Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


(German East Africa)

Capital : Bujumbura

Size: 10 700 sq m Popn: 5 786 000


The indigenous Twa pigmies now form only 1% of the population. They were displaced about a thousand years ago by the Hutu (Bantu peasant farmers), the cattle-owning Tutsi began to move in in the C17th and the Tutsi feudal kingdom of Urundi was dominant when the Europeans arrived in the C19th.

Germany annexed Burundi and Rwanda in the late C19th, calling it German East Africa. It was seized by Belgium in 1916. From 1925 it was administered with the Belgian Congo, as a League of Nations (later UN) trust territory, continuing the German system of indirect rule through native princes.

In 1961, Uprona, the party formed by Louis, son of the reigning king or 'Mwami', Mwambutsa IV won UN supervised elections. Independence was peacefully achieved under the Tutsi monarchy but they could not control Tutsi/Hutu tensions. Louis was assassinated after only a fortnight as prime minister and succeeded by his brother in law, Andre Muhirwa. In 1962, Urundi separated from Ruanda and became fully independent as Burundi.

In 1966, Mwambutsa IV was deposed by his son Charles (Ntare V), and he was overthrown by his Prime Minister, Michel Micombero who proclaimed a Republic with himself as President. His military government extended the domination of the Tutsi minority and purged Hutu from key posts in the UPRONA party. In 1972, the Hutu rebelled, killing up to 10,000 Tutsi and the government retaliated by killing between 80,000 and 250,000 Hutu and executing Ntare V.

The country was declared a one-party state with Micombero president and prime minister but he was overthrown by Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza 1976 and Tutsi domination continued. In 1981 a new constitution provided for the election of a National Assembly. Bagaza was the sole candidate in the Presidential election and by 1985 was strengthening the army and accusing the Catholic church of inciting the Hutu. In 1987 he was overthrown by General Pierre Buyoya, another Tutsi. Some Hutu were appointed to government posts but a fresh outbreak of genocide in 1988 led to tens of thousands fleeing the country. A new constitution was approved by a referendum in 1992 but unrest has continued.

Although only 15% of the population is Tutsi it operates a system similar to apartheid over the 80% Hutu population. Kirundi and French are the official languages, Swahili is also spoken and Catholicism and traditional beliefs are followed.



Audace Mio Mwambutsa Myo Natare  


Bagaza Buyoya Hatungimana Kwizera Ndadaye Nicombero
Niyangabo Niyongabo Niyonizigiye Nizigama Obadele Sinzoyiheba

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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