The Ugandan Coat of Arms features prominently on the front of our 5 shilling banknote.
The shield and two spears are said to represent the defense of the nation. The three images on the shield, from top to bottom represent the waves of the Lakes of Vitoria and Albert, the endless sunshine of the land and the historic drum calling to meetings of ceremony and significance. The shield is above a green mound representing the fertility of the land, intersected by an image of the ever flowing Nile river. The shield is flanked by two birds. On the left is the crested crane, also the national bird of Uganda. On the right is the Ugandan kob, emblematic of the abundant wildlife of the land of Uganda. The banner reads “For God and for my Country”, the national motto.
The reverse of our 5 shillings banknote features a woman harvesting a rich crop of coffee beans,
The Intore Warrior Dancer is presented on the front of our banknote. The warriors defended the King and paraded in dance before the delighted people when returning from victory. The dancer wears the skin of a leopard and an elaborate headdress, bells on their ankles and necklace of ivory. In his right hand is a spear and in his left a representation of a shield. For a photograph and link to a fuller article, see below.
The Burundi Coat of Arms adorns the back of our banknote.. The face of a lion is on the shield backed by three spears. The National Motto is presented in French on the banner and encircling Kirundi, two of the three national languages of Burundi, the other being English.
This photo is taken from the fuller article on Intore dancers here.
The light background surrounding the shield is the map of Burundi. Its shape itself is shield-like. Burundi lies immediately south of, and borders, Rwanda. Within the map is the emblem, the Coat of Arms, of Burundi. The Coat of Arms was adopted in 1966, shortly following independence. It is a shield and banner, backed by three traditional African spears. The shield presents the face of the lion. The banner presents the Motto of the Nation.
From the Constitution of Burundi:
Article 9. Motto of Burundi is: Unity, Work, Progress. The emblem of the Republic is a shield charged with the lion head and three spears, the whole being surrounded by the national motto.
The three word motto is presented in French and Kirundi; the French words readily discernible to English speaking peoples, but, perhaps, with unanticipated irony. The middle word of the motto, travail, in the French, is the word common for work in English; that is “labor” in the unadorned common sense. Whereas, travail to English speaking minds is freighted with tones of suffering and even sorrow, and is sometimes used in to describe the work of a woman bringing a child to birth. I am shaking my head slowly with sadness and care as I write this, it feeling so apropos to poor Burundi.
It was October 21, 1993 when President Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated. That morning the sun arose on the first democratically elected president of Burundi. That evening the darkness arose for another year of genocide. In the words of the American ambassador to Burundi:
“The bayonets thrust into President Melchior Ndadaye’s thorax, and the bullets that felled his vice president and cabinet members, critically injured the world’s newest democracy, born only 102 days before. Six million people, more than the population of Denmark mark or Ireland, and equal to the population of Israel, were suddenly thrust back into a miasma of misrule and uncertainty after a brief season of hope while the outside world took only temporary measures to stanch the bleeding.”
Ambassador Robert Krueger. From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide (Focus on American History Series) (Kindle Locations 489-491). Kindle Edition.”
Reverse side features Banque de la République du Burundi (Ibanki ya Republika y’Uburundi; Bank of the Republic of
Imagine, if, before South Africa was changed, Mandella had been assassinated. Imagine if Kennedy had not been assassinated, and America had been changed. Imagine if Burundi and Rwanda had changed in the 1960s, and the genocide of the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s did not happen. Imagine Prince Rwagasore not assassinated at the moment of Burundi’s independence …
But, they killed Rwagasore; and millions perished with him.
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
He was the oldest son of the King, heir-apparent to the kingdom stretching back 4 centuries. Briefly under colonial Germany and then for the latest 2 generations under colonial Belgium, Louis Rwagasore saw independence in his beloved country’s future. For that future, he prepared, both himself, and his nation.
He’d been educated in elite secondary schools of Rwanda by the Brothers of Charity, and in European Universities in Antwerp and Louvain. He’d prepared to forsake the throne of his fathers, and to advocate for a constitutional monarchy instead. He, an ethnic Tutsi, married an ethnic Hutu woman, to promote the cessation of ethnic rivalries.
In the 1950s he urged the Belgian vice-governor to institute a new constitution in preparation for Burundi independence. He founded a series of economic cooperatives to foster independence, but these were banned by Belgium in 1958 when they realized they threatened their colonial power. He then founded UPRONA, the Union for National Progress, Burundi’s first indigenous political party. In 1960, as head of UPRONA, he advocated for full independence from Belgium and called for civil disobedience through the boycott of Belgian stores and government taxes, for which he was placed under house arrest. But his ideas were wildly popular with the people, and, when independence came in 1962, Rwagasore was elected by a huge majority to lead his people into the future.
Rwagasroe had become the change he foresaw for his people. He became educated. He abandoned the royal life for life as the citizen of a republic. He, a tutsi, married a hutu women, to bring forth children of Burundi.
Shortly before he would enter into office, he was killed. It is thought that the murder was a conspiracy between the Belgians and the opposition party.
Although he never said it in such words that we know of, Rwagasore, we are confident to say, had been to the mountain top. There he looked out, over the Jordan, into the land of promise, the land of the future, the good land, the right land. And what did he see? We know what he saw by the man he became. He let what he saw transform him into the same image. He became husband of a Burundi woman; he became father of Burundian children, he became a citizen of the Republic of Burundi, he became a leader in Burundi, and, indeed, a leader for all humankind.
For further readings regarding this remarkable man, see here.
For more stories from the African Great Lakes Region in this website, click here.
For story tags in this website, see at the bottom of this page.
Lifting the flag of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.
The image has become a national symbol, and is now included on Eritrean currency. An interview with the photographer can be found here.
The EPLF has been noted for its egalitarian approach. 30% of its constituent fighters were women, which significantly affected the traditionally conservative paternalistic outlook of the nation.
The EPLF captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers in battle. But in contrast to the way the Ethiopians treated their captured, the EPLF did not mistreat them. The taught them the principles of the EPLF. They instructed them in world politics. They trained many of them in crafts and trades.
Eritrea consists of nine nationalities. Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Bilin, Hidarb, and Rashaida. More information on this can be found on the Eritrean website here.
These nationalities are depicted in the banknotes in a series of tryptich portraits, that is, three-paneled illustrations such as in many of the classics. The artist who designed these banknotes is Mr. Clarence Holbert, the first African American to design an African banknote. He passed away January 9, 2018. His memorial was reverently attended by representatives of Eritrea, and can be read about here.
The reverse of the currencies reflect scenes from Eritrean life. As recalled by Mr. Holbert, the currency “features the everyday people of Eritrea because Eritrean President Isaias had given specific instructions that money not feature cabinet or government officials or their relatives.”
The Nakfa region, inhabited since ancient times, came under Italian control in 1890. Italy lost control during WW2, and Eritrea was “awarded” to Ethiopia as a part of a federation in 1952. In the 1960s, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea as a province. This instigated the independence movement. In 1977, the Eritrea Liberation Front laid siege to Nakfa, and, took it in their first major victory. Eight subsequent attempts at recapture failed, during which much of the above-ground town was destroyed, and during which also, the Eritreans developed an significant underground facilities. Independence was secured in 1991.
“Nakfa” is now the name of Eritrea’s currency. It is taken from the town which had become the main base of the Eritrean independence movement. Nakfa is famous for its extensive underground entrenchments developed in the time of the resistance. Included are hospitals, printing presses, a radio station, college and factories, in addition to rings of trenches and minefields.
The following paragraph is from this blog post with this photo of the Nakfa territory. A special test for tourists is also the sites of the liberation struggle situated in bleak mountains of the Sahel, northern angle of Eritrea. Hence one must be willing to enjoy the arduous journey across the rough terrain mountains to visit these miraculous EPLF defenses, trenches, bunkers of Nakfa, Himbol and the Roras Plateaus, and the Denden terrains.
Zebras are beloved in Africa for their beauty. They are very social roaming in clans, called by humans “harems”, with long lasting committed relationships. A harem consists of a stallion, several mares and their offspring. Many harems will congregate into a herd during migrations and for protection. They’ll remain together and act in coordination to defend against predators.
Herds can be seen today roaming in the grasslands of Akagera National Park near the shores of Lake Ihema in Northeast Rwanada, a region shared with giraffe, hippo, buffalo and hundreds of species of bird.
Volcanoes National Park is in Northwest Rwanda and is the first national park in all of Africa. It is dominated by five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. Two of the volcanoes, Karisimbi and Bisoke are illustrated on this banknote. The region, covered in rainforest and bamboo is just 100 miles or so, as the wildlife roams, from Akagera National Park.
According to Wikipedia, “Recent civil wars in Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda have caused dramatic declines in all wildlife populations, including those of plains zebra. It is now extinct in Burundi.” Why is Volcanoes National ark depicted on the same 1988 banknote as the Zebra? I do not know, but the suggestion occurs to me that perhaps zebras were well known on the sides of the mountains but departed elsewhere during the war.