As A child in Milsbeek, As Ambassador in Burundi


As A child in Milsbeek, As Ambassador in Burundi

MILSBEEK – As a child, she played in the forests behind the Zwarteweg in Milsbeek, at present Caecilia Wijgers is the Ambassador of the African Country Burundi. This weekend she was in The Netherlands for a short visit to take part in the Ambassador’s conference of The Hague.

Unfortunately, Caecilia Wijgers (51)  doesn’t have time to visit Milsbeek. Her schedule with the Ambassadors' Conference, which took place this weekend is totally full. In any other circumstance, she would have visited the village of her youth and Nijmegen where her sister Heleen Wijgers, who heads the Stevens Church lives. Last year she walked with her sister along the Pieters path via Milsbeek in the direction of Nijmegen. She always admires the beauty of this place.

Since October she has been appointed the Ambassador in Burundi, the Switzerland of Africa: that is how the people call their nation. There are many hills and it is green. In the city where she lives, Bujumbura, there are roads with cobblestones, a reminder of the Belgian colonial past. She loves Africa and sees a link with Milsbeek: In Africa people still have the time for each other and they care for each other, which is the same as in Milsbeek; a small community with the same spirit of caring for one another. The natural landscape is also very similar to her current country of residence.


As a child, she played in the forests behind the Zwarteweg. To attend the High School, the Kardinsky College in Nijmegen, she had to cycle every day for one hour with her schoolbag on the back of her bicycle. As a result, she still very physically fit. Because she could play the cello, she went to the conservatory in Arnhem. This was followed by a public administration study and an internship at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. After that, she wanted to go abroad.

For the European Committee she went to Lithuania, and subsequently, she worked in countries such as Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan and Ghana. At the same time, together with her husband, she raised three children. Being stationed in Burundi makes her happy. She feels safe although there is a negative travel advice due to the insecure security situation. After a failed coup d’etat in 2015, there are still tensions looming in the background.  She has knowledge of the Burundi history of ethnic violence and she is used to a lot of tension, having been stationed in for instance Afghanistan. In Burundi, she drives herself to the Embassy and the biggest problems she is confronted with now is the weather-- the fierce thunderstorms through which the electricity fails.


The best part of her job is her working towards the improvement and advocacy of women and human rights plus the fight against poverty. Poverty is extreme in Burundi. and she tries to help because stability and economic growth are also in the interest of The Netherlands. “ You have to fight the root cause of migration and insecurity. We help farmers to produce more in order for them to get more income. A smaller family is helpful for that. Also, we give attention to young entrepreneurs who could have not made it without our connections and training”. As an example, she mentions a small company which generates energy from empty coconut shells who would be normally thrown away. “ As an Ambassador, you are the spider in the web who connects the right people”.

One thing is sure, her youth in Milsbeek gave her a stable basis which she needed for her job. The village, the people, the Carnival and the funfair, she remembers it with love

Translated by Tjalling Wiarda

Original source (in Dutch):

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