Flag Of Burundi: History And Meaning

The Burundi flag is the national flag and most important symbol of this small African nation. The banner is composed of four parts divided by a white Cross of Saint Andrew, in which the colors green and red face each other. In the central part there is a white circle with three red six-pointed stars.

Burundi is a historical African town. In addition, it is one of the few states whose borders were not created from the Partition of Africa at the end of the 19th century. However, it was occupied by Germany and later by Belgium, which left it its greatest inheritance.

Current flag of Burundi. (By SKopp (assumed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)
The Burundi flag was established after independence, in 1962. In that year the Kingdom of Burundi was established, with a flag similar to the current one. The meanings of the flag colors have been preserved over time.

White is the representative of peace in the country. On the other hand, red has the meaning of love for the country, while green represents hope. To the three stars that stand out in the central part, a meaning is attributed to each one: unity, work and progress.

Article index

  • one

    History of the flag

    • 1.1

      German colonial period

    • 1.2

      Belgian colonial period

    • 1.3

      Kingdom of Burundi

    • 1.4

      Republic of Burundi

  • two

    Meaning of the flag

    • 2.1

      Red color

    • 2.2

      Green color

    • 23

      White color

    • 2.4

      The stars

  • 3

    References

History of the flag

The history of the Burundi flag dates back to the Kingdom of Burundi, which was established in the late 18th century, approximately 1680. The symbol of this Tutsi-dominated kingdom was at that time an ancestral drum with semi-divine status. This musical instrument and object of worship is called karyenda.

Karyenda, ceremonial instrument from Burundi. (By Tequendamia (assumed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)
The divinity of this mythical instrument was that, according to the belief, it emitted messages that established rules for the society. Only the king, known by the name of mwami, was the one who could interpret the rules emanating from the karyenda and make them laws.

German colonial period

Burundi’s own symbols were relegated when the country began to be colonized. In 1899, Burundi became part of German East Africa. Despite his first opposition, the king eventually submitted to German tutelage, although he maintained his identity.

This colony did not have a specific flag, but the war flag of the German Empire was used. The East African colony was the only one that did not take up the colonial flag of the empire.

War flag of the German Empire. (By R41 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Before Germany lost all of its colonies in World War I, the monarchy planned the creation of specific symbols for each of the colonies. The one from German East Africa proposed a shield with a lion.

Flag proposed by the German Empire for East Africa. (By Fornax [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Later, another flag was also raised, in which the colony’s coat of arms was relegated to the upper left corner. In the central part, the royal symbols were highlighted. Neither of the colonial symbols was adopted because, shortly after, Germany lost its entire empire.

Second flag proposed by the German Empire for East Africa. (By Fornax [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Belgian colonial period

At the end of the First World War, Belgian troops entered Burundi and neighboring countries. Since then, a colony was established that became official in 1923 with the mandate of the League of Nations for Ruanda-Urundi, formed by current Rwanda and Burundi. Tanganyika, which was part of German East Africa, became a British colony.

The Belgians to identify the Ruanda-Urundi mandate only imposed a shield. This consisted of four spears, a tiger and a blue bird. However, as far as the flag is concerned, the national flag of Belgium was used.
Belgium flag. (By Dbenbenn and others. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Kingdom of Burundi

After many conflicts, Burundi became independent on July 1, 1962 under the figure of the Kingdom. The monarch, who became head of state, was Mwambutsa IV. A constitutional monarchy was established that was flimsy because of the differences between Hutus and Tutsis.

Burundi’s first national flag chose the traditional symbol of the kingdom, the Karyenda. This was accompanied by a sorghum plant, representative of the national agriculture.

These symbols were located in the central circle of the flag. This banner already included the Cross of San Andrés with the colors green and red.

Flag of the Kingdom of Burundi between 1962-1966. (Par Orange Tuesday (self-made, based on en: Image: Flag of Burundi.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Republic of Burundi

The monarchy was abolished after a military movement in which the prince deposed the king, and subsequently the prime minister overthrew the prince. This led to the declaration of a republic with a military regime. Immediately and for a couple of days, between November 28 and 29, 1966, the monarchical symbols were removed from the flag.

Flag of the Republic of Burundi between November 28 and 29, 1966. (Par Orange Tuesday (self-made, based on en: Image: Flag of Burundi.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
The nascent Republic of Burundi decided to leave the sorghum plantation as the central symbol, but eliminating the Karyenda. This flag was kept from November 29, 1966 to March 28, 1967.

Flag of the Republic of Burundi between 1966 and 1967. (Par Orange Tuesday (self-made, based on en: Image: Flag of Burundi.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
The sorghum symbol only remained a few months in the national flag. On March 28, 1967, it was replaced by the current three red six-pointed stars with a green border.

This design is currently maintained and only underwent a modification in the proportions, in 1982. At that time, they went from 2: 3 to 3: 5.

Flag of the Republic of Burundi between 1967 and 1982: proportions 2: 3. (Par Orange Tuesday (self-made, based on en: Image: Flag of Burundi.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Meaning of the flag

Burundi’s national flag is a varied and diverse symbol, compared to its African environment. The incorporation of white and six-pointed stars stands out from it. However, its significance is important to the understanding of the flag.

Red color

As is traditional in many flags, red is identified with the struggle for independence and the suffering of the nation. However, this color also identifies a more enduring meaning, which is love of the country. Red is found in the upper and lower trapezoids, in addition to the interior of the stars.

Green color

The green on the Burundi flag honors the traditional identification of this hue in the world: hope. More specifically, the hope that the color green represents on the flag is for the future.

White color

This color, rare in African flags, also corresponds to one of its traditional meanings: peace. There are no more interpretations of this color, since from the beginning it was proposed as the peace that Burundi should reflect between its internal groups and abroad.

The stars

Located one at the top and two at the bottom, the three six-pointed stars have a clear symbolism: unity, work and progress. These are the three values ​​that make up Burundi’s national motto.

However, this trinity also has other explanations. For many it represents the three ethnic groups of Burundi: the Twa, Tutsis and Hutus. It can also be associated with the monarchical past, when loyalty was sworn to God, the king and the country.

References

  1. Arias, E. (2006). Flags of the world . Editorial Gente Nueva: Havana, Cuba.
  2. Entralgo, A. (1979). Africa: Society . Editorial of Social Sciences: La Habana, Cuba.
  3. Morris, L. (1975). The Constitution of Burundi. African Issues , 5 (2), 24-28.
  4. Présidence de la République du Burundi. (sf). Symboles nationaux. Présidence de la République du Burundi . Recovered from presidence.gov.bi.
  5. Smith, W. (2011). Flag of Burundi. Encyclopædia Britannica . Recovered from britannica.com.

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