At the end of the nineteenth century, Germany deployed military troops in Ruanda and Burundi, conquering the region and creating German East Africa. The present-day city of Gitega was selected as the location of the capital. Following its loss in World War I, Germany was obliged to hand up “management” of a portion of old German East Africa to Belgium.
This area, which included modern-day Rwanda and Burundi, became a Belgian League of Nations mandate territory on October 20, 1924. In practice, it was known as Ruanda-Urundi and was part of the Belgian colonial empire. Despite European invasion, Ruanda-Urundi maintained its royal dynasty.
Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi was designated as a United Nations Trust Territory administered by Belgium. Throughout the nation, a number of measures created divides throughout the 1940s. On 4 October 1943, the legislative division of Burundi’s government was divided into chiefdoms and lesser chiefdoms. Land was administered by chiefdoms, and lesser sub-chiefdoms were created. Native officials were also given authority. Belgium granted the area the right to establish political parties in 1948. These factions helped Burundi achieve independence from Belgium.
Burundi’s monarch, Mwami Mwambutsa VI, sought independence from Belgium and the breakup of the Ruanda-Urundi union on January 20, 1959. Burundian political groups started to agitate for the end of Belgian colonial authority and the separation of Rwanda and Burundi in the months that followed. The Union for National Progress was the earliest and biggest of these political parties (UPRONA).
The Rwandan Revolution, as well as the following instability and ethnic strife, impacted Burundi’s quest for independence. Many Tutsi Rwandans left Rwanda and settled in Burundi.
Burundi’s first elections were held on September 8, 1961, and UPRONA, a multi-ethnic unity party headed by Prince Louis Rwagasore, received slightly more than 80% of the vote. Following the elections, on October 13, the 29-year-old Prince Rwagasore was murdered, taking Burundi’s most popular and well-known nationalist with him.
On July 1, 1962, the nation declared independence and officially changed its name from Ruanda-Urundi to Burundi. Burundi established a constitutional monarchy, with Mwami Mwambutsa VI, Prince Rwagasore’s father, as King. Burundi became a member of the United Nations on September 18, 1962.
King Mwambutsa chose a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, in 1963, but he was murdered on January 15, 1965, by a Rwandan Tutsi working for the US Embassy. The murder took place in the backdrop of the Congo Crisis, in which Western anti-communist nations faced off against the communist People’s Republic of China, which was attempting to turn Burundi into a logistical center for communist rebels fighting in Congo. Parliamentary elections in May 1965 resulted in a Hutu majority, but when King Mwambutsa chose a Tutsi prime minister, several Hutu thought this was unfair, and ethnic hostilities escalated. An attempted coup headed by the Hutu-dominated police was carried out but failed in October 1965. The Tutsi-dominated army, then headed by Tutsi commander Captain Michel Micombero, purged Hutu from their ranks and carried out revenge assaults, killing up to 5,000 people in a precursor to the 1972 Burundian Genocide.
King Mwambutsa, who had left the nation after the October revolution of 1965, was ousted in July 1966 by a coup, and his adolescent son, Prince Ntare V, took the throne. In November of that year, Tutsi Prime Minister then-Captain Michel Micombero led another coup, deposing Ntare, dissolving the monarchy, and proclaiming the country a republic, despite the fact that his one-party administration was essentially a military dictatorship. Micombero, as president, became a champion of African socialism and gained backing from the People’s Republic of China. He established a strict law and order system and harshly suppressed Hutu militarism.
Civil War and Genocide against Hutu
Two incidents in late April 1972 precipitated the beginning of the First Burundian Genocide. On April 27, 1972, a revolt headed by several Hutu gendarmerie members erupted in the lakeside villages of Rumonge and Nyanza-Lac, and the insurgents proclaimed the Martyazo Republic. Tutsi and Hutu were assaulted by the rebels because they refused to join their revolt. It is believed that between 800 and 1200 individuals died during the first Hutu epidemic. At the same time, Burundi’s King Ntare V returned from exile, escalating political tensions in the nation. On April 29, 1972, the 24-year-old Ntare V was assassinated, and in the months that followed, the Tutsi-dominated government of Micombero deployed the army to fight Hutu insurgents and perpetrate genocide against members of the Hutu majority. The exact number of victims was never determined, although current estimates place the death toll between 80,000 and 210,000 individuals. Furthermore, it is believed that hundreds of thousands of Hutu escaped the massacre into Zare, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
Micombero grew emotionally disturbed and reclusive as a result of the civil war and slaughter. Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, a Tutsi, staged a bloodless revolution that deposed Micombero in 1976. He subsequently began to advocate for different changes. In 1981, his government produced a new constitution that kept Burundi as a one-party state. Bagaza was elected President of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Republic of the Bagaza repressed political opponents and religious liberties throughout his reign.
Major Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi) deposed Bagaza in 1987, suspending the constitution and dissolved political parties. He established the Military Committee for National Salvation to reestablish military authority (CSMN). Anti-Tutsi ethnic propaganda spread by the remains of the 1972 UBU, which had reorganized as PALIPEHUTU in 1981, resulted in the August 1988 murders of Tutsi peasants in the northern communes of Ntega and Marangara. The government estimated the death toll at 5,000, however several international NGOs think this is an underestimation of the losses.
The new government did not carry out the severe retaliation of 1972. Its efforts to build confidence were undermined when it declared amnesty for those who had advocated for, carried out, and claimed responsibility for the murders. Many experts believe this time to be the start of the “culture of impunity.” Other scholars, however, believe that the “culture of impunity” began between 1965 and 1972, when a small and identifiable group of Hutus revolted and unleashed enormous murders of Tutsis throughout the whole region.
Following the murders, a group of Hutu intellectuals sent an open letter to Pierre Buyoya, requesting greater Hutu participation in the government. The signatories were apprehended and imprisoned. A few weeks later, Buyoya formed a new cabinet that included an equal number of Hutu and Tutsi ministers. Adrien Sibomana (Hutu) was named Prime Minister. Buyoya also established a commission to address national unity problems. The administration proposed a new constitution in 1992 that included a multi-party system. A civil war erupted.
Between 1962 and 1993, an estimated 250,000 people perished in Burundi as a result of the country’s many wars. Burundi has seen two genocides since its independence in 1962: the 1972 mass murders of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army, and the 1993 mass slaughter of Tutsis by the Hutu majority. In the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi, submitted to the United Nations Security Council in 2002, both are characterized as genocide.
First attempt at democracy and genocide against Tutsi
Melchior Ndadaye, head of the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), won the country’s first democratic election in June 1993. He became the first Hutu head of state, presiding over a Hutu-friendly administration. Tutsi troops murdered Ndadaye in October 1993, resulting in a genocide against Tutsi and years of warfare between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi dominated army. It is believed that 300,000 people were murdered in the years after the killing, the vast majority of them were civilians.
The parliament elected Cyprien Ntaryamira (Hutu) as president in early 1994. When their aircraft was shot down, he and Rwanda’s president perished together. More refugees began to escape to Rwanda. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (Hutu), Speaker of Parliament, was named President in October 1994. A coalition government was established, with 12 of the 13 parties participating. Although a widespread slaughter was avoided, fighting erupted. A number of Hutu refugees were murdered in the capital, Bujumbura. The Tutsi Union for National Progress, primarily, withdrew from the government and parliament.
Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi) seized control in a coup in 1996. In 1998, he suspended the constitution and was sworn in as president. In reaction to rebel assaults, the government relocated a large portion of the population to refugee camps. Long peace negotiations, mediated by South Africa, began under Buyoya’s reign. Both parties made agreements to share power in Burundi in Arusha, Tanzania, and Pretoria, South Africa. It took four years to arrange the accords.
As part of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, a transitional government for Burundi was scheduled for August 28, 2000. For five years, the transitional government was put on trial. Following many failed cease-fires, a peace plan and power-sharing deal signed in 2001 was largely effective. In 2003, the Tutsi-controlled Burundian government and the main Hutu rebel organization, CNDD-FDD, reached a cease-fire agreement (National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy).
Domitien Ndayizeye (Hutu), the head of FRODEBU, was elected president in 2003. Ethnic quotas were established in early 2005 to determine posts in Burundi’s government. Elections for parliament and president were held throughout the year.
Pierre Nkurunziza (Hutu), a former rebel commander, was elected president in 2005. As of 2008, the Burundian government was negotiating peace with the Hutu-led Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (NLF).
Following a plea from United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for them to assist in the humanitarian catastrophe, African leaders started a series of peace negotiations between warring groups. In 1995, former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere began talks; after his death, South African President Nelson Mandela took over. As the discussions proceeded, South African President Thabo Mbeki and US President Bill Clinton added their voices.
Track I mediations were used during the peace negotiations. This negotiating technique may be described as a kind of diplomacy using governmental or intergovernmental officials who may utilize their good reputations, mediation, or the “carrot and stick” method to achieve or force a result, often along the lines of “bargaining” or “win-lose.”
The primary goal was to fundamentally restructure the Burundian administration and military in order to reconcile the ethnic divide between Tutsi and Hutu. It was to be accomplished in two main stages. First, a transitional power-sharing administration would be formed, with presidents serving three-year terms. The second goal included reorganizing the military such that all factions were represented equally.
As the length of the peace negotiations showed, the mediators and negotiating sides faced a number of challenges. First, Burundian authorities considered the objectives to be “unrealistic,” and the pact to be vague, inconsistent, and confusing. Second, and probably most crucially, the Burundians felt the pact would be meaningless unless accompanied by a cease-fire. Separate and direct discussions with the rebel factions would be required. The major Hutu party was dubious of the idea of a power-sharing government, claiming that the Tutsi had misled them in previous accords.
The pact was signed in 2000 by the Burundian President, as well as 13 of the 19 fighting Hutu and Tutsi groups. Disagreements remained about who would lead the fledgling administration and when the truce would begin. The peace negotiations were sabotaged by hardline Tutsi and Hutu factions that refused to sign the agreement, leading to an increase in bloodshed. Three years later, at an African leaders’ conference in Tanzania, the Burundian president and the major opposition Hutu organization signed an agreement to terminate the war; signatory members were given ministerial positions inside the government. Smaller Hutu militant organizations, like as the Forces for National Liberation, remained active.
Many rounds of peace negotiations between 1993 and 2003, supervised by regional leaders in Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda, eventually produced power-sharing accords that satisfied the majority of the warring parties. The South African Protection Support Detachment was first sent to safeguard Burundian leaders returning from exile. These troops were sent to the African Union Mission in Burundi, which was tasked with overseeing the establishment of a transitional government. The UN stepped in and took over peacekeeping duties in June 2004, signaling increasing international support for Burundi’s already well-advanced peace process.
The mission’s mandate has been to monitor the cease-fire; carry out disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; support humanitarian assistance and refugee and IDP return; assist with elections; protect international staff and Burundian civilians; monitor Burundi’s troubled borders, including halting illicit arms flows; and A total of 5,650 military troops, 120 civilian police officers, and about 1,000 foreign and local civilian employees have been assigned to the operation. The mission has been running well. It has benefitted tremendously from the transitional government, which has been operational and is in the process of transitioning to a democratically elected administration.
The major challenge in the early stages was the remaining Hutu nationalist rebel group’s persistent opposition to the peace process. Despite the presence of the UN, this group maintained its deadly struggle on the outskirts of the city. By June 2005, the organization had ceased fighting and its representatives had been reintegrated into the democratic process. All political parties have agreed to an inter-ethnic power-sharing formula: no political party may enter government positions unless it is ethnically integrated.
The UN mission’s primary goal had been to codify the power-sharing agreements in a democratically approved constitution, allowing elections to be conducted and a new government to be formed. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration were carried out concurrently with election preparations. The Constitution was adopted with more than 90 percent of the public vote in February 2005. Three separate elections for the Parliament and the President were also conducted at the municipal level in May, June, and August 2005.
While there are still some problems with refugee returns and ensuring sufficient food supplies for the war-weary people, the operation was successful in gaining the trust and confidence of the majority of the previously fighting leaders, as well as the general public. It was engaged in a number of “rapid impact” projects, including the rehabilitation and construction of schools, orphanages, health clinics, and infrastructure such as water lines.
2006 to 2015
After 2006, Burundi’s reconstruction efforts began to bear fruit. The United Nations ended its peacekeeping operation and refocused on rebuilding assistance. Rwanda, DRC Congo, and Burundi revived the regional Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries in order to achieve economic rehabilitation. Burundi, along with Rwanda, also joined the East African Community in 2007.
However, the terms of the September 2006 ceasefire agreement reached between the government and the last remaining armed opposition group, the FLN (Forces for National Liberation, also known as the NLF or FROLINA), were not fully implemented, and senior FLN members later left the truce monitoring team, claiming that their security was jeopardized. Rival FLN groups fought in the capital in September 2007, killing 20 combatants and forcing civilians to evacuate. In other areas of the nation, there have been reports of rebel attacks. The rebel groups and the government differed on disarmament and the freeing of political detainees. FLN militants assaulted government-protected camps where former combatants were residing in late 2007 and early 2008. Rural inhabitants’ houses were also pillaged.
Amnesty International’s 2007 report identifies many areas for development. The FLN has committed many acts of violence against civilians. Child soldiers are also recruited by the latter. Women face a high incidence of violence. Perpetrators are often shielded from prosecution and punishment by the state. The court system is in desperate need of change. Genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity continue to go unpunished. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Special Tribunal for inquiry and prosecution have yet to be established. Journalists are often imprisoned for carrying out lawful professional duties, limiting their freedom of speech. Between January and November 2007, a total of 38,087 Burundian refugees were returned.
In late March 2008, the FLN requested that the parliament pass legislation providing them with “provisional immunity” from arrest. Ordinary offenses would be included, but not severe breaches of international humanitarian law such as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Despite the fact that the government has previously given this to individuals, the FLN has been unable to secure temporary immunity.
The FLN bombed Bujumbura on April 17, 2008. Burundi’s army fought back, and the FLN suffered significant casualties. On May 26, 2008, a new cease-fire agreement was reached. President Nkurunziza met with FLN leader Agathon Rwasa in August 2008, via the intervention of South Africa’s Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula. This was the first direct meeting between the two parties since June 2007. Both agreed to meet twice a week to form a commission to address any disagreements that may emerge during the peace talks.
Refugee camps are being closed down, and 450,000 people have gone home. The country’s economy is in shambles – as of 2011, Burundi has one of the world’s lowest per capita gross earnings. Property disputes have erupted as a result of the repatriation of refugees, among other things.
Burundi is currently a member of African Union peacekeeping operations, notably one in Somalia against Al-Shahab terrorists.
Protests erupted in April 2015 when the governing party announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza will run for a third term. Protesters argued Nkurunziza could not seek for re-election for a third time, but the country’s constitutional court sided with the President (although some of its members had fled the country at the time of its vote).
On 13 May, an attempted coup failed to overthrow Nkurunziza, who returned to Burundi and started purging his government, arresting many coup leaders. Protests persisted in the aftermath of the failed coup, and by 20 May, over 100,000 people had left the nation, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. There have been allegations of extensive human rights violations, including illegal murders, torture, disappearances, and limitations on freedom of speech.
Despite demands from the United Nations, the African Union, the United States, France, South Africa, Belgium, and other countries, the governing party conducted legislative elections on June 29, which the opposition boycotted.