Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, lies at the northeastern end of Lake Tanganyika. The old section of the city comprises buildings from the German and Belgian colonial periods, as well as a central market filled with hundreds...
The vast majority of Burundi’s population is Hutu, traditionally a farming people. Power, however, has long rested with the Tutsi minority, which historically has controlled the army and most of the economy, particularly the lucrative international export of coffee. Few real cultural differences are distinguishable between the two peoples, and both speak Rundi (Kirundi). Such linguistic homogeneity is rare in sub-Saharan Africa and emphasizes the historically close cultural and ethnic ties among the peoples in Burundi. Even so, ethnic conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi has plagued the country since it gained independence from Belgium in 1962, at a great cost in human life and property. Few Burundians escaped the ensuing anarchy into which the country was plunged when this interethnic violence flared anew in the 1990s, a bloody conflagration that well illustrated the Rundi proverb “Do not call for lightning to strike down your enemies, for it also may strike down your friends.” Neither the presence of an international peacekeeping force beginning in the late 1990s nor the ratification of an agreement to share power between Hutu and Tutsi were immediately effective in curbing interethnic violence, which also spilled into the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Burundians are now faced with the task of quelling ethnic dissent, promoting unity, and rebuilding the country.
Food in Daily Life. The most common foods are beans, corn, peas, millet, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas. The diet consists mainly of carbohydrates; vitamins and minerals are provided by fruits, vegetables, and combinations of grains, but little fat and protein are available. Meat accounts for 2 percent or less of the average food intake. As a result, kwashiorkor, a disease caused by protein deficiency, is common. Fish is consumed in the areas around Lake Tanganyika. Meal production is labor-intensive. The cassava root is washed, pounded, and strained, and sorghum is ground into flour for pancakes or porridge. The porridge is rolled into a ball with one hand and dipped in gravy or sauce.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Beer is an important part of social interactions and is consumed at all important occasions, such as the marriage negotiations between two families. It is drunk through straws. A number of food customs revolve around the treatment of cows, which are considered sacred. For example, milk cannot be heated or boiled or drunk on the same day that peas or peanuts are consumed. When a cow dies, the family eats its meat and then plants its horns in the soil near the house to bring good luck.
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The whole Afar Depression is a plate tectonic triple junction where the spreading submarine ridges that formed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden emerge on land