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The country lies along the East African rift and experiences occasional tremors and earthquakes.
Forty-four percent of the land is arable, but only 9 percent is planted with permanent crops. The most fertile areas are in the highlands, where temperatures are moderate and rainfall averages sixty inches (152 centimeters) a year. The plateau is also wooded, particularly at the higher altitudes.
Through much of the country's history, the majority (around 85 percent) of the people have been Hutu.
The Tutsi, the largest minority, traditionally have accounted for about 14 percent of the population. The ethnic balance has begun to shift as Hutu from Burundi have fled to neighboring Rwanda to escape ethnic persecution and Tutsi have escaped violence in Rwanda and settled in Burundi.
Swahili, a mixture of Arabic and Bantu languages that is the language of trade and business in much of East Africa, also is spoken, mostly in the region of Lake Tanganyika and in the capital city. This is reflected in the language: a typical Kirundi greeting, Amashyo, translates as "May you have herds of cattle." The language is full of references in which cattle stand for health, happiness, and prosperity. The original inhabitants of present-day Burundi are thought to be the Twa people, descendants of the pygmies.
The Hutu arrived from the west in a gradual migration between the seventh and the eleventh centuries.
The Twa also speak Kirundi, although theirs is a slightly different dialect.
While these cultures have coexisted in the area for centuries and now share a common language and many common cultural elements, they remain separate in terms of group identification. Burundi is a small landlocked country in east central Africa, bordering Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.From the seventeenth through the nineteen centuries, the kingdom continued to expand, eventually encompassing parts of present-day Rwanda and Tanzania.However, rule was decentralized, following a system similar to that of feudal lords, and internal conflicts led to a situation in which the king controlled only half the land that was nominally part of his domain by 1900.In 1885, Germany declared present-day Burundi and Rwanda part of its sphere of influence, forming a territory it called German East Africa; however, Germans did not begin to settle in the area until 1906.They made a deal with the Tutsi king, guaranteeing him protection from his enemies in exchange for following German commands, thus making the king a puppet.
The Tutsi began to appear in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, migrating from the Nile region in present-day Sudan and Ethiopia south and west in search of new cattle pastures.