Burundi is considered to be the second or third poorest country in the world. Its population, like that of its neighbour Rwanda, is drawn from the three tribes that dominate this part of equatorial Africa: the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Twa.
In October 1993 the first democratically elected president of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated during a failed military coup. He had only been in office for three months. His assassination sparked off an escalating series of bloody attacks that eventually became the Burundian Civil War, a decade-long battle for dominance between the tribes that is thought to have claimed around 30,000 lives.
At the same time, neighbouring Rwanda was suffering a similarly violent civil war after the (mainly Tutsi) Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded the country in 1990. Four years later, in 1994, a plane carrying both the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and the Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down in Kigali. This event led to the Rwandan Genocide, a three month period during which around half a million to a million people were killed by the interim government of Rwanda.
It is still unclear who shot down the plane carrying the presidents.