Accepted paper:

1961, 1972, 1993 and 2015: Tracing Disruptive Events in Burundi's Contemporary History


Andrea Filipi (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows how Burundian politics has been shaped by a series of traumatic events, taking place in 1961, 1972, 1993 and 2015. It proposes that, though it would be misleading to think of them as coming out of nowhere, their sheer intensity proved a game-changer for the country's trajectory.

Paper long abstract:

Burundi, a tiny country in the very heart of Africa, has in its relatively short independent history experienced more than its share of traumatic political developments. Indeed, for a country that has at different periods been touted by the international community as a model for others to follow, Burundi was always in the end struck by a tragedy that literally changed the course of the country's history. This paper identifies four such climactic events: the assassination of Prince Louis Rwagasore, the country's pro-independence leader, in 1961 (13 October); the selective genocide, as it has come to be known, of the Hutu in 1972; the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the first Hutu president elected in multi-party elections in 1993; and the protests and attempted coup d'etat of 2015, which tried to prevent incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza from seeking re-election. Although these four dates in the modern Burundi history have been nothing short of watershed moments, the paper makes the following two arguments: one, that it would be incorrect to view these emergent events as unexpected, in other words as "coming out of nowhere"; rather, it locates them in the context of other socio-political issues that propelled the country along its path. And two, the paper argues that all these events ought to be viewed as linked on a historical continuum whereby the country's national identity—still a work in progress—is being negotiated, challenged, and renegotiated.

panel Pol23
Emergenc(i)es: Disruptive events and their consequences in African politics