going through. ”
“My willingness to help others in that battle would have not been stopped by the 2015 crisis. I was still looking backwards to what my friends were going through and felt sorry for them. ”
Mr. Nsabiyumva said that in 2016, there was a local organization which worked with Global Funds and that the NGO was aiming to work on the reduction of the harm caused by drug use.
“I met the Burundi Alliance against sida (ABS) which was working with the Global Fund during one of its programs. They told me that they were willing to work on drugs. I suggested to them that I already had an idea of what it is as I’ve been through that. I suggested that it would be better to start with the addicted ones.”
“The organization staff told me that I was the one who matched the criteria, but told me that the first meeting would be held in Nairobi-Kenya.”
“After creating an organization of drug users, we were 30 by then. We started working on that program. But still, it was obvious that I was working with people who were not understanding what we were doing.”
“So a bit later in 2017, the International Network for People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) organized a workshop in Arusha-Tanzania. That is where they told us that they aim to reduce the risks associated with drug use and that they are working with those who use them.”
“I got an agreement in November 2017 to help active drug users and supervise old ones to avoid relapses. BAPUD the association a created its doors are wide open to everyone, either the active users or the ones who want to provide help.”
Burundi Association of People who Used Drugs (BAPUD) is an association that Mr. Eric Nsabiyumva created in efforts to eradicate drug addiction in youth and the Burundian community.
“We work with active drug users most of the time, we make them aware of the consequences of the drug use. We help them understand that it is their duty to make their own decision and they have to understand that no one is there to decide for them so we give greater priority to their right to express themselves.”
“BAPUD use different techniques including listening and volunteering, as of today BAPUD has 462 members from all provinces of the country among which 220 are members from the countryside,” said Mr. Nsabiyumva.