Unity Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Burundi and is celebrated every year on February 5. In recent years, the ethnic clashes between the Tutsis and the Hutus have brought no benefit to the country except destruction, death, and poverty. Burundi is majorly a rural country with only 13.4% of its population living in the urban areas. It is high time the people set aside their differences and work together to uplift the country and achieve socio-economic development.
History of Unity Day Burundi
Burundi, a landlocked Central-African nation, is influenced by three major ethnicities: the Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. People of these ethnicities have remained in conflict since the late 16th century. After they became a European colony – first by the Germans, and then by the British – the state became a League of Nations mandate territory of Belgium in 1924.
With this colonization and influence from Europe, it would’ve been expected that – as had been the case in many other countries – ethnic differences would become blurred and the nation would unite against the colonists. In Burundi, sadly, this wasn’t the case, as even in attempts to gain independence, the people did not unite. Instead, different ethnicities staged their own voices in favor of or against the colonists.
Normally, colonists would want to stay, while the locals insist that they leave. In Burundi, however, the reverse was the case: Belgium wanted to leave the territory, but some locals wanted them to stay. Anyway, independence movements from Hutu gained momentum in 1959, and in 1962, Burundi gained independence from Belgium, and with this began a period of instability in the nation.
In the next few years, the country shifted from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, with frequent outbreaks of civil wars and ethnic genocides. In 1987, Major Pierre Buyoya, in a military coup, ousted Col. Bagaza, who had assumed power through the same means. Before reverting to a democratically elected government, Buyoya tried to end the ethnic clashes by bringing in a Charter of National Unity that could end ethnic discrimination and allow the government to formulate a mandate to write a new constitution.
In 1991, a referendum on the charter was held and was approved by 89.77% of voters with a 96% turnout. This much turn-out was not at all expected in a country with such a huge ethnic collision, but it happened; soon, work began on the drafting of a new constitution, which would later be implemented in 1992. Following this, President Buyoya declared February 5 as the National Unity Day to end the at-war ethnic groups of the Tutsi and the Hutu. The dream and effort of President Buyoya were short-lived, as the newly elected Hutu President got assassinated in 1993, and thus began the widespread killing of Tutsis.
In 2015, after a failed coup attempt against him, Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term with 70% votes. He died in 2020 and was succeeded by Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is the current president.
Unity Day Burundi timeline
Burundi gains independence from Belgium.
Many Hutus are killed by the Tutsi-dominated army; in retaliation, several groups of Hutus lead an offensive against the Tutsis.
The first democratically elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, is murdered by Tutsi extremists.
All the attempts to bring peace and unity to the country are disregarded, as Hutus go on a revenge spree.
Unity Day Burundi FAQs
When is International Unity Day?
It is celebrated on the third or fourth Wednesday in October, which is October 19 this year.
Do they celebrate Christmas in Burundi?
Christianity is the major religion in Burundi, with at least 75% of the population identifying as Christians. So yes, Christmas is celebrated in Burundi.
What is the main religion in Burundi?
Burundi follows Christianity as its major religion, with Roman Catholicism as its prevalent denomination. A small percentage of Islam and other religions reside there too.
How to Observe Unity Day Burundi
Learn about the Tutsi and the Hutu ethnicities
No one knows the cause of the bad blood that exists between these ethnic groups. Is it some ethnic rivalry, or is it religion? If you really want to make a difference, trace their history, and see if you can do something to resolve the strife.
Stage a peaceful protest
While exercising your right to a peaceful protest, do not incite violence. This Unity Day, stage a peaceful demonstration of working together. Show the nation that Tutsis and Hutus can live together in harmony.
Make a friend from a different ethnicity
You would be surprised to know that your so-called rival breathes, bleeds, and cries the same way as you do. His heart beats the same way as yours, so what could you ever accomplish from your enmity toward each other? Extend your hand to your so-called rival and make him or her your friend.
5 Interesting Facts About Burundi
Gold in its very first try
Burundi participated for the first time in the 1996 Olympic Games and won a gold medal.
Burundi is the third most densely populated country in Africa.
Due to poverty, Burundi suffers from severe malnutrition.
Cattle are a symbol of health, happiness, and prosperity for the Burundians.
Biggest crocodile in the world
The man-eating crocodile, Gustave, was from Burundi and is considered to be the biggest crocodile in the world (over 18 feet long and weighing 2,000 pounds).
Why Unity Day Burundi is Important
It’s about reconciling differences
This day is all about uniting under one flag, one nationality, and one goal: to prosper, grow and develop. Around 85% of the population is living in rural areas, with severe issues of malnutrition, access to clean drinkable water, and education. By reconciling differences people can help each other, regardless of what their ethnicity is.
It’s about peaceful coexistence for development
There has been enough bloodshed in the past 50 years. For development to occur and for the economy to thrive, which would improve the lives of citizens, there must be peace.
It’s about recognizing Burundi
It is time to work together for Burundi. Understand that one's ethnicity is relevant only in the country in which one lives. Therefore every effort deployed to improve one’s country is an effort well utilized.
Unity Day Burundi dates