Unity Day in Burundi
In the Republic of Burundi, Unity Day is a holiday that’s observed annually on February 5th. It’s a day that attempts to reconcile the differences between different ethnic groups — primarily, the Tutsi and the Hutu. The conflict between these two groups had dominated the current history of Burundi and has resulted in nothing but death, widespread destruction, and severe poverty for the entire population.
This holiday was proposed after the adoption of a new referendum for the country that was approved by almost 90% of voters in the early 1990s. Although there is less ethnic hatred in Burundi than there previously was, there are still major steps forward that need to be made and this is why this holiday endures.
The History Of Unity Day In Burundi
The independence movement began at the end of the 1950s as Burundi sought independence from Belgium’s colonial rule. In 1962, independence was finally achieved, but this also resulted in a period of political instability in the country.
Hutus took control of the government and ended up denying Tusis the representation they desired. From the mid-1960s and late 1980s, the power dynamic between these two groups rocked back and forth. During this conflict, thousands of people were killed, and widespread destruction was spread all across Burundi.
This raged on until 1987 when a new government took control. In February 1991, a referendum was held and was approved by 89.7% of the voters. After this referendum was passed, several groups began working on a new constitution.
That was also approved in a referendum and went into effect on March 13th, 1992. President Buyoya then declared the 5th of February as National Unity Day as a way to soothe tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu.
Although this holiday made a valiant attempt to bring together warring ethnic groups, it didn’t stop the violence. In 1993, the newly-elected President of Burundi was assassinated and the following year, the systematic killing of Tutsis took place. Although the violence isn’t at the levels that it was once, this holiday serves as a reminder of the importance of peace to a modern Burundi.
Observing Unity Day In Burundi
On this day, people across Burundi observe Unity Day. This is done through peaceful protests, reconciliation groups, and other activities that attempt to sow unity between different ethnic groups. This is also a day for people to spend time with friends and family members and to ponder a more united future for Burundi.