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The Decolonization of Burundi

Henri Boyi, Professor, University of Western Ontario

And then, in 1960-61, there was a big movement of decolonization -- in the whole region, in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo and the whole region. This was part of what was called the Belgian Congo then. So when Burundi got independence in 1962, the Belgians had really managed to divide the Hutus and the Tutsis, in political terms and social terms, around ethnic lines.

In Rwanda they had succeeded in 1959, when they had what some called the Social Revolution, and then that was the first genocide of Tutsis in the region; that was in Rwanda, when the Belgians, especially the Belgian soldiers and the Belgian administration, helped the Hutus to kill Tutsis and sent a lot of Tutsis to exile, to Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. And actually, that's how we came to 1994 in Rwanda, when the Tutsis went back.

So in Burundi, they didn't succeed to do the same right at the dawn of decolonization, but they were there, they kept disturbing the institutions, and in 1965 we had the first, the very first, ethnic violence in Burundi, when again, Hutus in the center of the country started to kill Tutsis, almost following the model that was in Rwanda in 1959. So that was really the beginning of the ethnic conflicts in Burundi.