Burundi (pronounced [bu'?undi]), officially the Republic of Burundi, is a small country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda on the north, Tanzania on the south and east, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.
The Twa, Tutsi, and Hutu tribes have occupied Burundi since the country's formation five centuries ago. Burundi was ruled as a kingdom by the Tutsi for over two hundred years. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany and Belgium occupied the region, which caused Burundi and Rwanda to be a European commonwealth known as Ruanda-Urundi. Political unrest occurred throughout the region because of social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu. As a result, civil war emerged in Burundi throughout the middle twentieth century. Presently, Burundi is governed as a presidential representative democratic republic. Sixty-two percent of Burundians are Roman Catholic, eight to ten percent are Muslims and the rest follow indigenous beliefs and other Christian denominations.
Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Due to civil wars, Burundi has a low gross domestic product, unstable population growth, and sparse resources. Cobalt and copper are among Burundi's natural resources. Some of Burundi's main exports include coffee and sugar.
Archaeological evidence shows that a pygmoid hunter gathering tribe, the Twa, first settled the region in 70,000 B.C.E. However, approximately 5,000 years ago, the Hutu, a Bantu-speaking people from the mountainous regions of central Africa, immigrated and provided Burundi's first language. The Hutu served as the main farming group in the country. Following the Hutu, the Tutsi tribe settled the region in the late fifteenth century. The Tutsi were descendants of Nilo-Hamitic-speaking people from Ethiopia. From the Tutsi's early occupation in the region, agricultural techniques were introduced, and a feudal system was established within local chiefdoms. The Tutsi's relationship with the Hutu remained stable during this period.
With the settlement of the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, Burundi's kingdom expanded in land size, until the seventeenth century. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Tutsi dynasty reigned Burundi's kingdom. The kingdom continued through rulers, until the late nineteenth century. King Mwezi IV reigned from 1852 to 1908. During this time he allied with the Germans in order to gain control over his opponents. Mwezi's opponents, two chiefs named Maconco and Birori, were rebelling to take away Burundi's throne. As a result, the kingdom of Burundi became a German colony in 1899.
After being defeated in World War I, Germany handed control of Burundi to Belgium. On October 20, 1924, Burundi officially became a part of the Belgian colonial empire and was known as Ruanda-Urundi, which comprised of Rwanda and Burundi. However, the Belgians allowed Ruanda-Urundi to continue the kingship dynasty.
Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi was a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administrative authority. During the 1940s, a series of policies caused divisions throughout the country. On October 4, 1943, powers were split in the legislative division of Burundi's government between chiefdoms and lower chiefdoms. Chiefdoms were in charge of land, and lower sub-chiefdoms were established. Native authorities also had powers. In 1948, Belgium allowed the region to form political parties. These factions would be one of the main influences for Burundi's independence from Belgium.
On January 20, 1959, Burundi's ruler Mwami Mwambutsa IV requested to the Belgian Minister of Colonies to separate Burundi and Rwanda and dissolve Ruanda-Urundi. Six months later, political parties formed to bring attention to Burundi's independence from Europe and to separate Rwanda from Burundi. The first of these political parties was the African National Union of Ruanda-Urundi (UNARU). During Burundi's push for independence, instability and ethnic persecution occurred between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. In November 1959, a dispute over land possession sparked a revolt in Rwanda between Hutu teachers and Tutsi soldiers. During the same time, Tutsi refugees began to enter Burundi, fleeing ethnic persecution in Rwanda. The Union for National Progress (UPRONA), a multi-ethnic unity party led by Tutsi Prince Louis Rwagasore and Christian Democratic Party (PDC) members, became popular throughout Burundi-Urundi. Following an UPRONA victory in legislative elections, Prince Rwagasore was assassinated in 1961 by a Greek national named Georges Kageorgis. The country claimed independence in July 1, 1962, and legally changed names from Ruanda-Urundi to Burundi. Mwami Mwambutsa IV was named king.
Pierre Nkurunziza, president of Burundi
Burundi's political system is a transitional presidential representative democratic republic based upon a multi-party state. The President of Burundi is the head of state and head of government. There are currently 21 registered parties in Burundi. On March 13, 1992, Tutsi coup leader Pierre Buyoya established a constitution, which provided for a multi-party political process and reflected multi-party competition. Six years later, on June 6, 1998, the constitution was changed, broadening National Assembly's seats and making provisions for two vice presidents. Because of the Arusha Accord, Burundi enacted a transitional government in 2000.
- Main article: Politics of Burundi
Burundi's legislative branch is a bicameral assembly, consisting of the Transitional National Assembly and the Transitional Senate. As of 2004, the Transitional National Assembly consists of 170 members, with the Front for Democracy in Burundi holding 38% of seats, and 10% of the assembly is controlled by UPRONA. Fifty-two seats are controlled by other parties. Burundi's constitution mandates representation in the Transitional National Assembly to be consistent with 60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi, and 30% female members, as well as three Batwa members. Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote and serve for five year terms.
The Transitional Senate has fifty-one members, and three seats are reserved for former presidents. Due to stipulations in Burundi's constitution, 30% of Senate members must be female. Members of the Senate are elected by electoral colleges, which consist of members from each of Burundi's provinces and communes. For each of Burundi's seventeen provinces, one Hutu and one Tutsi senator are chosen. One term for the Transitional Senate is five years.
Together, Burundi's legislative branch elect the President to a five-year term. Burundi's president appoints officials to his Council of Ministers, which is also part of the executive branch. The president can also pick fourteen members of the Transitional Senate to serve on the Council of Ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers must be approved by two-thirds of Burundi's legislature. The president also chooses two vice-presidents. As of 2008, the President of Burundi is Pierre Nkurunziza. The First Vice President is Dr. Yves Sahinguvu, and the Second Vice President is Gabriel Ntisezerana.
The Court Supreme (Supreme Court) is Burundi's highest court. There are three Courts of Appeals directly below the Supreme Court. Tribunals of First Instance are used as judicial courts in each of Burundi's provinces as well as 123 local tribunals.
Provinces, communes, and collines
Map of provinces
Burundi is divided into 17 provinces, 117 communes, and 2,638 collines (hills). Provincial governments are structured upon these boundaries. In 2000, the province encompassing Bujumbura was separated into two provinces, Bujumbura Rural and Bunjumbura Mairie.
- Main articles: Provinces of Burundi, Communes of Burundi, and Collines of Burundi
The provinces are:
- · Bubanza
- · Bujumbura Mairie
- · Bujumbura Rural
- · Bururi
- · Cankuzo
- · Cibitoke
- · Gitega
- · Karuzi
- · Kayanza
- · Kirundo
- · Makamba
- · Muyinga
- · Mwaro
- · Ngozi
- · Rutana
- · Ruyigi
Map of Burundi
The smallest country in Africa, Burundi is landlocked and has an equatorial climate. Burundi is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the Great Rift Valley. The country lies on a rolling plateau in the center of Africa. The average elevation of the central plateau is 5,600 feet (1,700 m), with lower elevations at the borders. The highest peak, Mount Heha at 8,810 feet (2,690 m), lies to the southeast of the capital, Bujumbura. The Nile is a major river in Burundi. Lake Victoria is also an important water source, which serves as a fork to the Kagera River. Another major lake is Lake Tanganyika, located in much of Burundi's southwestern corner.
- Main article: Geography of Burundi
Burundi's lands are mostly agricultural or pasture. Settlement by rural populations has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. Deforestation of the entire country is almost completely due to overpopulation, with a mere 230 square miles (600 km2) remaining and an ongoing loss of about 9% per annum. There are two national parks, Kibira National Park to the northwest (a small region of rain forest, adjacent to Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda), Rurubu National Park to the northeast (along the Rurubu River, also known as Ruvubu or Ruvuvu). Both were established in 1982 to conserve wildlife populations.