December 15th, 2010
On this date in 1965, 24 Burundians were shot following mass trials in the stormy aftermath of an attempted coup.
Burundi met post-colonial independence deprived by an assassin’s bullet of the popular, unifying figure who might have kept ethnic conflict under control, and many years of living dangerously ensued as Hutu and Tutsi grappled for power.
On October 18, 1965, a group of Hutu officers attempted a coup d’etat against Burundi’s monarchy — and failed.
the events of October 1965 carried momentous consequences. The mutineers took a huge gamble and lost … power became the exclusive monopoly of Tutsi elements.
… In the capital, virtually every Hutu leader was apprehended.
-Rene Lamarchand, Burundi: Ethnic Conflict and Genocide
While the putschists were unsurprisingly executed, the Tutsi-authored backlash cast a much wider net, ultimately claiming up to 5,000 lives. (It was only a dress rehearsal for a similar scenario — Hutu rebellion triggering massive Tutsi crackdown — that resulted in a full-on genocide in 1972.)
Various executions peppered the weeks after the intended coup; this date’s was one of the last of the particularly noteworthy. The New York Times (Dec. 21, 1965) described those “executed in the Central African kingdom Wednesday after mass trials” as “Joseph Bamina,* a former Burundi Premier … [and] 23 others included two prominent political leaders.”
Burundi did not live happily ever after.
* Lamarchand calls Bamina one of the “hard-core Hutu opposition.”
Also on this date
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Burundi,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Heads of State,History,Mass Executions,Politicians,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Shot
Tags: 1960s, 1965, december 15, joseph bamina
June 30th, 2009
On this date in 1962, Georges Kageorgis* was shot at Usumbura (now Bujumbura) for assassinating the charismatic national figure seemingly destined to lead the country into its postcolonial age.
“It was a bit like what could have happened in South Africa if Nelson Mandela was murdered before assuming the presidency in 1994,” said one pol later.
A prince, a pro-independence nationalist, a Tutsi who had married a Hutu and spurned a tribal leadership position lest he cast too sectarian a profile, Louis Rwagasore became prime minister in the fall of 1961 on the strength of his party‘s comprehensive electoral victory.
Rwagasore admired Patrice Lumumba. He was destined to share Lumumba’s fate.
Two weeks after his election, “the one truly popular national figure” was gunned down by Kageorgis, a Greek mercenary drawing pay from Belgian settlers who reckoned a better situation (French link) for themselves with Hutu governance. A revolution of (Belgian- and Catholic-backed) Hutu in Rwanda had had a “neo-colonial” character, according to Rene Lemarchand … and it had heightened ethnic tensions in Burundi.
With the murdered prince went ethnic cohesion; the bloody Kamenge riots of January 1962 presaged worse to come as leadership in the Rwagasore-less party collapsed. Ethnic conflict sharpened through the 1960′s, with a Tutsi-dominated dictatorship ultimately gaining control of the country and setting the stage for intermittent massacres (two classed as genocides) that haunt Burundi to this day and form part of the context for the Rwandan genocide.
Rwagasore Day — October 13, the anniversary of the prince’s assassination — is still observed in Burundi. Kageorgis’s execution date is notable for other reasons: it was the last day before Belgian authority in Ruanda-Urundi officially ended.
* This Greek newspaper gives the killer’s name as Ioannis Karagiorgis.
Also on this date
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Belgium,Burundi,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Milestones,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot
Tags: 1960s, 1962, bujumbura, decolonization, georges kageorgis, june 30, louis rwagasore, usumbura