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Burundi - People

Although Hutus encompass the majority of the population, historically Tutsis were politically and economically dominant. While there are no reliable data, it is estimated that about 85 percent of the population is Hutu, and 15 percent is Tutsi. A third group, the Twa, constitutes less than one percent. These groups are usually called "ethnic groups" although they share the same culture, history and language (a language of the Bantu family, Kirundi, almost identical to the one spoken in Rwanda).

According to the traditional racial stereotype, the Hutu were short and stocky, the Tutsi tall and lanky. The Hutu tended to till the land, and the Tutsi raised and herded cattle. But they cannot be distinguished with any accuracy, even by the Burundians themselves, through physical or other characteristics. A person belongs to the same ethnic group as his or her father. Intermarriage between Hutus and Tutsis has traditionally been common. Rwandan identity cards noted whether the person was Tutsi or Hutu, while similar cards in Burundi omit ethnic references.

It is a Burundian cultural trait to take pride in one’s ability to hide one’s thoughts and feelings. In general, openness is felt to be a weakness while deceit is socially accepted.

At about 300 persons per sq. km., Burundi has the second-largest population density in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most people live on farms near areas of fertile volcanic soil. The population is made up of three major ethnic groups--Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa.

Ethnic groups are Hutu (Bantu) 85%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 14%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%, Europeans 3,000, South Asians 2,000. Kirundi 29.7% (official), Kirundi and other language 9.1%, French (official) and French and other language 0.3%, Swahili and Swahili and other language 0.2% (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area), English and English and other language 0.06%, more than 2 languages 3.7%, unspecified 56.9% (2008 est.)

Nearly 90-95 percent of the population is rural. The rural population is dispersed, with each family living on its plot, so that, except for the lakeshore and the provincial capitals, there are practically no significant towns or villages.

The Tutsi are though of as tall, slender, angular, relatively light-skinned Nilotic people. Their average height is 5 feet, 8 inches, and the average weight is 126 l)ouwds. Some members of the court or certain royal dancers are more than 6 feet, 3 inches tall, but these individuals are from a specific, highly inbred Clan and do not represent the average. The Tutsi have been pastoralists and warriors since their earliest known history. Since their arrival in the area 300 to 400 years ago. they have controlled the Burundi populace posed of an elite minority of Tsutsi lords and the majority of Hutu commoners in a sharply stratified society.

Average Hutu males were thought of as 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weigh 180 pounds. They are generally stocky, with muscular frames. Because of considerable intermixing with the Tutsi over the past four or five centuries, many Hutu have the lighter skin and more slender body structure of the Tutsi. Traditionally, they were hoe cultivators with little division of labor by sex.

The Twa, the original hunter-gatherer inhabitants, numbered approximately 80,000 and constituted less than 1 percent of the population. They generally remained economically, politically, and socially marginalized. Lack of education, employment, and access to land were cited as the major problems. Local administrations must provide free schoolbooks and health care for all Twa children and two acres of land per family (comparable with the countrywide average size of a farmstead). Local administrations largely fulfilled these requirements. The constitution provides three appointed seats for Twa in each of the houses of parliament. Following the 2010 election, there were allegations that one of these three Senate seats was occupied by a non-Twa. During the year the Constitutional Court ruled that the incumbent of the third seat was a Twa; other Twa continued to claim the incumbent was a Hutu.

The 1993–2005 conflict continues to have a significant adverse impact on women in Burundi. As with other neighboring countries mired in conflict in the Great Lakes region, it is widely acknowledged that gender-based violence was used as a weapon of war in Burundi. Due to the departure or death of male heads of households, the number of female-headed households increased.

However, the legal and social environment restricts women’s purchase and inheritance of land and other assets as well as the sale of their own products. Female-headed households are generally less wealthy than male-headed households. It has been noted that children from female-headed households often leave school early to help earn income to feed the family, and girls marry early in an effort to improve their circumstances.

As Burundi is a largely patriarchal society, women depend on their relationships with men to access resources. Currently, only 8% of women own land without sharing the title with other family members, while 54% are landowners who share the title with sons, husbands, or fathers. Women who live in urban centers and have a high school education are less likely to be landowners. For common property, such as houses, 46% of titles list women as co-owners.

The population of Burundi is estimated at 10.88 million (CIA World Factbook 2013). This reflects a growing youth bulge, with 45% of the total population under 15 years, and 50% of the total population under 20, and a median age of 17 years. The fertility rate in Burundi is high and women enter marriage (en union) at the median age of 20.3 years. Each woman, on average, gives birth to 6.4 children.

Burundi’s health indicators are challenging and performance has been considerably weaker than those of the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease burden is dominated by infectious and communicable diseases, primarily HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrhea. Respiratory tract infections, malaria, and waterborne diseases, particularly diarrhea, remain the main causes of death in children under five years of age. In adults, AIDS is among the leading causes of death - although, given the stigma attached, it is likely under-reported. Many of these communicable diseases can be effectively prevented or managed by affordable and proven public health interventions, including immunization, health education, and environmental health. In addition, chronic and non-communicable diseases, such as malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes and mental illness, also factor into the overall health morbidity and mortality rates in Burundi.

The prevalence of malnutrition in children under 5 is extremely high in Burundi. The national prevalence of stunting is 58 percent, underweight 29 percent, and wasting almost 6 percent. The prevalence of malnutrition among children under 5 differs greatly between Bujumbura, the capital, where the prevalence of stunting is relatively low, and the rest of the country, where stunting is very high (ranging from 55 percent to over 62 percent) and underweight ranges from 25 percent to 33 percent.

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Page last modified: 14-12-2015 16:53:56 ZULU