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The Republic of Burundi is situated in East Africa, in the region of the African Great Lakes. Neighboring countries include Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Due to its location, Burundi might also be considered in Central Africa.

The southwest and lower western borders of Burundi are on Lake Tanganyika, adding to the diversity of flora and fauna within the country. Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world, and it provides a habitat for several types of wildlife, including crocodiles, hippopotamus, and several species of birds. African buffalo are native to the country but their numbers have dwindled considerably. With trees being cut for fuel, deforestation has become a major problem in Burundi. Very little of the country's natural forests remain.

Burundi is a landlocked country without a lot of resources. Its economy is mostly agricultural, exporting mostly coffee and tea, but 90% of its agriculture is for subsistence. The country does not have a strong manufacturing sector. Burundi is one of the world's poorest countries, with only 2% of its population holding a bank account. The country and its people are strongly dependent upon foreign aid.

Most people in Burundi identify as Christian, with Catholicism representing the largest denomination, followed by Protestant and Anglican churches. While only 5% of the population claim adherence to traditional religious beliefs, a combination of Christian and traditional practices is common.

Approximately 85% of the population of Burundi are of Hutu origin, and most of the rest are Tutsi, with a small population of Twa. Burundi's official language is Kirundi, but French is the language used for administration and education. Swahili is commonly spoken along the Tanzanian border. A lot of Burundians have migrated to other countries because of civil wars and other violent conflicts.

The government of Burundi has frequently been criticized by international human rights organizations for the arrests of journalists, and extrajudicial murders, torture, and sexual violence against political opponents. There is also a high risk of crime in Burundi, as well as clashes between armed groups, and sometimes against civilians.

Political unrest is not uncommon in Burundi, including an attempted coup in May of 2017. Following the attempted coup, protests have continued and more than 100,000 people have fled the country. Burundi's last election was boycotted by the opposition party.

Burundi is one of the few African countries to be a direct continuation of its pre-colonial state. The early history of Burundi involves the same ethnic groups that currently make up its population - the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. Although now the minority tribe, the Twa were the first inhabitants of the land. The Hutu came gradually, between the 7th and 11th centuries. Eventually, they outnumbered the Twa, who retreated into the forests of the highlands. The Tutsi came between the 15th and 17th centuries, coming from the Nile region.

Although far outnumbered by the Hutu, the Tutsi were taller, and more militant than the Hutu, and they soon established control over the region, subduing the Hutu and the Twa. Although by far the majority, the Hutu were placed at the lower levels of society, and at the very bottom were the Twa.

By the mid-1700s, the class system had developed some fluidity. Wealthy Hutu farmers were elevated to a higher social status, and some even played a part in the government. By the same token, Tutsi who lost their economic base, usually cattle, could find themselves on the lower levels of society. There were even some marriages between Hutu and Tutsi.

In the 1880s, Germans became active in the African Great Lakes region, establishing German East Africa, a German colony that included present-day Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania. German troops were also stationed there. During World War I, Britain and Belgium carried out a military attack on the German colony, resulting in the occupation of the region by Belgium.

The Belgians interfered little in local politics, allowing the continuation of native chiefdoms. In 1948, Belgium permitted the formation of local political parties, which led to the country's independence from Belgium in 1962. At this time, the country took on the name of Burundi, and was organized as a constitutional monarchy with an ethnic Tutsi as king.

The Tutsi king appointed a Hutu prime minister, but he was assassinated just over a year later by a Tutsi employed by the US Embassy. These events were followed by insurgencies, coups, a civil war, and genocide against the Hutu people. Estimates are that more than 200,000 Hutus may have been killed, while hundreds of thousands fled to Zaire, Rwanda, and Tanzania. About twenty years later, in 1993, this was followed up by mass killings of Tutsis.

 

 

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