Mwamikazi Nidi Ririkumutima Bizama Bitanzimiza Mwezi

Flag of Burundi. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Nidi Ririkumutima Bizama Hitanzimiza Mwezi, more commonly known as Ririkumutima, was born ometime in the mid-nineteenth century. She married Mwezi Gisabo, the king of Burundi, in the mid-1890s and was his favourite wife. Together, they had 4 sons, Karabona, Bishinga, Nduwumwe, and Bangura.

When Mwezi Gisabo died in 1908, his son with another wife became king, supported by the Burundian royal family and the German government, to whom Mwezi Gisabo had conceded control in a June 1903 treaty. Not wanting to lose her power as the king’s most trusted advisor and regnant, as was her right as a queen mother, Ririkumutima allegedly ordered the assassination of Ntibanyiha, the new king’s mother. When this king died, a similar pattern of events occurred with the new king’s mother.

During Ririkumutima’s time in power, political disagreements over who should hold power in Burundi led to the German government taking the decision to divide the country into 3 smaller colonies.

Ririkumutima became ill in July 1917 and died in her home in Mbuye on July 29. While some maintained that she died of illness, others claimed that she had been strangled. Whatever the cause of death, she was buried in the sacred forest of Mpotsa, where queen mothers of Burundi are traditionally buried.

Recommended Reading

‘Ririkumutima’, Dictionary of African Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Emmanuel Akyeampong, and Steven J. Niven, 2012.

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