Tribute to the Hero of Burundi independence

By Desire-Joseph Katihabwa

Prince Louis Rwagasore (10 January, 1932-13 October, 1961) was a Burundi nationalist and prime minister. He was the son of Mwami (King) Mwambutsa IV. He briefly attended university in Belgium, but left to spearhead his country's anti-colonial movement. He founded a series of African cooperatives to encourage economic independence, but these were quickly banned by Belgium in 1958.

That same year, Rwagasore established a nationalist political movement, UPRONA (Union for National Progress). Believing that the role of the royal family should transcend partisan politics, his father promoted him to Chief of Butanyerera, but Rwagasore turned down the appointment so that he could devote himself fully to the nationalist cause. At the first UPRONA Congress (March 1960), he demanded complete independence for Burundi and called on the local population to boycott Belgian stores and refuse to pay taxes. Because of his calls for civil disobedience, he was placed under house arrest.

Despite the setbacks, Rwagasore and UPRONA won a clear victory in elections for the colony's Legislative Assembly in 1961, winning 80 percent of the vote. The next day, he was declared prime minister, with a mandate to prepare the country for independence. Just two weeks later, he was assassinated by his political rivals, the pro-Belgian PDC. He died eight months before seeing Burundi gain its independence. Inter-ethnic rivalries between the Hutu and Tutsi factions of UPRONA flared shortly after. With Rwangasore's death came the end of his dream of a united, democratic Burundi.

Prince Louis Rwagasore (1932-1961), the eldest son of King Mwambutsa IV and leader of the Union of National Progress (UPRONA) political party, was a radical intellectual, educated in Belgium. He married a Hutu woman and became a symbol of national unity. When the UPRONA party won the election of 1961, before the country became independent, the prince was expected to lead the government. People hoped that he would return the country to stability. Unfortunately, he was assassinated shortly after the election. The victory of the UPRONA party in 1961 is also the occasion of a national holiday on September 18.




I was born in Bujumbura, the capital City of Burundi. I moved to Britain in 1999, and I have been working in customer service and IT, in Heathmill, CSC, Banctec, Kodak and for Planet Pro. in Cisco. My desire is to finish my studies in International Law, Psychology to be able to help children in armed conflicts.