Biafra Nigeria World Weblogs


BNW: Biafra Nigeria World Magazine



BNW: Insight, Features, and Analysis

BNW Writer's Block 

BNW News and Archives

 BNW News Archive

BNW: Biafra Nigeria World


BNW Forums and Message Board


Biafra Net

 Igbo Net: The Igbo Network

BNW Africa and AfricaWorld 

BNW: Icon

BNW: Icon


Flag of Biafra Nigeria

BNW News Archives

BNW News Archive 2002-January 2005

BNW News Archive 2005

BNW News Archive 2005 and Later

« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #9 of 52: What is one's Vocation? | Main | President Clinton and the Movie “Hotel Rwanda”: Why the Change of Mind after Supporting Genocide in Rwanda 1993-94? »

February 27, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #6 of 54: Burundi

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 6. BURUNDI Flag of Burundi

Formal Name: Republic of Burundi

Term for Citizens: Burundians.

Capital: Bujumbura. Population: 346,000.

Independence Achieved: July 1, 1962, from France.

Major Cities: Bujumbura, Gitega, Muyinga, Ngozi and Ruyigi


Burundi is in Central Africa. Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Tanzania border Burundi. Burundi is 10, 745 square miles in area. Burundi is landlocked. Most of the country consists of highlands and plateaus of the Congo-Nile Divide. Average elevation is 5,300 feet; the highest peaks exceed 8500 feet. Because of its high elevation, Burundi tends to have less hot temperature. Average annual temperature is 73.F in the Rift valley region and 65.F in the central plateau region. Rainfall averages 40-60 inches per year. June through August is the driest months and March and April are the rainiest months.


Burundi has an estimated population of 6, 825, 000.

Ethnic Groups: There are three main ethnic groups: Hutu 85%, Tutsi 16% and Twa less than 1%.

Languages: Both Hutu and Tutsi speak Kirundi. French is the official language. Swahili is used as commercial language.

Religion: 90% are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic, 1% Muslin and the rest indigenous believers.

Education: Primary education is available to most children but few attend and even fewer attend secondary school. Literacy rate is estimated at 51.6%.

Economy: The economy is mainly subsistence agriculture. Coffee and cotton are the most important commercial agricultural products and main source of foreign exchange. GDP estimate: $700 million; Per Capita: $106. Monetary Unit: Franc (BIF).

History and Government:

The original dwellers in Burundi were the Twa pygmies. Bantu Hutus reportedly migrated to the area in the 1200s. In the 14th century, Tutsis, another Bantu group, probably from Ethiopia, conquered the Hutus and ruled them until the Germans came in the late 19th century. With the defeat of Germany during the first world war, Belgium took over. Burundi was traditionally a monarchy ruled by Tutsi kings. In 1966, the monarchy was abolished. Burundi is characterized by the struggles for leadership by the two groups, Tutsi and Hutu. Burundi is a very unstable polity. Burundi is divided into 15 provinces.


To understand contemporary Burundi’s conflict ridden politics her past history and demographics must be grasped.

It is reported that the original people who lived in what is now called Burundi were the Twa Pygmies.

Beginning in the thirteenth century, Bantu tribes began to move into the area. The first Bantu group was the Hutu. In the fourteenth century, another Bantu group, the Tutsi, moved into the area. Both Bantu groups speak the same language, Kirundi; the only distinguishing feature between them is that the Hutu tends to be stout and average in height whereas the Tutsi tends to be lanky and tall.

At present Burundi’s population is estimated to be about seven million people. Eighty five, 85% of them are Hutu, the other mainly Tutsi. The Twa pygmies are a few thousands and are negligible in Burundi politics. There are a few thousand Europeans and Asians.
The major languages of Burundi are Kirundi, French and Swahili. French is the official language.

Burundi is about 90% Christians with Muslims and believers in indigenous religions making up the balance.

Whereas the Hutus are the majority population, the Tutsi, beginning in the sixteenth century, dominated Burundi politics. A Tutsi established himself as the King of Burundi in the early 17th century and his linage pretty much ruled the kingdom until the arrival of Europeans in the early twentieth century. In effect, Burundi, like Rwanda, has the political anomaly whereby a minority group, Tutsis, rule a majority group, Hutus. This scenario is tailor made for conflict and conflict the country has had aplenty.

In 1903, Germany declared the area a German colony. With the defeat of Germany during the First World War, German colonies in Africa were allotted to the victorious European powers. Burundi was given to Belgium in 1923 and thus became a Belgium ruled country under the League of Nations. With the replacement of the League by the United Nations in 1945, Burundi became a UN trust territory under Belgium rule.

In 1962, Burundi obtained independence from Belgium. Thereafter, a series of military coups ensued, with military strong men ruling the country until 1993 when there was a democratic election.

The Tutsi dominated the military and military rule essentially meant Tutsi rule. In effect, the minority population continued ruling the majority population under the aegis of military rule. The majority Hutu, of course, resented this situation and formed several militia groups to try to fight the military and take over power.

The Front for Democracy in Burundi, FRODEBU, a Hutu dominated group, mounted an effective struggle with the Tutsi dominated military government. The country was in chaos from these struggles and in 1993 the Tutsi led government agreed to a democratic election, an election whose outcome was guaranteed to be Hutu since they constitute 85% of the population.

The Hutu won and their leader, Melchior Ndadaye became Burundi’s first Hutu president in early 1994. A few months later, the Tutsi dominated military killed him and it was back to square one, civil war between the two competing groups.

Hutu extremists embarked on killing Tutsis and the Tutsi dominated army retaliated by killing Hutus. In 1994 over 300, 000 Burundians were massacred in cold blood and many fled to neighboring countries as refugees.

The latest Tutsi military strong man, President Pierre Buyoya maintained some sort of grip on power but in 2000 was forced to enter into negotiations for a new formula for ruling the country. A cease fire agreement was signed by all parties and in 2003 FRODEBU, under its leader, Domiten Ndayizeye, took power.

The new power arrangement with a Hutu as the nominal president did not change things much, for the Tutsi continued to dominate Burundi politics. Therefore, some Hutu groups refused to recognize the government and continued with the struggle for eventual Hutu rule.

In 2004 these Hutu extremists again massacred some Tutsis (in a refugee camp at Gatumba, in the Congo) and that sparked Tutsi retaliation.

In May of 2005 all parties to the conflict agreed on a South African brokered cease fire and an election was held, with predictable result. A former Hutu rebel group, National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy, CNDD-FDD won the majority in the new Parliament. The new Hutu dominated Parliament elected a Hutu, Pierre Nkurunziza the country’s new president.

So far, Mr. Nkurunziza seems to be sustaining the peace in Burundi, a much needed peace if economic development is to take place in the country.

Civil war has devastated the economy of Burundi, so much so that it is the poorest country in the world, with a per capita income of $106 dollars and a GDP of $700 million. The country is essentially sustained by foreign aid.

The politics of Burundi is characterized by the struggle of the two ethnic groups, Hutu and Tutsi. Not much else can be said about politics in Burundi. As already observed, so far, the Nkurunziza Hutu government elected in August of 2005 is holding unto power. But given Burundi’s history, no one knows what might happen tomorrow. The young president (born in 1964) appears to be politically savvy and let us hope that he can keep the warring groups in check, so that some sort of economic development would finally start in this poorest of nations.

Posted by Administrator at February 27, 2006 04:21 PM


BNW Writers A-M

BNW Writers N-Z



BiafraNigeria Banner

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BNW Forums


The Voice of a New Generation