General issues: Kingdom 1962-1966, Republic 1966-Present
Country name on general issues: Burundi
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1962-Present
Population: 2 996 000 in 1962, 10 160 000 in 2013
Political history Burundi
Burundi is located in eastern Africa. The majority of the population is of the Hutu people – a Bantu people. The minority is of the Tutsi people – a people with a disputed origin: the Tutsi have long been considered to be of mixed Bantu and Nilo-Saharan origin, more recent insights suggest the Tutsi to be a Bantu people akin to the Hutu, differences being socially determined rather than ethnically. Although the minority, the Tutsi have attained the leading position as the royal family of the kingdom of Burundi – a kingdom founded in the 15th century, the last dynasty ruling since the 17th century. A small part – 1% – of the population is of the Twa people – a people of Pygmy origin, the Pygmy being the original inhabitants of the country, Bantu peoples having moved in at later dates.
Part of German East Africa
At the 1885 Berlin conference where the colonial powers divide their respective spheres of interest in Africa, Burundi – Burundi is then called Urundi which is the Swahili version of Burundi, Swahili being the lingua franca in large parts of East Africa – is awarded to Germany. Urundi is brought under effective German colonial administration by 1903 as part of German East Africa. The borders with the neighboring countries – although subject of treaties from 1885 – are finally determined in 1910. The Germans have a limited presence in Urundi and establish indirect rule of the district through the king of Urundi. Coffee is introduced as a cash crop.
Belgian occupation and mandated territory
During WWI, German East Africa is, from 1916, occupied by mainly British and Belgian forces. Urundi is occupied by the Belgians and, in 1919, becomes a Belgian mandated territory, part of what is then called Ruanda-Urundi. The extent of the mandate of Belgium is defined in 1922 by the League of Nations. The borders were defined as we know them until today in 1919. These borders differ somewhat from the borders of the former district of Urundi in German East Africa. The so called Western Kingdoms – not part of the kingdom of Urundi – became part of the British mandated territory of Tanganyika, the current Tanzania.
The Belgians administer the territory of Ruanda-Urundi from 1925 as part of Belgian Congo. The Belgians enforce the position of the Tutsi upper class thus deepening the rift between the Tutsi and the Hutu. In 1946, the mandate of Belgium is extended – Ruanda-Urundi becoming a United Nations trust territory. In the late 1950’s Urundi moves towards independence. Elections in 1959 trigger ethnic violence that that is suppressed by the Belgians. Urundi gains a limited form of self government in 1961 and full independence as the kingdom of Burundi in 1962.
After independence, tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi translate into political instability that, by 1966, leads to a coup d’etat in which the king is deposed and Burundi is proclaimed a republic. The new Tutsi president establishes a one party state. In 1972, the Hutu rebel, proclaiming independence as the short lived Martyazo republic. The rebellion is put down – a process, called the First Burundi Genocide, in which many Hutu are killed. The one party state is continued and in 1983 the country reverts to military rule. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, attempts are made to move towards a more equal balance of power between the Hutu and the Tutsi. A process that fails. In 1993, large scale violence erupts. Now many Tutsi are killed by the Hutu, a process called the Second Burundi Genocide. The civil war that ensues will last until 2005, with intermediate periods of peace talks. In 2004, the United Nations launch a peace keeping mission that results in ending the fight and general elections are held in 2005. A Hutu is elected president. Although the civil war has been formally ended to this day political stability has not been established in Burundi.
The Burundi economy has greatly suffered from the years of civil war. The largest part of the population – 90% – is employed in subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the main export products. Burundi ranks among the poorest countries in the world – ranking 226 out of 230 countries in terms of per capita GDP and 180 out of 187 countries on the Human Development index.
Postal history Burundi
The first stamps used in Burundi are those of German East Africa. During the Belgian occupation, stamps are issued for the occupied territories in German East Africa from 1916. Also, in 1916, a local issue appears for use specifically in Urundi. All occupation issues are overprints on stamps of Belgian Congo. The occupation issues will be used until 1924 when the first stamps are issued for the Belgian mandated territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Independent Burundi has issued stamps from 1962. The first set is a set of provisionals – an overprint on stamps of Ruanda-Urundi reading ‘Royaume du Burundi'‘Kingdom of Burundi’. The second set is a set of definitives commemorating independence. From 1964, on Burundi has issued stamps almost exclusively for the thematic collector market.