Wars and Conflicts of Burundi
Burundi is a small African nation
with a high population density and a lot of poverty.
The population is divided between two main ethnic groups: the
Hutu and the Tutsi. The
Hutu form about 85% of the populace, while the Tutsi, with about 14%,
from a small but politically and economically powerful minority.
Burundi's military history is filled with ethnic conflict and a
genocide between the Burundian Tutsi and Hutu.
Below is the military history of
the wars and conflicts of Burundi after independence from Belgium in
Burundi Coup Attempt
(1965)--Burundi was ruled by a king after independence from
Belgium. On October 18, 1965, a coup
took place that attempted to overthrew the ethnic Tutsi king. The
Hutu rebels were defeated by Tutsi forces loyal to the king, and
began a massacre that lasted several weeks in which hundreds of Hutu
military, police, and political leaders were killed. Hutu militants
attacked Tutsi villages in the Muramvya
region, sparking military retaliation that resulted in at least 5,000
deaths. All this occurred in an
atmosphere of confusion, as rumors spread as to who had done what to
whom, with parts of both factions claiming loyalty to the king.
Burundi Ethnic Warfare
(1972)-In April of 1972, the exiled Burundian King Ntare V returned to Burundi, and was promptly
arrested and executed. This
sparked a confusing series of events that led to bloody upheaval and
genocide undertaken by forces loyal to President Michel
Micombero (a Tutsi). On
April 27, 1972, in towns of Rumonge and Nyanza-Lac
local Hutu police declared martial law, whereupon his forces
began massacring large numbers of Hutu. This sparked an invasion of
Burundi by Burundian Hutu rebels (based in eastern Zaire) and their
allies, the Zairan Mulilist rebel
militia. In part due to
the Mulilist participation in the fighting, the Zairan dictator, Mobutu Sese
Seko, sent several hundred troops to Bujumbura
to aid the Burundi government.
The Burundi army, in conjunction
with Tutsi militia forces, rounded up nearly every educated Hutu in
the country and murdered them. It is believed that nealry
200,000 died in this genocide.
Burundi Coup (1976)-- Deputy Chief of
Staff Jean-Baptiste Bagaza overthrew his distant cousin,
Burundi Coup (1987)--The
1987 Burundian coup d'état was a bloodless
military coup d'état that took place
in Burundi on September 3,1987. President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, a member of the Tutsi
minority, was deposed while overseas at a conference in Canada. The leader of the coup was a
fellow Tutsi, army Major Pierre Buyoya.
One result of this
change of administrations was further ethnic violence between Tutsi
Burundian Civil War
(1993-2005)-Sparked by the assassination of the elected Hutu
president, Melchior Ndadaye, by Tutsi
assassins, ethnic violence escalated, resulting in thousands of
deaths as Hutu peasants attacked the Tutsi, and the Tutsi-dominated .
His successor, fellow Hutu Cyprien Ntaryamira,
died when the plane he was flying in with the Hutu president of
Rwanda (a neighboring nation with similar ethnic divisions), was shot
down in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
This dual assasination sparked full-fledged civil war in
both nations and the twin Rwandan and Burundian genocides in which
hundreds of thousands died in each nation.
See also: Civil
Wars of Rwanda.
Second Congo War
(1998-2003)-Burundi joined with Rwanda and Uganda in supporting
eastern Congo rebels against the Congo government, which was
supported by Angola, Zimbabwe, Chad, Namibia, and several Burundian
rebel groups that operated in eastern Congo.
This conflict is also referred to as The Great Lakes War and
as Africa's Great War.
(2004-2009)-War in eastern Congo (Kivu region), involving many of the
same nations and groups involved in the Second Congo War. Burundi's involvement largely
due to the ongoing fight against Burundian (Hutu) rebels based in
(2009-Present)-Burundi joined the African Union Mission to Somalia
(AMISOM) military force that is actively fighting against the Somali
Islamic militant force known as al-Shabab. Al-Shabab
is now an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Burundi's participation in this war (as of 2015, over 5,000
Burundian troops are in Somalia), is part of the American-backed
assistance to the weak Somali government.
As of mid-2015, some 400 Burundian troops have died in combat
in Somalia. Participation in this war has helped Burundi in several
ways. Deployment to
Somalia provides work for Burundi's large number of veteran soldiers
in the aftermath of the civil wars and Congo expeditions, as well as
helping serve as a focus for the nation to look past the internal
Tutsi/Hutu split. Also,
the intervention in Somalia has a positive effect on Burundi's
economy, as earns a United Nations salary of $750 a month, which is
far and away an improvement over the $20 a month earned by a soldier
stationed at home. Veterans of the Somalia War are now becoming a
growing part of the Burundi middle class.
Burundi Coup Attempt
(2015)- An attempt to overthrow the incumbent president of Burundi,
Pierre Nkurunziza, ended in a failed coup and confusion
as to whether or not the military mutineers had foreign backing. While President Nkurunziza
was visiting neighboring Tanzania, military officers attempted to
seize power in Burundi.
Troops and police loyal to the
government resisted the mutineers, resulting in nearly two days of
fighting in the capital city of Bujumbura. Major General Godefroid
Niyombare was the leader of the coup.
While the president was out of the country, Niyombare's
forces launched the attempted takeover on May 13, and General Niyombare
declared on the radio that the president was overthrown. Recent political events led
to tension in Burundi. President
Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term,
despite a constitutional limit of two terms, caused significant
controversy in Burundi. Added
to that were accusations that the president's administration was
corrupt only heightened the ill feelings toward him in some parts of
Both President Nkurunziza
and General Niyombare are Hutu.