Tiny Burundi has history of ethnic violence
(CNN) -- In an area slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maryland, Burundi's 6 million people are hemmed into east-central Africa by Tanzania to the south and east, Rwanda to the north and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west.
Once a part of German East Africa, the Republic of Burundi gained independence in 1962 from a United Nations trusteeship under the administration of Belgium.
Resource-poor, 90 percent of Burundi's population depends on subsistence agriculture. Coffee is the economy's chief crop. The country is mostly mountainous, leveling into a plateau on the east, and some plains.
Ethnic violence between majority Hutus and minority Tutsis -- who have controlled the country since independence -- between 1993 and 1999 cost more than a quarter million lives and displaced more than 800,000 people.
But the ethnic violence began much earlier with a Hutu rebellion -- brutally put down by the Tutsi rulers -- in 1965, which was largely ignored by the rest of the world. Finally, international pressure forced multiparty elections in 1993, which were won by the Hutus.
But elected president Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated four months into his term and his successor -- Cyprien Ntaryamira, another Hutu -- was killed when a plane carrying him and the Rwandan president was shot down.
Burundi fell into disarray.
Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, was named interim president in 1996. Buyoya had overthrown the government of President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, who had also ascended power at the head of a military coup, in 1987.
Peace talks supposedly brought an end to the fighting in 1999, but Hutu rebels continued their fight to overthrow the Tutsi-led government, reaching the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, in February.
Burundi state radio says government overthrown
Burundi Home Page
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