Kingdom of Burundi

The Kingdom of Burundi (French: Royaume du Burundi) or Kingdom of Urundi (Royaume d'Urundi) was a polity ruled by a traditional monarch in modern-day Republic of Burundi in the Great Lakes region of East Africa. The kingdom, majority ethnic Hutu, was ruled by a monarch from the Tutsi ethnic group with the title of mwami. Created in the 17th century, the kingdom was preserved under European colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th century and was an independent state between 1962 and 1966.

Kingdom of Burundi

Royaume du Burundi (French)
Motto: Imana, Umwan, Uburundi
Dieu, le Roi et le Burundi
"God, the King and Burundi"
Anthem: Burundi bwacu (Our Burundi)
Territory of the Kingdom of Burundi in 1966.
StatusIndependent state (17th century–1890)
Part of German East Africa (1890–1916)
Part of Ruanda-Urundi (1916–1962)
Independent state (1962–1966)
Common languagesKirundi, French
Ntare I (first)
Ntare V (last)
Prime Minister 
Joseph Cimpaye (first)
Michel Micombero (last)
Historical eraCold War
17th century
July 1, 1890
July 20, 1922
December 21, 1961
July 1, 1962
November 28 1966
196627,834 km2 (10,747 sq mi)
ISO 3166 codeBI
Succeeded by
Republic of Burundi
Today part of Burundi


The date of the foundation of the Kingdom of Burundi is unknown but probably dates back to the 17th century when the Tutsi ethnic group gained dominance over the larger ethnic Hutu population of the region. Under mwami Ntare I (r. 1675–1705), the kingdom expanded and annexed a number of surrounding polities.[1] Although ruled by the mwami, the kingdom was extensively decentralised and local sub-rulers had wide independence. Before the arrival of European colonists, succession struggles were also common.[1]

In 1890, Burundi became part of the German colonial empire as part of German East Africa but was not effectively occupied or controlled by the colonial power. During World War I, Belgian troops from the neighbouring Belgian Congo invaded the region and occupied it. The Belgians were awarded Burundi, together with the neighbouring Kingdom of Rwanda, as an international mandate by the League of Nations. The Belgians, however, preserved many of the kingdom's institutions intact.[1]

Whereas the similar Rwandan monarchy was abolished in a revolution between 1959 and 1961, the Burundian monarchy succeeded in surviving into the post-colonial period. In 1962, the Kingdom of Burundi regained its independence as a constitutional monarchy in which the mwami held executive power and legislative power was given to the parliament.[2] By late 1963, the Burundian government allowed Congolese revolutionary Gaston Soumialot to recruit thousands of fighters along the Burundian-Congolese border. Soumialot and his troops consequently participated in the Simba rebellion.[3]

Ethnic violence between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority rose between 1963 and 1965 and culminated with a failed coup d'état against the monarchy of Mwambutsa IV in 1965. Mwambutsa's son, Ntare V, deposed his father in a July 1966 coup d'état, but was himself ousted from power in a November 1966 coup d'état by his Prime Minister, Michel Micombero, who abolished the monarchy.[2]



Most members of the royal house live in exile in France today. In the 2005 elections, Princess Esther Kamatari ran for president for the Party for the Restoration of Monarchy and Dialogue in Burundi (Abahuza). Supporters believe that a restoration of a constitutional monarchy could help to ease the country's ethnic tensions.[4]

The flag of the kingdom contained a karyenda in the center as a symbol of royal authority.[5]

See also


  1. "Kingdom of Burundi". Encyclopædia Britannica (Online ed.). Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  2. "Burundi: Fall of the Monarchy (1962 - 1966)". African Democracy Encyclopaedia Project. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  3. Villafana (2017), p. 71.
  4. "Pro-monarchy party gets green light in Burundi". Panapress. 21 September 2004. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. Guide to the Flags of the World by Mauro Talocci, revised and updated by Whitney Smith (ISBN 0-688-01141-1), p. 153.

Works cited

Further reading

  • Gahama, Joseph (1983). Le Burundi sous administration belge: La periode du mandat, 1919-1939. Paris: Karthala. ISBN 9782865370894.
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