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Site Last Update: 11 Dec, 2019

Jun. 1999: "When an enemy digs a grave for you, God gives you an emergency exit " - Kirundi (Burundi) Proverb

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Umwáansi aguciira icoobo, Imáana ikaguciira icaanzo.
Quand l'ennemi creuse une tombe pour toi, Dieu te prépare une issue de secours(French)
When an enemy digs a grave for you, God gives you an emergency exit (English)

Kirundi (Burundi)

Explanation:

Icaanzo, in Kirundi, is a kind of low and narrow opening made in the fence around the family house or urugo ("kraal"). This icaanzo is most often made in the back courtyard for two main uses: First, as a usual entrance for the women and children when they want to get in unnoticed especially during public functions; second, as a secret emergency exit in case of danger coming from the main and public entrance called iréembo.

Considered in this second use, the icaanzo is a symbol of safety and security in case of danger threatening one's life. That is why it is opposed to the icoobo ("grave"), symbol of a certain death. The proverb insists on the fact that the icoobo ("grave") is made by your enemy umwáansi, while the icaanzo ("emergency exit") by which you escape is made for you by God Imáana.

This proverb is used whenever someone feels threatened by other people and shows God's love, mercy and power. He saves those who are helpless before human iniquity and who put their trust in Him, those who like Abraham, according to St. Paul, are "hoping against hope" (Romans 4:18).

This proverb has many biblical parallels such as Daniel 3:19-30 where Daniel's three friends were thrown into a blazing furnace for their faith in Yahweh, but God saved them and sent them an angel to protect them from being consumed in the fire. Another biblical reference that serves as a parallel to this Kirundi proverb is Esther 5 - 7 where King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I)'s Prime Minister Haman wanted the Jew Mordecai to be hanged on a gallows especially built for this purpose. But instead of being hanged, Mordecai was honoured and promoted to very high functions while Haman himself was hanged in place of Mordecai.


Mr. Dennis J. Bukuru
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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