President Ndadaye Day is observed on October 21 in Burundi every year to mark the occasion of Melchior Ndadaye’s assassination in 1993. He was the first president of Burundi to be elected through a truly democratic process and he also belonged to one of the minority ethnic groups, the Hutu. The Hutu were a persecuted people group, and many fled to Rwanda during the rule of previous presidents of the country. He remains to this day an emblem of true democracy and unity for the nation of Burundi and a representative of the fight against ethnic divisions.
History of President Ndadaye's Day
Melchior Ndadaye was an intellectual and politician who later became the first-ever democratically elected president of the African nation of Burundi. Prior to this, Burundi was under military rule, with presidents who rose to power through military coups, and instigated a genocide of the Hutu people. The Hutu and Tutsi were the two main ethnic groups in Burundi. The Tutsi group was the more influential, and consolidated power. As a result, many Hutu people fled the country due to the ongoing genocide, including a young Ndadaye, in 1972. He finished his studies in Rwanda and became a university lecturer. Once he became involved in politics, he helped found the socialist Burundi Workers’ Party, in 1979. He later went on to become its leader.
He returned to Burundi in 1983 and in 1986 founded the Front for Democracy (FRODEBU) party. Such was his popularity that in the June 1993 elections, he won the presidency by a landslide of almost 66% of the votes. His win marked a turning point in the nation’s history, which had been under military rule for 26 years. He tried to effect changes in the structures of power distribution, and bring about reconciliation between the divided ethnic groups. This did not rub everyone the right way, especially the Tutsi people who were used to being in power. After a mere three months of Ndadaye being in power, he was assassinated in a military coup led by a former president and military leader.
What followed were mass protests and resistance, to such an extent that Ndadaye’s death sparked a civil war in Burundi between the Hutus and Tutsis, which lasted until 2006. The military coup failed and the new president of Burundi was the one who instituted October 21 as a national holiday, in solemn remembrance of Ndadaye and all that he stood for. This day, therefore, serves as an inspiration to many to stand up for democracy and unity, and to resist tyranny.
President Ndadaye's Day timeline
Born to a Hutu family, Ndadaye begins his life facing discrimination in his own country.
Due to the genocide in Burundi, Ndadaye and his family flee to Rwanda.
In Burundi, Ndadaye forms the Front for Democracy Party, which gains in popularity.
Following a pivotal democratic election win in June, Ndadaye is assassinated during a failed military coup d’etat in October.
President Ndadaye's Day FAQs
Who was Burundi colonized by?
Burundi belonged to Germany before World War I and was colonized by them. After Germany lost the war, Burundi and its neighbor Rwanda, were given over to Belgium. It was only in 1959 that Burundi gained independence from Belgium and became a nation of its own.
How many died in the Burundi Civil War?
It is estimated that the death toll during the Burundi Civil War reached 300,000. Furthermore, around 1.2 million people were displaced as a result of the war.
Is Burundi Hutu or Tutsi?
In recent times, the Hutu people are now the largest ethnic group in Burundi, representing almost 85% of the country’s population.
How to Observe President Ndadaye's Day
Brush up on your history
This is the best opportunity to deep-dive into the history of this poor, war-torn nation in order to trace for yourself the trajectory of this country. Every nation has a rich history and deserves to be highlighted, especially ones which produce heroes of such mettle and conviction.
Find ways to show solidarity
Burundi remains one of the poorest countries in the world today, despite its motto being ‘Ubumwe, Ibikorwa, Iterambere’ (‘Unity, Work, Progress’). Find out if there are any initiatives being taken by international organizations to support this nation. Maybe even consider getting involved in some way.
Honor Ndadaye in your own way
Be it a gathering of some sort, or the creation of educational resources based on Ndadaye, there are numerous ways in which you can honor this day. Schools can expose children to the importance of this day, and social media can also be used as a vehicle to spread the word about this important figure.
5 Facts About Burundi Which You May Not Know
The third-most densely populated African nation
After Mauritius and Rwanda, Burundi is the third-most densely populated African country.
185/189 on the Human Development Index
This shocking ranking on the U.N. Human Developmen Index shows how poor and underdeveloped the country truly is, with 90% of the population being involved in agriculture.
Cattle means the world
In Burundi, cattle are symbols of health, wealth, and happiness.
Thermal water therapy
Burundi is home to over 10 thermal water sites which are considered great for rheumatism and tourism.
Home to the world’s largest crocodile
Lake Tanganyika is the home of Gustave, the man-eating crocodile known to be the biggest in the world, and infamous for killing over 300 people.
Why President Ndadaye's Day is Important
It stands for democratic ideals
Ndadaye is now a symbol to the people of Burundi of hope, unity, and reconciliation. He stood for the true spirit of democracy, which is equality and justice. This serves as an inspiration not just to the people of Burundi, but to nations struggling under tyranny everywhere.
It brings Burundi to the forefront
Days like this one are important because they bring to light larger issues as well. The plight of the nation of Burundi is brought to the forefront because of this national day, which can help galvanize movements to bring about change. Currently, Burundi’s extreme poverty has led to social evils like sex trafficking and child labor. Awareness can be spread about these issues.
It memorializes an unsung hero
We love it when heroes get the recognition they so rightly deserve. It makes the world a more hopeful place, despite the challenges that are all around. It serves to inspire and bring a sense of solidarity between people and nations, especially when the struggle is a shared one.
President Ndadaye's Day dates