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History of burundi

A kingdom founded in the 16th century


Knowledge of the origins of Burundi is based on oral tradition and archeology. According to one of the founding legends, the Burundian nation was founded by a man called Cambarantama from Buha on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

The first archaeological traces of a Burundian state date back to the 16th century in the east of its current borders. It then gradually expanded, competing with Rwanda. It experienced its greatest expansion during the reign of Ntare IV, who ruled the country from 1796 to 1850 and doubled its area.

The kingdom of Burundi is characterized by a strong social hierarchy and economic exchanges of a tributary nature. The king, (mwami), is at the head of a princely aristocracy (ganwa) holding the majority of the lands and takes a tribute on the crops and herds of the farmers who exploit them. In the middle of the 18th century, the royal family consolidated its authority over the land, production, and distribution by developing a system of patronage, the ubugabire, the population receiving royal protection in exchange for its production.


German East Africa


The first European explorers and missionaries made brief incursions into the region from 1856. Unlike his Rwandan counterpart, who accepted the German proposals, King Mwezi IV Gisabo opposed any Western interference, refusing to wear European clothing and prohibiting the presence of missionaries and administrators. From 1899, the German forces inflicted heavy losses on the armies of the king but without achieving victory. They then support one of the king's sons-in-law, Maconco, in a revolt against the sovereign, which forces Gisabo to make them allegiance to control the insurrection. German East Africa, established in 1891, officially annexed Burundi and the adjacent small kingdoms on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika on June 6, 1903.


Belgian colonial empire


In 1916, during the First World War, Belgian troops landed in the region. At the end of the war, Germany lost all its colonies and, at the Versailles conference in 1919, the kingdom of Belgium obtained a mandate over the province of Ruanda-Urundi, made up of present-day Rwanda and Burundi, a mandate renewed by the League of Nations in 1923. The kingdoms bordering the eastern shore of Tanganyika are, for their part, attributed to the protectorate of Tanganyika administered by the United Kingdom. Belgium administers the territory indirectly, relying on the Tutsi aristocracy.

After the Second World War, Ruanda-Urundi became a trust territory of the United Nations Organization under Belgian administrative authority. On November 10, 1959, Belgium agreed to reform the policy and legalized the multiparty system. Two political parties are emerging: the Union for National Progress (UPRONA), a multi-ethnic party founded and led by the Tutsi prince and Prime Minister Louis Rwagasore and the Christian Democratic Party, supported by Belgium.


Independence (1962 -...)

In the legislative elections of September 18, 1961, the Burundians chose the Union for National Progress (UPRONA) and its leader Prince Louis Rwagasore. A month later, on October 13, Prince Rwagasore is assassinated. The country's independence was proclaimed on July 1, 1962, the date then was chosen to celebrate the national holiday, and King Mwambutsa IV established a regime of constitutional monarchy.


Post-colonial era: a succession of massacres and coups


The history of Burundi, since the first years of its independence in 1962, has been marked by ethnic violence complicated by a bitter struggle for power within the Tutsi, who will first rule the country.

The Hutu are by far the most numerous, representing around 85% of the population (10.5 million inhabitants in 2013), while the Tutsi constitute 14%.

In 1972, a Hutu insurrection broke out against the government than in the hands of the Tutsi minority, marked by the killings of Tutsi. The repression quickly turned into systematic massacres of members of the Hutu elite, causing an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 deaths. In 1988, new massacres bloodied the country.


In 1976, a coup d'état brought Jean-Baptiste Bagaza to power. In 1987, he was overthrown and Pierre Buyoya who became head of state. The assassination of the first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, in October 1993 in an attempted coup d'état fomented by Tutsi soldiers, is followed by massacres. The assassination started a civil war between the army, led by the Tutsi ethnic group, and the Hutu rebels.


Mr. Ndadaye's successor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed in April 1994, along with Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down in Kigali.


In July 1996, a coup d'état brought Pierre Buyoya back to power, who began negotiations with the political and armed opposition. A peace agreement was signed in 2000 in Arusha (Tanzania), but the two main rebel movements refused to join it.

At the end of 2003, the main rebellion, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy - Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Cndd-FDD), laid down their arms.


In 2006, the government and the rebels of the National Liberation Forces (FNL) signed a cease-fire. The civil war from 1993 to 2006 killed nearly 300,000 people, mostly civilians, and ruined its economy.

Since the last elections in 2010, the country has experienced an upsurge in armed violence, including several incursions by rebel groups based in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In June 2010, Nkurunziza was re-elected for a second term in a presidential election where he was alone in the running - almost all of the opposition boycotted the poll, alleging fraud. The Cndd-FDD obtains a very large victory in legislative and senatorial elections. He was re-elected in 2015, still in the same climate of suspicion. He announces not to run for a 4th term in 2020. 

Ce dernier remporte l'élection présidentielle, marquée par des fraudes massives et l'interdiction de la présence d'observateurs étrangers. Il est investi le 18 juin 2020 suite au décès inopiné de l'ancien président Pierre Nkurunziza.


The landlocked country in central Africa, bordering Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi is one of the smallest states in Africa (27,834 km2) and one of the most densely populated in the continent. The Catholic Church represents between 75% and 80% of the population.


Burundi is an agricultural country, peasants constituting 89% of the population. The economy is based on exports of coffee and tea, but the war has devastated the country, one of the poorest on the planet, which lives on an infusion of international aid. 67% of the population lives below the poverty line. In 2018, GNI per capita was $ 280.

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