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Burundi, History

In the early 14th century, the Hutu arrived, probably from the Congo Basin, and imposed their language and customs on the Twa, who are believed to be Burundiís original inhabitants. The development of an organized kingdom began in the 15th century, when the Tutsi, probably migrating from the north, established themselves as feudal rulers. Tutsi kings, or mwamis, became monarchs of distinct kingdoms in Burundi and Rwanda. Their rule was enforced by chiefs and subchiefs, who each ruled an umusozi, a fiefdom consisting of a single hill. Political and economic relations were based on an unequal feudal relationship, known as the ubugabire system, in which most Hutu became serfs subjugated by and economically dependent on the Tutsi. However, Burundiís economic and sociopolitical structures were not as rigid as those of Rwanda. The power of the mwami was not absolute, and various princely leaders, known as ganwa, often vied for the throne. Unlike in Rwanda, marriages between Hutu and Tutsi were common in Burundi.

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