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Burundi (/bəˈrʊndi/ (About this soundlisten), /-ˈrʌn-/), officially the Republic of Burundi (Kirundi: Republika y'Uburundi, [buˈɾundi]; French: République du Burundi, [buʁundi] or [byʁyndi]), is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is also considered part of Central Africa. Burundi's capital is Gitega, having moved from Bujumbura in December 2018. The southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.

The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. For more than 200 of those years, Burundi was an independent kingdom, until the beginning of the 20th century, when Germany colonised the region. After the First World War and Germany's defeat, it ceded the territory to Belgium. Both Germans and Belgians ruled Burundi and Rwanda as a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. Despite common misconceptions, Burundi and Rwanda had never been under common rule until the time of European colonisation.

Burundi gained independence in 1962 and initially had a monarchy, but a series of assassinations, coups and a general climate of regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and one-party state in 1966. Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and again in the 1990s left the country undeveloped and its population as one of the world's poorest. 2015 witnessed large-scale political strife as President Pierre Nkurunziza opted to run for a third term in office, a coup attempt failed and the country's parliamentary and presidential elections were broadly criticised by members of the international community.

The sovereign state of Burundi political system is that of a 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 13 March 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 6 June 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. In October 2016, Burundi informed the UN of its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

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The Great Lakes refugee crisis is the common name for the situation beginning with the exodus in April 1994 of over two million Rwandans to neighboring countries of the Great Lakes region of Africa in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide. Many of the refugees were Hutu ethnics fleeing the predominantly Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded to end the Rwandan Genocide. However, the humanitarian relief effort was vastly complicated by the presence among the refugees of many of the Interahamwe and government officials who carried out the genocide, who used the refugee camps as bases to launch attacks against the new government led by Paul Kagame. The camps in Zaire became particularly politicized and militarized. The knowledge that humanitarian aid was being diverted to further the aims of the genocidaires led many humanitarian organizations to withdraw their assistance.

The conflict escalated until the start of the First Congo War in late 1996, when RPF-supported rebels invaded Zaire (soon thereafter, the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the refugees were repatriated. (Read more...)

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Burundi - Lake Tanganyika fisheries.jpg
Credit: Francesca Ansaloni

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika, Burundi.

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Pierre Nkurunziza - World Economic Forum on Africa 2008.jpg

Pierre Nkurunziza (born 18 December 1963) is the President of Burundi and chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). The CNDD was an ethnic Hutu rebel group in Burundi, but transformed itself into a political party.

Nkurunziza was born in 1963 in Burundi's capital city of Bujumbura. He attended primary school in Ngozi province and secondary school in Kitega before graduating from the University of Burundi in 1990. At the university, he majored in education and sports.

His father, Eustache Ngabisha, was elected to the Parliament of Burundi in 1965 and later became governor of two provinces before being killed in 1972 during a period of ethnic violence that claimed the lives of over 100,000 Burundians.

(Read more...)

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