History of Burundi

The original inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. Today the population is divided between the Hutu (approximately 85%) and the Tutsi, approximately 14%.

Burundi was once part of German East Africa. Belgium won a League of Nations mandate in 1923, and subsequently Burundi, with Rwanda, was transferred to the status of a United Nations trust territory. In 1962, Burundi gained independence and became a kingdom under Mwami Mwambutsa IV, a Tutsi. A Hutu rebellion took place in 1965, leading to brutal Tutsi retaliations. Mwambutsa was deposed by his son, Ntaré V, in 1966. Ntaré in turn was overthrown the same year in a military coup by Premier Michel Micombero, also a Tutsi. In 1970–1971, a civil war erupted, leaving more than 100,000 Hutu dead.

On Nov. 1, 1976, Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza led a coup and assumed the presidency. He suspended the constitution and announced that a 30-member Supreme Revolutionary Council would be the governing body. In Sept. 1987, Bagaza was overthrown by Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who became president. Ethnic hatred again flared in Aug. 1988, and about 20,000 Hutu were slaughtered. Buyoya, however, began reforms to heal the country’s ethnic rift. The Burundi Democracy Front’s candidate, Melchior Ndadaye, won the country’s first democratic presidential elections, held on June 2, 1993. Ndadaye, the first Hutu to assume power in Burundi, was killed within months during a coup. The second Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying him and the Rwandan president was shot down. As a result, Hutu youth gangs began massacring Tutsi; the Tutsi-controlled army retaliated by killing Hutus.

In 1995, Massacre of Hutu refugees lead to renewed ethnic violence in the capital, Bujumbura

In 1996, Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, took power through a coup d’état. Buyoya and parliament agree on a transitional constitution under which Buyoya is formally sworn in as president. Under his rule, long peace talks started, mediated by South Africa. Both parties signed agreements in Arusha, Tanzania and Pretoria, South Africa, to share power in Burundi.

On August 28, 2000, a transitional government for Burundi was planned as a part of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

Talks brokered by South African President Nelson Mandela lead to installation of transitional government, but main Hutu rebel groups refuse to sign and fighting intensifies.

In January 2002  Jean Minani, leader of main Hutu party Frodebu, elected president of transitional national assembly set up to bridge ethnic divide.

In April 2003  Domitien Ndayizeye – a Hutu – succeeds Pierre Buyoya as president, under terms of three-year, power-sharing transitional government inaugurated in 2001.

In July 2003 Major rebel assault on Bujumbura. Some 300 rebels and 15 government soldiers are killed. Thousands flee their homes.

In November 2003   President Ndayizeye and Hutu rebel group Forces for Defence of Democracy (FDD) leader Pierre Nkurunziza sign agreement to end civil war at summit of African leaders in Tanzania. Smaller Hutu rebel group, Forces for National Liberation (FNL), remains active.

In 2004 UN force takes over peacekeeping duties from African Union troops.

In January 2005   President signs law to set up new national army, incorporating government forces and all but one Hutu rebel group, the FNL.

In August 2005  Pierre Nkurunziza, from the Hutu FDD group, is elected as president by the two houses of parliament.

In June 2010 Presidential election. Nkurunziza re-elected in uncontested poll after main opposition parties boycott the vote and parliamentary polls. They say earlier district elections were rigged, and form a new civil opposition Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-Ikibiri). FNL leader Agathon Rwasa goes into hiding.

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