Burundi was awarded to Belgium as a colony after World War I and became independent on July 1 1962. The Hutu are the principal ethnic community and the Tutsi make up a significant minority. The official languages are Kirundi, a Bantu language that is the most widely spoken, and French. In 1993, Burundi's first democratically elected president was assassinated, which triggered almost a dozen years of conflict between Hutu and Tutsi factions during which more than 200,000 Burundians died. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians were internally displaced or became refugees in neighbouring countries. The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, signed in August 2000, brokered a power-sharing agreement between the Tutsis and Hutus and led to the signing of a new constitution in 2005, and the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundi has seen escalating violence since President Nkurunziza ran for and won a third term of office in 2015.
Burundi is predominantly reliant on agricultural exports of coffee and tea – agriculture employs more than 90 percent of the population and accounts for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. However, exports are a small share of GDP. Forty percent of Burundi’s national income is derived from foreign aid, the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Demand for food, medicine and electricity outstrip supply, resulting in foodstuffs and petroleum products from Belgium and Saudi Arabia being Burundi’s principle imports.
Burundi is a member of La Francophonie, the African Union, the East African Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Australia’s diplomatic representation to Burundi is from the High Commission in Kenya.
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