Population: 4.86 million, according to the United Nations, as of mid-1986. About 85 percent of population is Hutu, a Bantu group that has long played a subservient role, politically and economically, to the Tutsi, now about 15 percent of the total population. Both groups speak Kirundi, one of the country's two official languages; the other is French. Less than one percent of the population is Twa or pygmies. :: Area: 10,747 square miles. Hilly terrain, rising from 2,600 feet along Lake Tanganyika to more than 9,000 feet. About 150,000 live in the capital, Bujumbura. :: Armed forces: 5,500 total; 5,000 in the army. The 150-man Air Force has three unspecified combat aircraft. Navy consists of three patrol boats used on Lake Tanganyika. :: Economy: Per capita GNP was $130 in 1985 according to the World Bank, making Burundi one of Africa's poorest countries. Coffee provides about 85 percent of foreign earnings. The government is attempting to diversify and promote exports of tea, cotton and textiles, but is hampered by the country's landlocked position and poor infrastructure. :: Modern history: A German colony from the 1890s until 1916, when it came under Belgian rule. It was united with neighboring Rwanda as Ruanda-Urundi until independence as a kingdom in 1962. In 1966, after severe political unrest and economic stagnation, it became a republic in an Army-backed coup led by Capt. Michel Micombero. Ethnic tension mounted, culminating in massacres of up to 200,000 people in 1972 when Tutsi rulers butchered almost all educated Hutu in an attempt to achieve total Tutsi control.

Micombero was ousted in 1976 by Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, who worked for national reconciliation although the Tutsi remained dominant. From early 1985, Bagaza attempted to restrict the power of the church by limiting services and reducing the number of foreign missionaries. Nearly 65 percent of the population are believed to be Roman Catholic.

SOURCE: Reuter