The Kingdoms of Rwanda and Burundi have existed for centuries. This month they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their renewed independence, after subjugation after the First World War.
The two kingdoms’ fate became intertwined when Belgium won them from Germany in 1916. Then called Ruanda-Urundi, the single state was run as a plunder economy with Belgian-selected indigenous rule. These rulers were selected based on their position on either side of a racial divide, a decision that has had reverberating impacts all the way in to the present.
In 1962, after decades that the League of Nations and United Nations had hoped would be spent investing in the area, Rwanda and Burundi were granted independence. Belgium was pressured to leave not just politically, but by conflict in the Belgian Congo.
Times remained turbulent in Rwanda and Burundi, and both countries have been marked by tragedy even recently.
While the lives they knew are gone, some survivors have finally been able to go home.
Fortunately, from tragedy comes adversity. There has been progress over time, and even a few smiles.
The 50th anniversary of the two countries independence allows an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of these young nations. Rwanda and Burundi have been tempered by their own trials, but that only illustrates their tenacity. This is not merely a century of renewed independence now half full, it is a time of optimism and a celebration of what is to come.