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What Should I Know About Burundi?

Burundi produces bananas.
Sorghum is an important crop in Burundi.
Burundi shares its eastern and southern borders with Tanzania.
Burundi is a producer of cotton.
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  • Written By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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The Republic of Burundi, commonly known as Burundi, is a small African country located near the African Great Lakes. Burundi shares a border with the country of Rwanda to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west, and Tanzania on both the east and south. Burundi is one of Africa's landlocked countries, although it is near to Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi is considered by many sources to be the poorest country on the planet, as it has the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of any country on earth — the equivalent of $90 US Dollars (USD) per person in 2007. Agriculture accounts for more than half of Burundi's GDP, with coffee production making up the majority of that. Burundi also produces tea, sorghum, cotton, bananas, sweet potatoes, milk, beef, animal hides, maize, and yucca. The country receives massive foreign aid from many parts of the world, especially Western Europe.

Most Burundians are rural, living in hilltop compounds which are referred to as rugos. Many families still practice arranged marriages, sometimes with a bride price being paid by the family of the groom to the bride's family. The Royal Drummers of Burundi showcase traditional drumming, an important part of Burundian heritage and culture, along with traditional dancing. Burundians have a tradition of oral history, passing down generations of history through poetry, song, and storytelling. Both mancala games and football are popular with many Burundians.

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The Twa people first inhabited the area which is now Burundi, assimilating into the Bantu tribes. Beginning in the sixteenth century and lasting until 1903, Burundi was an independent kingdom. In 1903, it became a German colony, with Belgium taking ownership of the country during World War I. The monarchy continued until 1966, overlapping with German and Belgian ownership, as well as Burundian independence in 1962.

Beginning in 1962, Burundi was under control of a variety of military dictators, who presided during extreme violence and ethnic "cleansing." Hutu-Tutsi violence continued for decades, with multiple genocides of both the Tutsi and Hutu people. A peace deal was signed in 2000, but the violence continued. Another cease-fire was agreed to in 2003, but 152 Tutsi refugees from the Congo were killed in Burundi in 2004. Another cease-fire was signed in 2005, and negotiations remain ongoing.

As of 2007, the Burundian government is a transitional presidential representative democratic republic. The president of Burundi acts as the head of government and head of state. The parliament has two branches, the National Assembly and the Senate. A cease-fire has been officially called by the president, but after decades of genocide and ethnic violence, it remains to be seen whether Burundi can hold to the cease-fire.

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