Burundi Social Structure

Burundi Church

Ethnic groups or ethnic groups

Similar to Rwanda, three different ethnic groups or ethnic groups live in Burundi: the Hutu, who represent the largest group numerically (approx. 80%) and belong to the Bantu peoples, the Tutsi, a minority of approx. 10-15% probably Nilotic Origin and the Twa. The latter represent only a marginal group with approx. 1-2%, but are considered to be the original population of Central Africa. The Twa or Batwa are still one of the other two ethnic groups who are strongly marginalized Ethnic group. Originally hunter-gatherers, the Twa kept this way of life into the 20th century. Since hunting was officially banned in Burundi’s already heavily cleared forests in the 1970’s, the Twa have not been able to continue this tradition. They often live in separate neighborhoods and often make meager livelihoods with begging, prostitution or simple work. In recent years, attempts have been made to strengthen the rights of the Twa and to reduce prejudice.

Historically, the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi over political supremacy and economic resources is one of the main causes of the genocide in Rwanda, but also in Burundi, ethnic differences are responsible for the diverse outbreaks of violence.

The use of the term ethnicity is scientifically incorrect. Because ethnicities differ in many areas. The people of Burundi, however, speak the same Bantu Kirundi language, form a common social structure and share religious beliefs. They share a common history as well as the same culture and living space. An originally similar social structure and the same colonial past with the neighboring country Rwanda is common to the countries. Various causes are held responsible for the fact that the population of Burundi has developed an “ethnic” consciousness in the course of history, so that a division of society on the basis of ethnic lines and people identify with one of the groups. What is certain is that the colonial powers Germany and Belgium also played a role in this. The question of political power is still controversially discussed today: ethnically or democratically oriented? The history of settlement and the timing of immigration and settlement colonization are also not clear, as in Rwanda. It is believed that the original population of the Twa was formed by the settlement of the Bantu peoples, the Hutu, mainly from West Africa, in the years 1300 AD. has been severely decimated. The farming Hutu probably saw the arrival of the Tutsi in the next 1000 years.

According to mathgeneral, among the youth of Burundi, ethnic differences seem to play less and less of a role: hope for a future conflict-free coexistence of the population groups in the country.

Gender diversity / LGBTQI / homosexuality

Although the 2005 constitution stipulates non-discrimination against LGBTQI people, in 2009, for example, the government declared same-sex marriages unconstitutional. Many of those affected explain that by 2009 a more and more tolerant attitude towards LGBT people had developed and that the change in the law was a major setback for the development of human rights and tolerance in Burundi. Homosexuality has even been a criminal offense since 2010 and homosexual people are persecuted in Burundi. It is therefore particularly hard for homosexuals in Burundi to develop their personality freely. Even the president speaks of a scourge for humanity. Since 2017, the situation has become more serious for those affected: the government is fueling a downright hunt for homosexuals and LGBTQI. Discrimination has serious social consequences: exclusion from families and schools, increased violence and persecution. However, some of those affected try to fight for their rights. The human rights organization “Humure” deals with the protection of LGBTQI, but has to maintain a neutral exterior so that it does not come into conflict with the government. Lesbian women face double discrimination because they are expected to play the roles of wife and mother.


Most of the population in Burundi belongs to Christianity. 62% are Roman Catholic, 5% Protestant. 10% are Muslim. Christianity was brought to Burundi by the missionaries at the end of the 19th century, above all the White Fathers or Pères Blancs. The missionaries only succeeded in convincing the Burundi population of Christianity much later than in Rwanda. The Catholic Church still has a socio-political significance, for example in the peace process and also in politics – with great influence. The Church – Catholics and Protestants – also maintains many development projects in Burundi, including many German initiatives. Islam found it difficult to assert itself alongside Christianity, and Muslims feel marginalized. The Anglican Church is also active in Burundi. In addition, many newer religious communities can establish themselves in Burundi, a development which, however, is viewed critically by only a few. Most of the Burundian people are very tolerant of other religious beliefs. Only under the Bagaza regime was the role of the Catholic Church restrictedas Bagaza feared them as Hutu gatherings. Jehovah’s Witnesses were also banned as a religious community in 1986, but allowed again after Bagaza’s reign ended. In addition to the large churches and religions, natural religions are also widespread, especially in rural areas. The anthropological thinking of the Burundians is essentially related to their belief in IMANA (God). Imana is the creator of all things and the father of all people.

Most of the Burundian population is very religious. Criticism of the church and of religion in general is rarely expressed. As a former pastor, President Nkurunziza sees himself as the Messiah in Burundi. He uses his faith to stay in power by pretending to be chosen by God. The great piety of the population is also evident in the time of the corona pandemic. One generally feels that God is protected from this infection.

Burundi Church