The flag of Burundi has been changed eight times to the flag it is today. What did it look like before and what does it mean now? Stay tuned and you will find out..
History of the Burundi Flag
These changes reflected the historical times of the country with the first flag said to be launched in the 16th century when Burundi was referred to as the Kingdom of Burundi. The changes made to the flag were due to the colonial changes over the country’s history and presidential decrees for instance the 1983 presidential decree specified the dimension of the white boundaries, the center circle and placement of the stars on the flag.
Meaning Behind The Current Burundi Flag
The current flag of Burundi is made up of a white diagonal cross (saltire) that divides the flag into red upper and bottom areas and green left and right sections. The white saltire forms a medium-sized white disc (circle) at the center of the flag. Inside this circle there are three solid red six- pointed stars arranged in an imaginary equilateral triangle design where one star is at the top two stars and two stars form the base of this imaginary triangle. These stars are outlined with the color green.
Symbols Behind The Burundi Flag
The flag of Burundi like all other flags is an imagery full of symbolism from the color choice. The Burundi flag meaning is drawn from the colors and the stars at the center of the saltire. The color white represents peace and purity that the country strives to attain at all times.
The color green represents the hope and optimism that the Burundi people have for future development of their country. The color red represents the suffering or the blood shed by the people during the fight for independence which was attained on July 1st 1962 from Belgium.
The three red six- pointed stars with a green outline represent the three ethnic groups in Burundi: The Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa. The three stars also represent Burundi’s motto of Unity, Work and Progress or as it is written in the national language French “Unité, Travail, Progrès”. The Burundi flag is only flown by citizens during national holidays otherwise it is only used by the state and military applications.
The Beginnings of the Burundi Flag
The Burundi flag history is a rich one which started in the 16th century with the first flag being similar in design to the current flag. The only difference is the absence of the three stars in the white disc at the center of the flag and a traditional African drum Karyenda was used instead.
This flag was used from the 16th century until 1891 in the then Kingdom of Burundi. The symbolic Karyenda was believed to have divine powers and only the mwami (king) could interpret the message from the drum and translate them into rules to govern the country. The Burundi flag meaning was more than just symbols and it had was a much deeper spiritual and cultural connotations.
In 1891 the area that included Burundi, Rwanda and mainland Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) was made a German colony when the German military was called upon to quell a revolt against the German East African company. The flag that was flown across this extensive area (384,170 sq mi.) was the German East African Company flag. The flag was made up of a white field divided into four parts by a black cross and a red top left section which had five stars. The stars in this section were five- pointed and white in color.
This flag served as the Burundi flag until the defeat of imperial Germany at the end of World War 1 in 1916.
Burundi was placed under Belgium control in 1916 under the name Rwanda- Urundi. According to the Burundi history, the country was first under Belgium military control from 1916 to 1924. During this period, the Burundi flag was the vertical black- yellow- red stripes. The area was officially
mandated to Belgium by the League of Nations to control the area in 1924. The flag used remained the black-yellow-red tri-vertical stripped flag.
Burundi Post Colonization – The Start of Independance
The country gained independence from the Belgium colonizers in 1961. The Burundi flag adopted immediately after independence was a tri- stripped red- white- green flag with a golden Karyenda drum at the center of the white center strip. These three colors adopted immediately after independence formed part of the Burundi flag history from this point on with changes made to the flag design but the colors
remained these three. This particular flag was in use for only one year (1961-1962).
1962 saw a major milestone in the design history of the flag of Burundi with the introduction of the white saltire and the circular disc at the center of the flag. The white saltire divided the flag into red top and
bottom sections and green left and right sections. This design was maintained through Burundi history with changes made only to the flag dimensions and the contents of the white medium- sized circular disc at the center of the flag.
This particular 1962 design of the flag of Burundi had a golden Karyenda drum and a sorghum plant. The
Burundi flag meaning remained the same in terms of what the key colors represented. The major addition was the royal symbols: the sorghum plant and the Karyenda drum. Burundi was a monarch state at this point in history hence the symbolic representation of the monarchy in the flag. This flag remained in use until 19th November 1966.
The country experienced a delicate balance in the interests of its two main ethnic groups the Hutu and the Tutsi in late 1965 and early 1966 with the monarchy under king Mwambutsa strategically failing to handle the intricate balance in government posts and the military. This led to the fall of the monarchy with Captain Micombero, the appointed prime minister declaring Burundi a sovereign state. The flag of Burundi was then effectively re- designed by removal of the sorghum and the golden Karyenda drum, the symbols of the monarch. The white disc at the center remained blank (white) for the small period of time between 19th November and 28th November 1966.
The sorghum plant was re incorporated back into the flag on 29th November 1966. It was placed in the white circle at the center of the flag. This addition makes the year 1966 the most eventful year in the history of Burundi in terms of the flag of Burundi.
In the year 1967, the final change was made to the flag of Burundi where the sorghum plant was removed from its design and replaced with three stars colored red and with a green outline. The Burundi flag meaning was expanded to include the country’s motto “Unité,
Travail, Progrès” (unity, work and progress).