Independence Day in Burundi Date in the current year: July 1, 2024

Independence Day in Burundi The people of Burundi celebrate Independence Day on July 1. On this day in 1962, Burundi became fully independent from Belgium, splitting from its colony of Ruanda-Urundi.

Burundi is one of the few African countries to be a direct territorial successor of a pre-colonial era state. The pre-colonial Kingdom of Burundi was created in the late 17th century, when the Tutsi minority gained dominance over the larger Hutu ethnic group (a similar thing happened in the neighboring Kingdom of Rwanda).

Mwami (king) Ntare I, who is thought to be the first kind of Burundi, annexed a number of neighboring cheifdoms, but the resulting kingdom was largely decentralized and the mwami gave local sub-rulers wide independence. In the mid-18th century, a rather strict hierarchy emerged: the Tutsi minority was a privileged class, the Hutu majority had lower social status, and a small group of the Twa were at the bottom of the social pyramid.

The colonization of Burundi began relatively late. The German East Africa Company became active in the Great Lakes region in the late 19th century, disputing over land and borders with the British Empire and the Sultanate of Zanzibar. In 1891, the Kingdom of Burundi became part of the German East Africa, alongside Rwanda and Tanganyika (the mainland part of the present-day Tanzania).

The Great Lakes region was greatly affected by the East African Campaign of World War I. Belgium and the British Empire launched a coordinated attack on the German East Africa and in 1916, Burundi and Rwanda were occupied by Belgium. After the war, Germany officially surrendered them to Belgium under the Treaty of Versailles.

Between the two world wars, the territories of Burundi and Rwanda were administered as a Belgian League of Nations mandate territory named Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II, it was reclassified as a UN Trust Territory and continued to be administered by Belgium.

In 1948, Belgium allowed Rwanda and Burundi to form political parties, which was the first step towards the independence of both countries. In 1959, mwami Mwambutsa IV of Burundi requested to dissolve Ruanda-Urundi and grant Burundi independence. Following the Rwandan Revolution that took place the same year, Burundian parties began to advocate for independence even more strongly.

The first elections in Burundi were held in 1961, marking the beginning of the country’s transition to independence. The independence of Burundi from Belgium was officially proclaimed on July 1, 1962. The country became a constitutional monarchy and changed its name from Ruanda-Urundi to Burundi. Unfortunately, the further history of Burundi was marred by assassinations, civil war and genocides.

Although Burundi Independence Day is a public holiday, it is celebrated with less pomp than one would expect. This is mainly caused by various issues that Burundians have to face on a day-to-day basis, such as the country’s underdeveloped economy, lack of democracy, human rights violations, and the ongoing ethnic conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.

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