Burundi History and Economy

By | November 9, 2021


Shortly after the Europeans explored the African territory, Burundi became part of German East Africa, along with Rwanda, (1884 – 1916). In 1919, at the end of the First World War, the League of Nations placed this territory (Ruanda-Urundi) under the mandate of Belgium.

In 1946 the UN transformed the Belgian mandate into an administrative trust for Belgium. After the 1961 referendum, the Unity and Progress Party (UPRONA) advocated the total separation of Rwanda and the country took its current name.


In 1962, it gained independence under the monarchy of King El Muami, who reigned as Muambutsa IV and a constitutional monarchy was established. In 1964, Rwanda withdrew from the Rwanda-Burundi Monetary Union and fighting broke out between the Hutus and the Tutsis, because the Burundi government disarmed the former and supplied the latter with weapons. Parliament was dissolved which allowed the Hutus to reach a majority in the Assembly and the Senate. As a consequence, El Muami decreed absolute monarchy and coups began to take place, first carried out by the Tutsis and then by the Hutus.

In 1966, a coup d’état established a one-party republic (UPRONA). Colonel Michel Macombero was sworn in as president. But in 1972, the civil war between Hutus and Tutsis broke out again, and the Hutus were victims of genocide. Belgium withdrew its economic aid to the country and Tanzania severed its relations with Burundi. But Micombero was reelected leader of UPRONA, although in 1976 the Supreme Revolutionary Council achieved power to erect a new political system in which he assumed all powers. Its visible head was Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza.

Three years later, the Supreme Revolutionary Council was replaced by the Central Committee of the Party, which adopted a new Constitution and established a National Assembly elected by universal suffrage.

After the elections, which took place in October 1981, the government’s relations with the religious authorities became critical (arrests of numerous priests and expulsion of foreign missionaries). The situation degenerated and, in 1987, President Bagaza was overthrown by a group of soldiers led by Major Pierre Buyoya.

Starting in 1988, a process of democratization began in the country and in 1992 a Constitution was approved that legalized multipartyism. In 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first Hutu president, was assassinated and in 1996 Buyoya regained power, sparking civil war.

In 2001, according to localcollegeexplorer, a peace agreement was signed between Buyoya and the Hutu militias and in 2003 Domitien Ndayizeye became head of state of a transitional government.


It is bordered to the north by Rwanda, to the east and south by Tanzania and to the west by Lake Tanganyika, which separates it from Zaire.

Burundi is located on a plateau crossed by several rivers, among which the Ruvubu stands out, and a mountain range that runs through it to the west where an extensive valley runs through the Ruzizi River opens up. The valley forms a large rift, to the north of which is Lake Tanganyika and to the west is Lake Kivu.


In the highlands of the Rift Valley, the waters divide: the Tanganyika and its tributary, the Ruzizi, feed the Congo River basin, while the waters of the Kivu and other waterways pour into the Nile.


The climate is tropical with irregular rainfall. Temperatures range from 32ºC in Bujumbura, the former capital, to 21ºC in the highlands.

Flora and fauna

In the mountainous areas, the forests are dense, but in the points located at higher altitudes the predominant vegetation is savanna. About half of the territory is arable, and about a third is used for pasture.

The fauna of the country is varied, elephants, crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes being frequent.


The population of Burundi is essentially made up of two ethnic groups: the Hutus (Bantu) and the Tutsi (Tussi). The Hutus represent approximately four-fifths of the total population. Apparently this group is originally from Chad and Nigeria. Traditionally this town has been dedicated to agriculture. The Tutsis are a minority that comes from the Nile Valley and from Ethiopia.

The groups of the pygmies, tua, make up the third ethnic variant of Burundi, although they represent a very small percentage in relation to the total population. The Tua entered the territory of the Burundi from the Congo (Zaire).

Coexistence between the three ethnic groups has raised many problems. In 1962 the independent kingdom ruled by the Tutsis was formed, which generated serious inter-ethnic conflicts, with dramatic consequences for the Hutus.

The imbalance that the new order reflected by favoring some to the detriment of others, precipitated the rebellion of the Hutus, which was brutally repressed. A year later a coup established the Republic and again attacked the Hutus. It was their turn for the Tutsis in the 1970s, when civil war broke out in the country. The result was new massacres, comparable to those that took place in 1972.

The official language of the country is French, although Swahili and Kirundi are also spoken. In schools, children have the opportunity to learn English as well. More than half of Burundi’s population is Christian.

Burundi History and Economy