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Wednesday 12 August 2020
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The fabulous story of Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO, the 5th Secretary General of the East African Community

The fabulous story of Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO, the 5th Secretary General of the East African Community

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO. ©DR

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO is the 5th Secretary General of the East African Community. He was appointed to that position by the East African Community Heads of State on March 2, 2016 to assume office on April 26, 2016 for a five-year term, replacing Ambassador Richard SEZIBERA. His life has taken him to numerous places and positions, yet he came from very far. Here is the story of a man who reached the top position more than once despite a rough starting point.

 

I want to tell all children of East Africa that everything is possible. There is no difference between a child here in East Africa and a child in Europe. We have the same potential. It is up to us to uplift ourselves and uplift the region

 

Rough beginnings!

 

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO was born in 1964 in Kinama , Bujumbura. In 1972, as Burundi was facing instabilities, his family fled the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, he started primary school as a refugee in Sange, in the eastern part of Congo. Later, his family moved to Uvira, still in DRC. He concluded his education there.

 

At the end of his primary school, he was sent to a Catholic school called College Mwanga in Uvira, which was in fact the best school in the eastern part of Congo.

 

Afterwards, he was brought back home in Burundi. “I was the only child in my family to be back to Burundi. I was attending school at “College du Saint Esprit”. That was said to be the best junior high school in whole of the Great Lakes region. It was a very good boarding school. Every learner would have a room with a shower, it was really like a five-star hotel for me”, he says.

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO. ©DR

Generally when you came out as the best student in that college, you would get a scholarship to go to Europe

 

For this reason, he knew he was in the right place in such a way he started cultivating new dreams. “I would already see myself in a very good university. Generally when you came out as the best student in that college, you would get a scholarship to go to Europe”, he tells. So he set his mind to studying to be one of the best students.

 

Meanwhile, his parents and siblings moved to Rwanda. For the next two years and half, he would not see them but then later he managed to see them every year. “When I was doing my fourth year of secondary school I managed to go to see them and from there I would go to see them once every year. That time was really a time of strengthening my personality, being self-dependent. My classmates would generally go for weekends out of the school and me, I would study”, he recounts

 

Way to America!

 

“The least expensive was Clarke University in Boston, one of the best schools in international development

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO. ©DR

 

After his schooling at the “Collège du Saint Esprit”, he enrolled in the faculty of medical studies at the University of Burundi. But during the holidays, he was called to go to the Ministry of Education where he was told he had gotten a scholarship. “I could not believe it. When I went to the ministry, I did not know what for… The scholarships were split between Russia and France. So, actually I spent one year in Russia, in a prep school and then I went to France”, he remembers.

 

Though interested in international matters, he right away enrolled to the university and went to the school of economics as he was advised by a few friends of his. He further went up to a master’s degree and specialized in corporate management.

 

After his master’s degree in France, he thought about being back to Burundi. At that time, he had got an internship in UNDP program in Rwanda, Kigali. “I went there for a few months. My boss was from Sri Lanka. As I was coming from France and spoke French, he urged me to go to an English-speaking country. He told me that if I could speak English as well, I would then be bilingual”, he recalls. He then went to the US Embassy in Kigali and started learning English before he sent applications.

 

By the time he finished his internship in Kigali, he went back to France. A few days later, he got responses to his applications from American universities. He had four admissions which were very expensive, though. “The least expensive was Clarke University in Boston, one of the best schools in international development”, he says.

 

He had to look for money to go to study there. He went to see the Jesuit community in Paris as they had helped him a lot. “I gave them my letter of admission and explained what I wanted to do. It was in 1990 but the tuition was $27,000. It was a lot of money. I actually wrote to many deputies on the French parliament, I wrote to Bill Gates, I really wrote to over 200 people and foundations, telling them my story. I want to do this and I need some help”, he mentions.

 

Afterwards, he was called by the Jesuit Foundation who told him that one of the European congressmen received his letter and asked them to call him. They wanted to see him in Strasbourg. He met a priest who told him they had $9,000.

 

Consequently, he needed to have some more money. “While at the university, I had worked at a bank during every summer. I went to see my boss. He told me I would have more opportunities if I went to the US. So, they gave me a loan of about 25,000 Euros. He said it is a special loan for people who work for the bank and it had a one per cent interest. I had three years of grace period. So, one week later I was in Boston and started my MBA at Clarke University”.

 

A flourishing professional journey!

 

In 1996, I joined Fubu. « They were starting at that time. I was their agent in Europe, making money I would never make”, he says.”

Ambassador Liberat MFUMUKEKO. ©DR

 

As he would later say, AmbassadorLiberat MPFUMUKEKO became a lecturer, almost by accident.  “When I finished my first year of MBA, as I told you I had a loan of 25,000 Euros. So, after one year and a half, that money was finishing”, he points out.

 

He had then to find money to pay for his last courses. At that time, he was really lucky as the Department of Foreign Languages was looking for two people, one to teach basic French, and a few months later another to teach some programs of Russian. “I got the job to teach French to beginners. I would do this once or twice a week. I would do the same with Russian. This paid [for] my studies up to the end. When I finished, I had a proposal from the university to stay as a lecturer, this time in the business department”, he puts. When he finished in December 1993, he stayed as a lecturer.

 

Two years later, he was assigned a program as the deputy director for international programs but, at the same time, he started also getting into the corporate world.

 

In 1996, I joined Fubu. « They were starting at that time. I was their agent in Europe, making money I would never make”, he says.

 

Mr MFUMUKEKO had not been in Burundi for 23 years. When he came back, he discovered a new Burundi that was different of the one he knew before. “It was much more organized, and I saw some of my cousins. I reconnected with my family. I felt I should stay. Friends also asked me to stay”, he rejoices.

 

He was further given a position at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. He was given a one-year contract to stay as a UN employee for Burundi. In 2005, he was offered his first position as CEO of the Burundi Investment Promotion Agency. “I stayed with the agency for two and a half years. Then I went to the presidency where I had a ministerial position as the principal advisor for the president for economic affairs. From there, I was appointed as the Director General of the Burundi Water and Electricity Company, the largest company in Burundi”, he recounts

 

At the same time, he was given the chairmanship of the East African Power Pool, which is all the EAC countries plus five other countries including Ethiopia and Egypt. In 2015, he was appointed to be Deputy Secretary General in charge of finance and administration at the EAC and in March 2016, Secretary General for a five-year term.

 

With the East African youth in mind, Ambassador Liberat MPFUMUKEKO says, “I want to tell all children of East Africa that everything is possible. There is no difference between a child here in East Africa and a child in Europe. We have the same potential. It is up to us to up lift ourselves and uplift the region”.

 

https://www.eac.int/about-eac/leadership/20-about-eac/profile/426-631-120-amb-liberat-mfumukeko

 

https://observer.ug/news-headlines/50152-meet-mfumukeko-former-refugee-at-the-helm-of-eac

 

Melchisédeck BOSHIRWA

 




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