The mother of 20,000 children: Maggy Barankitse an exceptional woman

The mother of 20,000 children: Maggy Barankitse an exceptional woman tells you about an exceptional woman, a woman with a big heart, who fought against ethnic discrimination in Burundi.

The birth of an exceptional woman

Nicknamed the mother of 20,000 children, Marguerite Barankitse was born in 1957 in Burundi, a small country in Central Africa. She is Tutsi and Catholic.  Her widowed mother, who adopted 8 children, remains an example for her. She instilled in him the values of fraternity, sharing and compassion.

She continued her studies and at the age of 22, became a French teacher at the secondary school in her hometown Ruyigi. As an activist for the equality of peoples, she denounced in 1983 the school discrimination suffered by Hutu children. She is sanctioned by the institution and relieved of her duties as a teacher. At 23, she adopted, Chloé, a Hutu orphan, who was crying a lot in her class because she no longer had a family. Instead of getting married, Maggy decided to dedicate herself to the most disadvantaged by giving them a home of love and hope.


Witness to the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi

  • Civil War in Burundi: from 1993 to 2003

Since the assassination of the first President of the Republic Melchior N’Dadaye, a democratically elected Hutu, the country has suffered a fratricidal war, which will cause more than 800,000 deaths between Hutus and Tutsis. The Hutus took revenge on Melchior N’Dadaye’s death by killing Tutsis. And the army intervened and began to massacre the Hutus. It’s an endless tribal war.

On 24 October 1993, she witnessed this conflict first-hand and narrowly escaped a massacre. She has adopted 7 children and continues to take care of about 20 orphans, Hutus and Tutsis. Pursued by rebels armed with machetes, Maggy and her children took refuge in the bishopric of Ruyigi.

A brave woman, she hides the children in the cupboards of the sacristy. Unfortunately, they will be found. Maggy will be tied naked to a pole and she will see 72 people, including Juliette, one of her friends, being executed before her eyes. Among these armed groups were members of his own family. Very angry with her, because she saved the lives of these Hutu children, they decided to spare her life. With more than twenty children who miraculously survived this tragedy, Maggy went to hide with a German who lives a few kilometres away. Among these adopted children are Lydia and Lysette, Juliette’s children.

Sensitive to all the horrors she saw during the civil war, she decided to change things by becoming an angel of peace.

But ethnic violence is becoming more and more virulent. Many abandoned children come to his door to ask him for help. She has a thousand and one questions. How can you restore happiness to your children? How to keep them safe? How can we instil in them the values of peace and tolerance?

.Barankitse then decided to create Maison Shalom in May 1994 in buildings lent by the bishopric.

« We had to do the mourning work together and one day move on. Forgive. I couldn’t do it right away. Besides, if I hadn’t been a Christian, I think I would have killed myself. I felt betrayed: my blood brothers had killed my family. At first, I was driven by a mad rage. I went three months without shedding a tear. Then I cried. For a long time ».

« Some of them left, but others came to apologize to me. It freed me. When you can’t forgive, you stay with your back bent. »


Maison Shalom

Maison Shalom is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and a haven of peace in the city of Ruygi. It is a refuge, a place of refuge dedicated to abandoned children, orphans, demobilized child soldiers, regardless of their Hutu or Tutsi ethnic groups, where they can feel safe and learn to live together. It employs 600 people and supports 60,000 farmers.

Its purpose is to reintroduce life

In this home, children are fed, clothed, cared for and educated. There is a farm, a hospital, a library, a machine shop, a restaurant, a cinema, a hairdresser, an internet café. At the Angels’ cinemas, children open up to the world by watching films about Gandhi or Mandela. In the Angels’ garage, child soldiers and those who leave prison learn mechanics.

With perseverance, faith and patience, Maison Shalom becomes a huge complex of schools, hospitals and a healthcare network. In 10 years, the Shalom house will become the city of Angels.

Throughout her fight for life and equal opportunity, Maggy has saved more than 40,000 children. Thanks to the good education they received, they were able to change the course of their lives and have a trade. Others have decided to continue their mothers’ fight with a big heart, by opening Shalom Houses in different regions of Burundi.

Later on, with her team, she opened other homes to help the children victims of this fratricidal war and to integrate them into society.

Flight and exile from Burundi to Rwanda

In 2015, she was condemned to exile. Threatened by the government in power, she is forced to flee Burundi, which is facing a major political crisis. All those who protest against the ruling power are repressed by blood.

Maison Shalom is closed under pressure from the militias. It is thus dedicated to helping Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries. She has evacuated more than 50 children to Rwanda. Thousands of frightened and panicked Burundians are fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC.


Awards and honours

  • In 1998, Human Rights Prize.
  • On February 28, 2000, she received the trophy of courage awarded by the monthly magazine Afrique International.
  • On February 27, 2009, she was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by Rama Yade.


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