The Republic of Burundi is a small landlocked country below Rwanda with a brutal history. It has a large population considering its size of only 27,834 square km. Because of its small size and pollution as well as many other contributors, it lacks fresh drinking water and often has severe food shortages. Only 10% of the entire area is water and much of that is very polluted still water. As well as the water shortage it us a very rural country with only 13% of the population loving in urban areas.
Due to the effort of the Burundians they are part of a presidential republic. This means that it has a democratic system of government where a head of government leads the country. That head of government is called a president. The president must be elected.
Rwanda and Burundi are now neighbours, but once they were one country called Rwanda-Urundi. Before World War I Rwanda was under the power of Germany and Germans had established crops of coffee for their own benefits in this new country. In 1910 northern and western borders were established between Tanzania and Burundi. After World War I Rwanda fell under the control of Belgium and the Belgians removed the king and put a new one in the place who would do what they wanted. The Belgium government said, “The government should endeavour to maintain and consolidate traditional cadres composed of the Tutsi ruling class, because of its important qualities, its undeniable intellectual superiority and its ruling potential.” One of the things about this that wasn’t fair is that Belgium only educated the Tutsis. In 1930 it became impossible to rise from being a Hutu to a Tutsi because the government issued ID cards stamped with your label. The difference between these people was only skin shade, size of noses and head.
Belgium transported many goods out of Rwanda after the Second World War. They never planned to try to make Rwanda better by developing the small country. Hutus were very oppressed by the Tutsis. If they acted out they would be tortured or dismembered by the Tutsis under command of the Belgians.
The rebellion of Hutu farmworkers broke out in 1950 and Belgium allowed Rwanda to hold free elections in 1961. The elections were won by the Hutu Party or PARMEHUTU. They began to persecute the Tutsis immediately. The country of Burundi separated from Rwanda in 1962 and remained under Tutsi control. The year after the Tutsi refugees in Burundi invaded Rwanda and tried to take the capital, Kigali. They were defeated.
The massacre as described by Bertrand Russell as “the most horrible and systematic massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.”
After the genocide, both countries, Rwanda and Burundi have had issues with interethnic conflict and violence. Burundi eventually became an independent monarch in 1962 and as did Rwanda in that same year. In 1966 Burundi was labelled a Republic. In Rwanda, the Hutus stayed in power after the colonial era and in Burundi the Tutsis had power.
In October of 1965, a group of Hutu officers attempted to overthrow the government because of the Tutsi favoured government. This conflict in Burundi is what eventually lead to the end of the monarch and in November 1966 and the rise of Michel Micombero as a dictator. After that was the worst in Burundi’s record is the ethnic slaughter of a Hutu community in April and May 1972. It was the Tutsi’s response to an attempted Hutu uprising. More than 100,000 people were killed, among them nearly all Hutus who were part of the professional or educated class.
With each new president comes a new effort to deal with the ethnic issues in Burundi.
The ongoing conflict is hard to truly understand because the Tutsis and Hutus belong to the same Banyarwanda nationality. They speak the same language, have the religions, and family workings as well as clan systems. Despite this, in the many years leading up to the beginning of the 2000s, there are multiple uprisings and slaughters of hundreds of thousands of people.
Present day Burundi still has conflict. In 2015 violence was started up again because of the presidents announcement that he plans to run for his third term. This resulted in 600+ protesters being arrested and 200,000 fled the country as well as a few thousand casualties.
Burundi also has issues with government censorship and during the protests, the government shut down internet and phones. As a result of the uprising, more than 325,000 Burundians have left the country since 2015. Most refugees went to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Still, much of the country is in need of food, financial aid and medical aid (1 in 15 adults in Burundi has HIV/AIDS). Throughout the country, there is a high poverty rate, poor education rates, a weak legal system as well as poor transportation. Burundi is “considered one of the poorest and hungriest countries in the world.” This has a lot to do with the fact that it is a severally overpopulated country and has the third highest fertility rate in the world.
So what is being done? “As of 2018, Burundi was under critical review by the United Nations.”This means many sponsors and other countries providing aid will or have already dropped out until things begin to change. Generally, countries won’t support other countries who are violating human rights. Despite these violations, the European Union is providing aid to local populations and small societies. They have also distributed $500 million in aid that will be used to support rural development, nutrition, health and renewable energy as well as helping Burundians make a living. The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also partnered with Beyoncé to help create more access to clean drinking water and build schools.
The UN had peacekeepers in Burundi and UN workers also tried to help support elections, economy and industry. One UN report said the investigators had proved 564 executions in Burundi since April of 2015. Could the UN be doing more? Well yes and no. The Burundi government felt that the UN was no longer necessary as they had already made “enough progress”. The UN’s mission was only promoting dialogue, to discourage fighting, protecting human rights, guiding economic policies and supporting regional integration. Unfortunately, the UN was asked to leave before the most recent large conflict began.
To what extent was the UN successful? Well the UN succeeded in keeping the country more peaceful than it had been for years. The made “immense progress” according to one article. Another
says “UN says Burundi mission was a success.” The UN has made huge changes in Burundi and still has many more challenges to face and hopefully overcome.