Lifestyle

Celebrating Burundi’s independence

by
June 27, 2017

Members of Shepparton's Burundi community are preparing for the country's Independence Day celebrations.

For many Burundians, Independence Day is feeling free all over again, even if it has been more than half a century since the country was released from the German reign.

From the late 19th century, Germany established armed forces in Rwanda and Burundi, colonising the area and establishing East Africa.

During that time, many Burundians were forced to abandon their traditional way of life, beaten into slavery and submission.

Australian Burundi Community Victoria chairman Fablice Manirakiza said Independence Day on July 11 was a reminder to all Burundians of their history and the strength it took to overcome the difficult times.

‘‘For us it has been an iconic day because during the colonial time we did suffer a lot, and this is in general with all African nations,’’ Mr Manirakiza said.

‘‘When we gained our independence, it was a new era for the nation, and we were able to act based on our culture, our tradition, and extend into a new world.’’

Burundi gained independence in 1962 and initially had a monarchy, but a series of assassinations, coups and a general climate of regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and one-party state in 1966.

Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and, again in the 1990s, left the country underdeveloped and its population became one of the world’s poorest.

Many Burundians call Shepparton home and Mr Manirakiza said the day connected many to their motherland and their roots.

‘‘It allows us to keep our culture, because in our new systems we are having more of a culture shock,’’ he said.

‘‘So having those celebrations really keeps the people on track to remembering where they came from and why that’s important to them.’’

A support to all Africans within Shepparton and host of Shepparton’s Independence Day event is St Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Reverend Matt Anker said the event aimed to raise awareness of Burundian culture and current political situations, as well as showcase a drumming project through the community.

The day will host a range of performances and celebrations, including a number of Burundian choirs locally and from Melbourne, as well as a question and answer session which will allow members of the public to ask questions about Burundi.

‘‘They are a strong country with a distinct history, but I think sometimes the Shepparton people arent aware that there’s Burundians here, so they’re trying to raise their profile in town, hold their heads high and be proud to be Burundian,’’ Rev Anker said.

The celebration will be at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Shepparton, on Saturday, July 11 from 2pm. Entry is free.

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