The original inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy people. Now, the population is divided between the Hutu (approximately 85%) and the Tutsi (approximately 14%). While the Hutu and Tutsi are considered to be two separate ethnic groups, they speak the same language, have a history of inter-marriage, and share many cultural characteristics. The 1933requirement by the Belgians that everyone carry an identity card indicating tribal ethnicity as Tutsi or Hutu increased the distinction. The landowning Tutsi aristocracy has dominated Burundi since independence.

Burundi was once part of German East Africa. Belgium won a League of Nations mandate in 1923. In 1962, Burundi gained independence and became a kingdom under Mwami Mwambutsa IV, a Tutsi. A Hutu rebellion took place in 1965, leading to Tutsi retaliations. Mwambutsa was deposed by his son, Ntaré V, in 1966. Ntaré 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 November 1, 1976, Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza led a coup and assumed the presidency. In September 1987, Bagaza was overthrown by Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who became president. Ethnic hatred again flared in August 1988, and about 20,000 Hutu were slaughtered. The Front for Democracy in Burundi candidate, Melchior Ndadaye, won the country's first democratic presidential elections 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 Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, was shot down. As a result, Hutu youth gangs began massacring Tutsi. The Tutsi-controlled army retaliated by killing Hutus.

Ethnic clashes increased, developing into a civil war. A six-nation proposal to send troops into Burundi to maintain peace was devised in July 1996. The Tutsi-dominated army led a coup deposing the Hutu president and installed Maj. Pierre Buyoya. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the civil war since 1993, with the Tutsi-dominated army and the Hutu rebel forces responsible for the slaughter.

After several failed cease-fires, a 2001 peace plan included a power-sharing agreement. Buyoya governed the new transitional government for the first 18 months, then a Hutu president, Domitien Ndayizeye, assumed power in April 2003.

In August 2005, former Hutu rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza was elected president by Parliament. Peace talks continued between the government and Burundi's only remaining rebel group, Forces for National Liberation (FNL).

The government, led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, signed a South African brokered cease-fire in September 2006. Fighting between government forces and FNL rebels renewed in April 2008. The government and the Forces for National Liberation signed a cease-fire in May 2008.

Thirteen opposition parties rejected the results of Burundi's 2010 district elections, claiming massive fraud. Twelve of them formed a coalition, the Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-Ikibiri), in early June and announced a boycott of the presidential elections on June 28, 2010. The government declared the boycott illegal. Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza was left as the sole presidential candidate.

Three grenade attacks were reported the day before the 2010 election. Two were in the capital's Buyenzi and Kamesa districts, causing no injuries, and one exploded in the western town of Kanyosha, killing one and wounding two.

On September 18, 2011, attackers raided a bar killing nearly 40 people.

In September 2012, Agathon Rwasa, former leader of the FNL, announced that the group declared war on the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) government.

In June 2013, President Nkurunziza approved a media law, which forbids reporting on matters that could undermine national security, public order or the economy. Critics condemned the law as an attack on press freedom.

In March 2014, several opposition supporters were jailed for life for attending an illegal demonstration that turned violent.

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