Country Profile

Country Profile - Burundi

Country Profile of Burundi

President:  Pierre Nkurunziza

Capital:  Bujumbura

Land area:  10 745 squared kilometers

Population:  10,395,931; growth-rate: 3.28%; birth-rate: 42.33/1000; life-expectancy: 59.55

Monetary unit:  Burundi Franc

Languages:  Kirundi 29.7%; other languages 9.1%; French 0.3%; Swahili 0.2%; English 0.06%; unspecified 56.9%

Ethnicity:  Bantu 85%; Tutsi (Hamitic) 14%; Twa (Pygmy) 1%.

Literacy rate:  67.2%

Economic summary:  GDP-PPP $5.75 billion, real-growth:4.5%; inflation: 9.3%; Exports: $122.8 million; Imports: $867.2 million

Agriculture:  Coffee, cotton, tea, corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes.

Natural resources:  Nickel, uranium, rare earth oxides, cobalt, gold, tantalum, and limestone.


Burundi is in between Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the east-central Africa. It occupies the high plateau divided by several deep valleys.


Republic government


The original Burundians were the Twa Pygmies, but they were soon squeezed out by bigger groups. First came the Hutu, mostly farmers of Bantu stock, from about 1000 AD. Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the tall, pastoral Tutsi from Ethiopia and Uganda arrived. Relations were cordial, but the Tutsi gradually subjugated the Hutu in a feudal system similar to that of medieval Europe.

At the end of the 19th century Burundi and Rwanda were colonised by Germany, but after WWI the League of Nations mandated Rwanda-Urundi to Belgium. Taking advantage of the status quo, the Belgians ruled through the Tutsi chiefs and princes. The establishment of coffee plantations, and the resulting concentration of wealth in the hands of the Tutsi elite, provoked tensions between the two tribal groups.

Today the population is divided between the Hutu (approximately 85%) and the Tutsi, approximately 14%. While the Hutu and Tutsi are considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics. Traditionally, the differences between the two groups were occupational rather than ethnic. Agricultural people were considered Hutu, while the cattle-owning elite were identified as Tutsi. In theory, Tutsi were tall and thin, while Hutu were short and square, but in fact it is often impossible to tell one from the other.


The Burundi Democracy Front's candidate, Melchior Ndadaye, won the country's first democratic presidential elections, held on June 2, 1993. Ndadaye, the first Hutu to assume power in Burundi, was killed within months during a coup. The second Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying him and the Rwandan president was shot down. As a result, Hutu youth gangs began massacring Tutsi; the Tutsi-controlled army retaliated by killing Hutus.

The frequency of ethnic clashes increased, developing into a low-intensity civil war. A six-nation regional proposal to send troops into Burundi to maintain peace and order was devised in July 1996. Distrustful of the scheme, the Tutsi-dominated army led a coup deposing the Hutu president and installed Maj. Pierre Buyoya that month. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the civil war since 1993, with the Tutsi-dominated army and the Hutu rebel forces responsible for the slaughter. After several aborted cease-fires, a 2001 peace plan included a power-sharing agreement that has been relatively successful: Buyoya, a Tutsi, governed the new transitional government for the first 18 months; then, in April 2003, a Hutu president, Domitien Ndayizeye, assumed power. In Aug. 2005, former Hutu rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza was elected president by Parliament. The peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected leader seemed to indicate that Burundi's 12-year civil war was truly at an end. Peace talks between the government and Burundi's only remaining rebel group continued in 2006.

The government and the rebel group Forces for National Liberation, which was the last rebel group to engage in negotiations, signed a cease-fire in May 2008, signalling finality in the 15-year civil war that claimed some 300,000 lives.

President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement that he would stand in a June 2015 vote plunged Burundi into its worst political crisis since its ethnically fuelled civil war ended a decade ago. With the ex-president of Burundi Domitien Ndayizeye saying  Nkurunziza should step down. Citing the peace agreement reached at Arusha with the new constitution the president should run for another term. The Burundi constitutional court endorsed the decision by the president to run for the third term. Following the decision by the constitutional court the media houses reported that the judges have fled the country amongst them the courts vice-president Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse who fled to Rwanda.

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