Unity Day in Burundi is an annual holiday observed every 5 February to commemorate the new “national unity” constitution that was enacted on this day in 1992.
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Burundi is a land long plagued with ethnic violence, the most recent bout of which surfaced during the independence movement of 1959 and lasted up until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
In 1959, Burundi sought independence from its colonial overlords in Belgium, but very soon, ethnic fighting erupted between Hutu and Tutsi groups in both Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda. When independence was achieved in 1962, Hutus soon took control of Burundi’s government and denied Tutsis representation.
Between 1965 and 1987, power shifted back and forth between the Hutus and the Tutsis, and literally tens of thousands of people were killed in this prolonged conflict. It seemed like the bloodshed would never end, but finally, in 1987 a new government took over that was dedicated to striving after national unity.
In 1992, a new “national unity” constitution was enacted, and on 5 February, 1992, a referendum passed with 88 percent of the vote that declared a desire to end ethnic hatred.
Unfortunately, the president of Burundi was assassinated in 1993, and this led to a civil war that lasted until 2005. The Tutsi-on-Hutu genocide of 1972, the Hutu-on-Tutsi genocide of 1994, and the 12-year civil war tore the country apart. But today, there is less ethnic hatred and greater national unity than ever before in Burundi’s history. Unity Day every 5 February is symbolic of that achievement.