24 January 2018

Burundi: Louis Rwagasore, the Unifying Prince


Prince Louis Rwagasore was supposed to lead Burundi into independence. He was named prime minister but was killed shortly before independence.

"A peaceful, happy and prosperous Burundi." This was the dream of Prince Louis Rwagasore, who was passionate about economics and convinced that independence could be achieved peacefully.

Was Rwagasore popular because of his royal blood?

It is true that Louis Rwagasore grew up with the privileges of a prince. He was the eldest son of Mwami Mwambutsa Bangicirenge, King of the Barundi and he received a good education in one of the most prestigious high schools of Rwanda under Belgian trusteeship. After studies in administration and agronomy in Brussels, where he met students from all over the African continent, Rwagasore returned to his country in 1956 and became a political animal. He became popular through his charisma and his abilities as a strategist.

How did Rwagasore manage to unify Burundians?

Louis Rwagasore was a skilled diplomat and a great unifier. He impressed Burundians firstly by his spirit of initiative, with the creation of agricultural cooperatives that were supposed to give Burundians back the control over production and by putting an end to the monoculture of coffee. He also had strong relationships with great figures of African independence - Prince Louis Rwagasore met Congo's Patrice Lumumba several times, he exchanged letters with Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and he developed his political project thanks to his friend Julius Nyerere. The cooperatives project failed, but it made him famous and he created his party, the National Progress and Unity Party (UPRONA) in 1958 with a very diversified militant base.

What is his place in the pantheon of the African independence heroes?

In Burundi, he is a hero who is honored at each independence celebration. He remains the symbol of the transition towards a peaceful independence and a united Burundi. Stadiums, schools, libraries, avenues - tributes to the national hero are everywhere. After the civil war in Burundi, the signatories of the Arusha Peace Agreement in the year 2000 referred to his "charismatic leadership." His early death prevented him from "looking into the real problems of the nation, especially the economic problems, the problems of the land and of the social emancipation of the population, the problems of education and so many others, to which we will find our own solutions," as he promised during his speech when he became prime minister.

Tamara Wackernagel, Antediteste Niragira and Gwendolin Hilse contributed to this package. It is part of DW's special series "African Roots", dedicated to African history, a cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.


UN Envoy Urges Leaders to 'Seize Opportunities for National Unity and Peace'

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Burundi, Michel Kafando, has called on the country's leaders to "seize the… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2018 Deutsche Welle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.