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A small landlocked country on the east side of Lake Tanganyika in east central Africa. It is bounded to the north by Rwanda, to the east and south by Tanzania and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Burundi straddles the watershed of the Congo and the Nile rivers, while the Ruzizi River in the west flows along the Great Rift Valley.


Burundi's economy depends heavily on coffee exports, with cotton and tea as subsidiary exports. The biggest sector of employment is subsistence agriculture. There are large unexploited nickel deposits, and uranium, vanadium, and gold. Industry is limited. Since the late 1980s the economy has been disrupted by endemic ethnic violence and an acute refugee problem.


Burundi was ruled as a monarchy in the 19th century by Bami (kings) of the Tutsi tribe, who dominated a population of Hutu. Germany annexed it as part of German East Africa in the 1890s and from 1914 it was administered by Belgium, which obtained a League of Nations mandate and ruled it as a part of Ruanda-Urundi. In 1962 it became independent and in 1964 its union with Ruanda (now Rwanda) was dissolved. Burundi became a republic after a coup in 1966, but tribal rivalries and violence obstructed the evolution of central government. There were military coups in 1976 and 1987, and renewed ethnic violence in 1988 that left 5000 Hutu dead. In 1991 a referendum voted to restore the constitution with ‘democracy within the single party’. President Pierre Buyoya (a Tutsi) increased the Hutu membership of his Council of Ministers, but violence continued with many seeking refuge in Zaire and Rwanda. In 1992 a multiparty constitution was adopted. The first Hutu head of state, Melchior Ndadaye, was elected in 1993, along with a Hutu majority in the National Assembly, ending political dominance by the Tutsi. Tutsi army officers staged an unsuccessful coup six days after Ndadaye's election, but in a second coup a few months later killed Ndadaye and many other Hutu politicians. The coup triggered fierce ethnic violence and massacres throughout Burundi and over a million refugees fled their homes, many going to neighbouring countries. Ndadaye's successor, another Hutu, was killed in a plane crash in 1994. Violence and instability continued, with ethnic killings reaching an average of 1,000 a month in 1996. In July of that year a Tutsi-led military coup ousted President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and installed Pierre Buyoya in his place. A power-sharing agreement in 2001 gradually restored stability, and a new constitution in 2005 paved the way for the peaceful election of Pierre Nkurunziza as President later that year.




27,834 sq km (10,747 sq miles)


7,795,000 (2005)


1 Burundi franc = 100 centimes


Roman Catholic 57.2%; Protestant 19.5%; other Christian 14.7%; traditional beliefs 6.7%; Muslim 1.4%

Ethnic Groups:

Rundi 96.4% (Hutu 81.9%; Tutsi 13.5%; Twa Pygmy 1.0%)


Rundi, French (both official); Swahili

International Organizations:

UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement; WTO

Subjects: History — African Studies.

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