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Republic of Burundi
  • Republika y'Uburundi  (Kirundi)
  • République du Burundi  (French)
Flag Coat of arms
  • "Ubumwe, Ibikorwa, Amajambere" (Kirundi)
  • "Unity, Work, Progress" (English)
  • "Unité, Travail, Progrès" (French)
Anthem: Burundi Bwacu  (Kirundi)
Our Burundi
Location of  Burundi  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)– in the African Union  (light blue)
Location of  Burundi  (dark blue)

– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)
– in the African Union  (light blue)

and largest city
3°30′S 30°00′E / 3.500°S 30.000°E / -3.500; 30.000
Official languages
Ethnic groups
  • 85% Hutu
  • 14% Tutsi
  •   1% Twa
  • ~3,000 Europeans
  • ~2,000 South Asians
Demonym Burundian
Government Presidential republic
 •  President Pierre Nkurunziza[1]
 •  1st Vice President Terence Sinunguruza
 •  2nd Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri
Legislature Parliament
 •  Upper house Senate
 •  Lower house National Assembly
 •  1945–1962 
 •  Independence from Belgium 1 July 1962 
 •  Republic 1 July 1966 
 •  Constitution of Burundi 28 February 2005 
 •  Total 27,834 km2 (145th)
10,745 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 7.8
 •  2014 estimate 10,395,931 [2] (86th)
 •  2008 census 8,053,574[3]
 •  Density 314/km2 (45th)
814/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 •  Total $8.378 billion[4]
 •  Per capita $910[4]
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 •  Total $3.094 billion[4]
 •  Per capita $336[4]
Gini (2006) 33[5]
HDI (2013) Steady 0.389[6]
low · 180th
Currency Burundian franc (FBu) (BIF)
Time zone CAT (UTC+2)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the right
Calling code +257
ISO 3166 code BI
Internet TLD .bi
a. "Ganza Sabwa" before 1966.

Burundi (/bəˈrʊndɨ/ or /bəˈrʌndi/), officially the Republic of Burundi (Kirundi: Republika y'Uburundi,[7] [buˈɾundi]; French: République du Burundi, [buʁundi] or [byʁyndi]), is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is also sometimes considered part of Central Africa. Burundi's capital is Bujumbura. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.

The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least five hundred years. For more than 200 years, Burundi was an independent kingdom. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany colonized the region. After the First World War and Germany's defeat, it ceded the territory to Belgium. The Belgians ruled Burundi and Rwanda as a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. Their intervention exacerbated social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu, and contributed to political unrest in the region. Burundi gained independence in 1962 and initially had a monarchy, but a series of assassinations, coups, and a general climate of regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and one-party state in 1966. Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and again in the 1990s left the country undeveloped and its population as one of the world's poorest.[8] 2015 witnessed large-scale political strife as the President opted to run for a third term in office, a coup attempt failed and the country's parliamentary and presidential elections were broadly criticized by members of the international community.

In addition to poverty, Burundians often have to deal with corruption, weak infrastructure, poor access to health and education services, and hunger.[9] Burundi is densely populated and has had substantial emigration as young people seek opportunities elsewhere.


Main article: History of Burundi

Kingdom of Burundi[edit]

Main article: Kingdom of Burundi

The last Burundian monarchy is said to have begun in the late 17th century.


Germany established armed forces in Ruanda and Burundi at the end of the 19th century, colonizing the area and establishing German East Africa. After being defeated in World War I, Germany was forced to cede "control" of a section of the former German East Africa to Belgium.[10]

On 20 October 1924, this land, which consisted of modern-day Rwanda and Burundi, became a Belgian League of Nations mandate territory. In practical terms it was considered part of the Belgian colonial empire, and was known as Ruanda-Urundi. Ruanda-Urundi continued its kingship dynasty despite the invasion of Europeans.[11][12]

Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi was classified as a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administrative authority.[11] During the 1940s, a series of policies caused divisions throughout the country. On 4 October 1943, powers were split in the legislative division of Burundi's government between chiefdoms and lower chiefdoms. Chiefdoms were in charge of land, and lower sub-chiefdoms were established. Native authorities also had powers.[12] In 1948, Belgium allowed the region to form political parties.[10] These factions contributed to gaining Burundi's independence from Belgium.


Flag of the Kingdom of Burundi (1962–1966).
Independence Square and monument in Bujumbura.

On 20 January 1959, Burundi's ruler Mwami Mwambutsa IV requested Burundi's independence from Belgium and dissolution of the Ruanda-Urundi union.[13] In the following months, Burundian political parties began to advocate for the end of Belgian colonial rule and the separation of Rwanda and Burundi.[13] The first and largest of these political parties was the Union for National Progress (UPRONA).

Burundi's push for independence was influenced by the Rwandan Revolution and the accompanying instability and ethnic conflict that occurred there. Many Rwandan Tutsi fled Rwanda and arrived in Burundi.[14][15][16]

Burundi's first elections took place on 8 September 1961 and UPRONA, a multi-ethnic unity party led by Prince Louis Rwagasore won just over 80% of the electorate's votes. In the wake of the elections, on 13 October, the 29-year-old Prince Rwagasore was assassinated, robbing Burundi of its most popular and well-known nationalist.[10][17]

The country claimed independence on 1 July 1962,[10] and legally changed its name from Ruanda-Urundi to Burundi.[18] Burundi became a constitutional monarchy with Mwami Mwambutsa IV, Prince Rwagasore's father, serving as the country's king.[15] On 18 September 1962 Burundi joined the United Nations.[19]

In 1963, King Mwambutsa appointed a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, but he was assassinated on 15 January 1965 by a Rwandan Tutsi employed by the U.S. Embassy. The assassination occurred in the broader context of the Congo Crisis during which Western anti-communist countries were confronting pro-communist countries (e.g. the Chinese Communists) who were attempting to make Burundi a logistics base for communist insurgents battling in Congo.[20][21] Parliamentary elections in May, 1965 brought a majority of Hutu into the parliament, but when King Mwambutsa appointed a Tutsi prime minister, some Hutu felt this was unjust and ethnic tensions were further increased. In October 1965, an attempted coup d'état led by the Hutu-dominated police was carried out but failed. The Tutsi dominated army, then led by Tutsi officer Captain Michel Micombero[22] purged Hutu from their ranks and carried out reprisal attacks which ultimately claimed the lives of up to 5,000 people in a predecessor to the 1972 Burundian Genocide.[23]

King Mwambutsa, who had fled the country during the October coup of 1965 was deposed by a coup in July 1966 and his teenage son, Prince Ntare V, claimed the throne. Later that same year, Tutsi Prime Minister, then-Captain Michel Micombero, carried out another coup in November, 1966, this time deposing Ntare, abolishing the monarchy and declaring the nation a republic, though his one-party government was effectively a military dictatorship.[10] As president, Micombero became an advocate of African socialism and received support from the People's Republic of China. He imposed a staunch regime of law and order and sharply repressed Hutu militarism.

Civil War and First Burundian Genocide[edit]

Further information: Burundian Genocide

In late April 1972, two events led to the outbreak of the First Burundian Genocide. On April 27, 1972, a rebellion led by some Hutu members of the gendarmerie broke out in the lakeside towns of Rumonge and Nyanza-Lac and the rebels declared the short-lived Martyazo Republic.[24][25] The rebels attacked Tutsi and Hutu who refused to join their rebellion.[26][27] It is estimated that during this initial Hutu outbreak, anywhere from 800 to 1200 people were killed.[28] At the same time, King Ntare V of Burundi returned from exile, heightening political tension in the country. On 29 April 1972, the 24-year-old Ntare V was murdered and in the subsequent months, the Tutsi-dominated government of Micombero used the army to combat the Hutu rebels and commit genocide in which they targeted members of the Hutu majority. The total number of casualties was never established, but contemporary estimates show that between 80,000 to 210,000 people were killed.[29][30] In addition, several hundred thousand Hutu are estimated to have fled the genocide into Zaire, Rwanda, and Tanzania.[30][31]

Following the civil war and genocide, Micombero became mentally distraught and withdrawn. In 1976, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, a Tutsi, led a bloodless coup and toppled Micombero. He then set about promoting various reforms. His administration drafted a new constitution in 1981, which maintained Burundi as a one-party state.[22] In August 1984, Bagaza was elected head of state. During his tenure, Bagaza suppressed political opponents and religious freedoms.

Major Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi) overthrew Bagaza in 1987 and suspended the constitution, dissolving the political parties. He reinstated military rule under the Military Committee for National Salvation (CSMN).[22] Anti-Tutsi ethnic propaganda disseminated by the remnants of the 1972 UBU, which had re-organized as PALIPEHUTU in 1981, led to killings of Tutsi peasants in the northern communes of Ntega and Marangara in August 1988. The death toll was put at 5,000[citation needed] by the government, though some international NGOs believe this understates the losses.

The new regime did not unleash the harsh reprisals of 1972. Its effort to gain trust was eroded when it decreed an amnesty for those who had called for, carried out, and taken credit for the killings. Many analysts consider this period as the beginning of the "culture of impunity." But other analysts consider the "culture of impunity" to have started from 1965 and 1972, when the revolt of a small and identifiable number of Hutus unleashed massive killings of Tutsis on the whole territory.[citation needed]

In the aftermath of the killings, a group of Hutu intellectuals wrote an open letter to Pierre Buyoya, asking for more representation of the Hutu in the administration. The signatories were arrested and jailed. A few weeks later, Buyoya appointed a new government, with an equal number of Hutu and Tutsi among his ministers. He appointed Adrien Sibomana (Hutu) as Prime Minister. Buyoya also created a commission to address issues of national unity.[22] In 1992, the government promulgated a new constitution that provided for a multi-party system.[22] Civil war broke out.

An estimated 250,000 people died in Burundi from the combined conflicts between 1962 and 1993.[32] Since Burundi's independence in 1962, there have been two events called genocides in the country. The 1972 mass killings of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army,[33] and the 1993 mass killings of Tutsis by the Hutu majority. Both are described as genocide in the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi presented in 2002 to the United Nations Security Council.[34]

First attempt at democracy[edit]

In June 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, leader of the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), won the first democratic election. He became the first Hutu head of state, leading a pro-Hutu government. In October 1993, Tutsi soldiers assassinated Ndadaye, an act which resulted in years of violence between Hutu and Tutsi. It is estimated that some 300,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the years following the assassination.[35]

In early 1994, the parliament elected Cyprien Ntaryamira (Hutu) to the office of president. He and the president of Rwanda died together when their airplane was shot down. More refugees started fleeing to Rwanda. Speaker of Parliament, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (Hutu), was appointed as president in October 1994. A coalition government involving 12 of the 13 parties was formed. A feared general massacre was averted, but violence broke out. A number of Hutu refugees in the capital,[citation needed] Bujumbura, were killed. The mainly Tutsi Union for National Progress withdrew from the government and parliament.

In 1996, Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi) took power through a coup d’état. He suspended the constitution and was sworn in as president in 1998. In response to rebel attacks, the government forced much of the population to relocate to refugee camps.[36] Under Buyoya's rule, long peace talks started, mediated by South Africa. Both parties signed agreements in Arusha, Tanzania and Pretoria, South Africa, to share power in Burundi. The agreements took four years to plan.

On 28 August 2000, a transitional government for Burundi was planned as a part of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. The transitional government was placed on a trial basis for five years. After several aborted cease-fires, a 2001 peace plan and power-sharing agreement has been relatively successful. A cease-fire was signed in 2003 between the Tutsi-controlled Burundian government and the largest Hutu rebel group, CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy).[37]

In 2003, FRODEBU leader Domitien Ndayizeye (Hutu) was elected president.[38] In early 2005, ethnic quotas were formed for determining positions in Burundi's government. Throughout the year, elections for parliament and president occurred.[39]

Pierre Nkurunziza (Hutu), once a leader of a rebel group, was elected president in 2005. As of 2008, the Burundian government was talking with the Hutu-led Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (NLF)[40] to bring peace to the country.[41]

Peace agreements[edit]

African leaders began a series of peace talks between the warring factions following a request by the United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for them to intervene in the humanitarian crisis. Talks were initiated under the aegis of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in 1995; following his death, South African President Nelson Mandela took the helm. As the talks progressed, South African President Thabo Mbeki and United States President Bill Clinton also lent their respective weight.

The peace talks took the form of Track I mediations. This method of negotiation can be defined as a form of diplomacy involving governmental or intergovernmental representatives, who may use their positive reputations, mediation, or the "carrot and stick" method as a means of obtaining or forcing an outcome, frequently along the lines of "bargaining" or "win-lose".[42]

The main objective was to transform the Burundian government and military structurally in order to bridge the ethnic gap between the Tutsi and Hutu. It was to take place in two major steps. First, a transitional power-sharing government would be established, with the presidents holding office for three-year terms. The second objective involved a restructuring of the military, where the two groups would be represented equally.

As the protracted nature of the peace talks demonstrated, the mediators and negotiating parties confronted several obstacles. First, the Burundian officials perceived the goals as "unrealistic" and viewed the treaty as ambiguous, contradictory and confusing. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the Burundians believed the treaty would be irrelevant without an accompanying cease fire. This would require separate and direct talks with the rebel groups. The main Hutu party was skeptical of the offer of a power-sharing government; they alleged that they had been deceived by the Tutsi in past agreements.

In 2000, the Burundian President signed the treaty, as well as 13 of the 19 warring Hutu and Tutsi factions. Disagreements persisted over which group would preside over the nascent government and when the ceasefire would begin. The spoilers of the peace talks were the hardliner Tutsi and Hutu groups who refused to sign the accord; as a result, violence intensified. Three years later at a summit of African leaders in Tanzania, the Burundian president and the main opposition Hutu group signed an accord to end the conflict; the signatory members were granted ministerial posts within the government. However, smaller militant Hutu groups – such as the Forces for National Liberation – remained active.

UN involvement[edit]

Between 1993 and 2003, many rounds of peace talks, overseen by regional leaders in Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda, gradually established power-sharing agreements to satisfy the majority of the contending groups. Initially the South African Protection Support Detachment was deployed to protect Burundian leaders returning from exile. These forces became part of the African Union Mission to Burundi, deployed to help oversee the installation of a transitional government. In June 2004, the UN stepped in and took over peacekeeping responsibilities as a signal of growing international support for the already markedly advanced peace process in Burundi.[43]

The mission’s mandate, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, has been to monitor cease-fire; carry out disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; support humanitarian assistance and refugee and IDP return; assist with elections; protect international staff and Burundian civilians; monitor Burundi’s troublesome borders, including halting illicit arms flows; and assist in carrying out institutional reforms including those of the Constitution, judiciary, armed forces, and police. The mission has been allotted 5,650 military personnel, 120 civilian police, and about 1,000 international and local civilian personnel. The mission has been functioning well. It has greatly benefited from the transitional government, which has functioned and is in the process of transitioning to one that will be popularly elected.[43]

The main difficulty in the early stages was continued resistance to the peace process by the last Hutu nationalist rebel group. This organization continued its violent conflict on the outskirts of the capital despite the UN’s presence. By June 2005, the group had stopped fighting, and its representatives were brought back into the political process. All political parties have accepted a formula for inter-ethnic power-sharing: no political party can gain access to government offices unless it is ethnically integrated.[43]

The focus of the UN’s mission had been to enshrine the power-sharing arrangements in a popularly voted constitution, so that elections may be held and a new government installed. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were done in tandem with elections preparations. In February 2005, the Constitution was approved with over 90% of the popular vote. In May, June, and August 2005, three separate elections were also held at the local level for the Parliament and the presidency.

While there are still some difficulties with refugee returns and securing adequate food supplies for the war-weary population, the mission managed to win the trust and confidence of a majority of the formerly warring leaders, as well as the population at large.[43] It was involved with several "quick effect" projects, including rehabilitating and building schools, orphanages, health clinics, and rebuilding infrastructure such as water lines.

2006 to 2015[edit]

View of the capital city Bujumbura in 2006.

Reconstruction efforts in Burundi started to practically take effect after 2006. The UN shut down its peacekeeping mission and re-focused on helping with reconstruction.[44] Toward achieving economic reconstruction, Rwanda, D.R.Congo and Burundi relaunched the regional Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries.[44] In addition, Burundi, along with Rwanda, joined the East African Community in 2007.

However, the terms of the September 2006 Ceasefire between the government and the last remaining armed opposition group, the FLN (Forces for National Liberation, also called NLF or FROLINA), were not totally implemented, and senior FLN members subsequently left the truce monitoring team, claiming that their security was threatened.[45] In September 2007, rival FLN factions clashed in the capital, killing 20 fighters and causing residents to begin fleeing. Rebel raids were reported in other parts of the country.[44] The rebel factions disagreed with the government over disarmament and the release of political prisoners.[46] In late 2007 and early 2008, FLN combatants attacked government-protected camps where former combatants were living. The homes of rural residents were also pillaged.[46]

The 2007 report[46] of Amnesty International mentions many areas where improvement is required. Civilians are victims of repeated acts of violence done by the FLN. The latter also recruits child soldiers. The rate of violence against women is high. Perpetrators regularly escape prosecution and punishment by the state. There is an urgent need for reform of the judicial system. Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity remain unpunished. The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Special Tribunal for investigation and prosecution has not yet been implemented. The freedom of expression is limited; journalists are frequently arrested for carrying out legitimate professional activities. A total of 38,087 Burundian refugees have been repatriated between January and November 2007.

In late March 2008, the FLN sought for the parliament to adopt a law guaranteeing them ‘provisional immunity’ from arrest. This would cover ordinary crimes, but not grave violations of international humanitarian law like war crimes or crimes against humanity .[46] Even though the government has granted this in the past to people, the FLN has been unable to obtain the provisional immunity.

On 17 April 2008, the FLN bombarded Bujumbura. The Burundian army fought back and the FLN suffered heavy losses. A new ceasefire was signed on 26 May 2008. In August 2008, President Nkurunziza met with the FLN leader Agathon Rwasa, with the mediation of Charles Nqakula, South Africa’s Minister for Safety and Security. This was the first direct meeting since June 2007. Both agreed to meet twice a week to establish a commission to resolve any disputes that might arise during the peace negotiations.[47]

Refugee camps are now closing down, and 450,000 refugees have returned. The economy of the country is shattered – as of 2011 Burundi has one of the lowest per capita gross incomes in the world. With the return of refugees, amongst others, property conflicts have started.

Burundi now participates in African Union peacekeeping missions, including the mission to Somalia against Al-Shahab militants.[48]

2015 unrest[edit]

Main article: 2015 Burundian unrest

In April 2015 protests broke out after the ruling party announced President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office.[49] Protestors claimed Nkurunziza could not run for a third term in office but the country's constitutional court agreed with the President (although some of its members had fled the country at the time of its vote).[50]

An attempted coup d'état on 13 May failed to depose Nkurunziza[51][52][53][54] who returned to Burundi began purging his government and arrested several of the coup leaders.[1][1][55][56] Following the attempted coup, protests however continued and over 100,000 people had fled the country by 20 May causing a humanitarian emergency.

Despite calls by the UN, AU, U.S., France, South Africa, Belgium and various other governments, the ruling party held parliamentary elections on 29 June but these were boycotted by the opposition.


Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi.
Main article: Politics of Burundi

Burundi's political system is that of a presidential representative democratic republic based upon a multi-party state. The President of Burundi is the head of state and head of government. There are currently 21 registered parties in Burundi.[10] On 13 March 1992, Tutsi coup leader Pierre Buyoya established a constitution,[57] which provided for a multi-party political process[58] and reflected multi-party competition. Six years later, on 6 June 1998, the constitution was changed, broadening National Assembly's seats and making provisions for two vice presidents. Because of the Arusha Accord, Burundi enacted a transitional government in 2000.[59]

Burundi's legislative branch is a bicameral assembly, consisting of the Transitional National Assembly and the Transitional Senate. As of 2004, the Transitional National Assembly consists of 170 members, with the Front for Democracy in Burundi holding 38% of seats, and 10% of the assembly is controlled by UPRONA. Fifty-two seats are controlled by other parties. Burundi's constitution mandates representation in the Transitional National Assembly to be consistent with 60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi, and 30% female members, as well as three Batwa members.[10] Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote and serve for five-year terms.[60]

The Transitional Senate has fifty-one members, and three seats are reserved for former presidents. Due to stipulations in Burundi's constitution, 30% of Senate members must be female. Members of the Senate are elected by electoral colleges, which consist of members from each of Burundi's provinces and communes.[10] For each of Burundi's eighteen provinces, one Hutu and one Tutsi senator are chosen. One term for the Transitional Senate is five years.[60]

Together, Burundi's legislative branch elect the President to a five-year term.[60] Burundi's president appoints officials to his Council of Ministers, which is also part of the executive branch.[59] The president can also pick fourteen members of the Transitional Senate to serve on the Council of Ministers.[10] Members of the Council of Ministers must be approved by two-thirds of Burundi's legislature. The president also chooses two vice-presidents.[60] As of 7 May 2015, the President of Burundi is Pierre Nkurunziza. The First Vice President is Therence Sinunguruza, and the Second Vice President is Gervais Rufyikiri.[61]

The Cour Suprême (Supreme Court) is Burundi's highest court. There are three Courts of Appeals directly below the Supreme Court. Tribunals of First Instance are used as judicial courts in each of Burundi's provinces as well as 123 local tribunals.[59]


Burundi is divided into eighteen provinces,[62] 117 communes,[10] and 2,638 collines (hills).[63] Provincial governments are structured upon these boundaries. In 2000, the province encompassing Bujumbura was separated into two provinces, Bujumbura Rural and Bujumbura Mairie.[8] The newest province, Rumonge, was created on 26 March 2015 from portions of Bujumbura Rural and Bururi.[64]


Map of Burundi.
Main article: Geography of Burundi

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi is landlocked and has an equatorial climate. Burundi is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the East African Rift. The country lies on a rolling plateau in the center of Africa. The average elevation of the central plateau is 1,707 m (5,600 ft), with lower elevations at the borders. The highest peak, Mount Heha at 2,685 m (8,810 ft),[66] lies to the southeast of the capital, Bujumbura. The source of the Nile River is in Bururi province, and is linked from Lake Victoria to its headwaters via the Ruvyironza River[67][clarification needed] Lake Victoria is also an important water source, which serves as a fork to the Kagera River.[68][69] Another major lake is Lake Tanganyika, located in much of Burundi's southwestern corner.[70]

Burundi's lands are mostly agricultural or pasture. Settlement by rural populations has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss.[71] Deforestation of the entire country is almost completely due to overpopulation, with a mere 600 km2 (230 sq mi) remaining and an ongoing loss of about 9% per annum.[72] There are two national parks, Kibira National Park to the northwest (a small region of rain forest, adjacent to Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda), Ruvubu National Park to the northeast (along the Rurubu River, also known as Ruvubu or Ruvuvu). Both were established in 1982 to conserve wildlife populations.[73]


Main article: Economy of Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked, resource-poor country with an underdeveloped manufacturing sector. The economy is predominantly agricultural; agriculture accounts for just over 30% of GDP and employs more than 90% of the population. Burundi's primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Burundi's export earnings – and its ability to pay for imports – rests primarily on weather conditions and international coffee and tea prices.

Graphical depiction of Burundi's product exports in 28 color-coded categories.

Burundi is one of the world's poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography,[11] poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 80% of Burundi's population lives in poverty.[74] Famines and food shortages have occurred throughout Burundi, most notably in the 20th century,[12] and according to the World Food Programme, 56.8% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition.[75] One scientific study of 178 nations rated Burundi's population as having the lowest satisfaction with life in the world.[76] As a result of deep poverty, Burundi is dependent on foreign aid.[11]

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi's largest industry is agriculture, which accounted for just over 30% of the GDP.[11] Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture.[77] The nation's largest source of revenue is coffee, which makes up 93% of Burundi's exports.[78] Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk, and hides. Foreign Policy reports, Subsistence farming is highly relied upon, however due to large population growth and no coherent policies governing land ownership, many people don't have the resources to sustain themselves. In 2014, the average farm size was about one acre. Burundi has the severest hunger and malnourishment rates of all 120 countries ranked in the Global Hunger Index."[79]

Some of Burundi's natural resources include uranium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and platinum.[80] Besides agriculture, other industries include: assembly of imported components; public works construction; food processing, and light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes, and soap.

In regards to telecommunications infrastructure, Burundi is ranked 2nd to last in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies. Burundi ranked number 147 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, down from 144 in 2013.[81]

Lack of access to financial services is a serious problem for the majority of the population, particularly in the densely populated rural areas: only 2% of the total population holds bank accounts, and fewer than 0.5% use bank lending services. Microfinance, however, plays a larger role, with 4% of Burundians being members of microfinance institutions – a larger share of the population than that reached by banking and postal services combined. 26 licensed microfinance institutions (MFIs) offer savings, deposits, and short- to medium-term credit. Dependence of the sector on donor assistance is limited.[82]

Burundi is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation. Economic growth in Burundi is relatively steady but Burundi is still behind neighboring countries.[83]

Burundian Franc[edit]

Main article: Burundian Franc

Burundi's currency is the Burundian franc (BIF).

The franc (ISO 4217 code is BIF) is the currency of Burundi. It is nominally subdivided into 100 centimes, although coins have never been issued in centimes since Burundi began issuing its own currency. Only when Burundi used the Belgian Congo franc were centime coins ever issued.

Monetary Policy is controlled by the central bank, Bank of the Republic of Burundi.

Current BIF exchange rates


Main article: Transport in Burundi
Bicycles are a popular means of transportation in Burundi

Burundi's transportation network is limited and underdeveloped. According to a 2012 DHL Global Connectedness Index, Burundi is the least globalized of 140 surveyed countries.[84] Bujumbura International Airport is the only airport with a paved runway and as of May 2015 it was serviced by five airlines (Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Kenya Airways and RwandAir). Kigali is the city with the most daily flight connections to Bujumbura. The country has a road network but as of 2004 less than 10% of the country's roads were paved and as of 2013 private bus companies were the main operators of buses on the international route to Kigali; however, there were no bus connections to the other neighbouring countries (Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo).[85] Bujumbura is connected by a passenger and cargo ferry (the MV Mwongozo) to Kigoma in Tanzania.[86] There is a long-term plan to link the country via rail to Kigali and then onward to Kampala, and Kenya.


A group of Burundian women rearing goats.
Children in Bujumbura, Burundi

As of July 2012, Burundi is projected to have an estimated population of 10,557,259 people. This estimate explicitly takes into account the effects of AIDS, which has a significant effect on the demographics of the country.[11] Over 500,000 have been displaced owing to the disease.[8]

The population growth rate is 2.5 percent per year, more than double the average global pace, and a Burundian woman has on average 6.3 children, nearly triple the international fertility rate.[79]

Many Burundians have migrated to other countries as a result of the civil war. In 2006, the United States accepted approximately 10,000 Burundian refugees.[87]

Burundi remains an overwhelmingly rural society, with just 13% of the population living in urban areas in 2013.[11] The population density of around 315 people per square kilometer (753 per sq mi) is the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.[10] Roughly 85% of the population are of Hutu ethnic origin, 15% are Tutsi, and fewer than 1% are indigenous Twa/Pygmies.[88] Burundi has the fifth highest total fertility rate in the world, at 6.08 children born/woman (2012 estimates).[11]

The official languages of Burundi are English, French and Kirundi, all with the same weight.[89]


Main article: Religion in Burundi
Religion in Burundi[90]
religion percent

Sources estimate the Christian population at 80–90%, with Roman Catholics representing the largest group at 60–65%. Protestant and Anglican practitioners constitute the remaining 15–25%. An estimated 5% of the population adheres to traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Muslims constitute 2–5%, the majority of whom are Sunnis and live in urban areas.[11][90][91]


Main article: Health in Burundi

An ethnic-based war that lasted for over a decade resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, forced more than 48,000 refugees into Tanzania, and displaced 140,000 others internally. Only one in two children go to school, and approximately one in 15 adults has HIV/AIDS. Food, medicine, and electricity remain in short supply. Less than 2% of the population has electricity in its homes. Burundi's GDP grew around 4% annually in 2006–12. Political stability and the end of the civil war have improved aid flows and economic activity has increased, but underlying weaknesses – a high poverty rate, poor education rates, a weak legal system, a poor transportation network, overburdened utilities, and low administrative capacity – risk undermining planned economic reforms.

The purchasing power of most Burundians has decreased as wage increases have not kept up with inflation. Burundi will remain heavily dependent on aid from bilateral and multilateral donors – foreign aid represents 42% of Burundis national income, the second highest rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. Burundi joined the East African Community in 2009, which should boost Burundi's regional trade ties, and also in 2009 received $700 million in debt relief. Government corruption is hindering the development of a healthy private sector as companies seek to navigate an environment with ever changing rules.[11]


Drums from Gitega.

Burundi's culture is based on local tradition and the influence of neighboring countries, though cultural prominence has been hindered by civil unrest. Since farming is the main industry, a typical Burundian meal consists of sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. Due to the expense, meat is eaten only a few times per month.

When several Burundians of close acquaintance meet for a gathering they drink impeke, a beer, together from a large container to symbolize unity. Notable Burundians include the soccer player Mohammed Tchité and singer Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidumu (who is based in Nairobi, Kenya).[92]

Crafts are an important art form in Burundi and are attractive gifts to many tourists. Basket weaving is a popular craft for Burundian artisans.[93] Other crafts such as masks, shields, statues and pottery are made in Burundi.[94]

Drumming is an important part of the Burundian cultural heritage. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi, who have performed for over forty years, are noted for traditional drumming using the karyenda, amashako, ibishikiso, and ikiranya drums.[95] Dance often accompanies drumming performance, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. The abatimbo, which is performed at official ceremonies and rituals, and the fast-paced abanyagasimbo are some famous Burundian dances. Some musical instruments of note are the flute, zither, ikembe, indonongo, umuduri, inanga, and the inyagara.[94]

Football (Soccer) in Burundi.

Kirundi, French, and Swahili are spoken throughout Burundi.[11] Burundi's oral tradition is strong, relaying history and life lessons through storytelling, poetry, and song. Imigani, indirimbo, amazina, and ivyivugo are types of literary genres existing in Burundi.[96]

Basketball and track and field are noted sports in Burundi. Martial arts are popular, as well. There are five major judo clubs: Club Judo de l'Entente Sportive, in Downtown, and four others throughout the city.[97] Association football is a popular pastime throughout the country, as are mancala games.

Most Christian holidays are celebrated in Burundi, with Christmas being the largest.[98] Burundian Independence Day is celebrated annually on 1 July.[99] In 2005, the Burundian government declared Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic holiday, to be a public holiday.[100]

In April 2009, the government of Burundi changed the law to criminalise homosexuality. Persons found guilty of consensual same-sex relations risk two to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 Burundian francs. Amnesty International has condemned the action, calling it a violation of Burundi’s obligations under international and regional human rights law, and against the constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy.[101]


Carolus Magnus School in Burundi. The school benefits from the campaign "Your Day for Africa" by Aktion Tagwerk.
Main article: Education in Burundi

In 2009, the adult literacy rate in Burundi was estimated to be 67% (73% male and 61% female), with a literacy rate of 77% and 76%, respectively, for men and women between the ages of 15 to 24.[102] Literacy among adult women in Burundi has increased by 17% since 2002.[103] Burundi's literacy rate is low due to low school attendance and because literacy in Kirundi only provides access to materials printed in that language. Ten percent of Burundian boys are allowed a secondary education.[104]

Burundi has the University of Burundi. There are several museums in the cities, such as the Burundi Geological Museum in Bujumbura and the Burundi National Museum and the Burundi Museum of Life in Gitega.

There will also be a new school opening in one of the poorest regions of Burundi, Rusaga, which is funded by an English charity called the 'Burundi Education Foundation'. The Burundi Education Foundation is hoping to open the school in the summer of 2014.[105]

In 2010 a new elementary school was opened in the small village of Rwoga, Burundi which is funded by the students of Westwood High School, Quebec, Canada.[106][107]

Since 2015, Hills University provides free courses that students can register for and follow in real time, such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and courses that offer all of their materials freely online under an intellectual property license, including video lectures, notes, and assignments.

See also[edit]


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  • Eggers, Ellen K. (2006). Historical Dictionary of Burundi (3rd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Incorporated. ISBN 0-8108-5302-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Abdallah, Ahmedou Ould Burundi on the Brink, 1993–95: A UN Special Envoy Reflects on Preventive Diplomacy
  • Allen, J. A.; et al. (2003). Africa South of the Sahara 2004: South of the Sahara. New York, New York: Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN 1-85743-183-9. 
  • Bentley, Kristina and Southall, Roger An African Peace Process: Mandela, South Africa, and Burundi
  • Chrétien, Jean-Pierre The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History
  • Daley, Patricia Gender and Genocide in Burundi: The Search for Spaces of Peace in the Great Lakes Region
  • Gates, Henry Lewis; Anthony Appiah (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York, New York: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 0-465-00071-1. 
  • Ewusi, Kale and Akwanga, Ebenezer Burundi's Negative Peace: The Shadow of a Broken Continent in the Era of Nepad
  • Jennings, Christian Across the Red River: Rwanda, Burundi and the Heart of Darkness
  • Kidder, Tracy, Strength in What Remains (A biography of a Burundian immigrant to the U.S.)
  • Krueger, Robert; Kathleen Tobin Krueger (2007). From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-71486-6. 
  • Lemarchand, Rene Burundi: Ethnic Conflict and Genocide
  • Melady, Thomas Patrick Burundi: The Tragic Years
  • Nivonzima, David and Fendell, Len Unlocking Horns: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Burundi
  • Uvin, Peter Life After Violence: A People's Story of Burundi
  • Watt, Nigel Burundi: The Biography of a Small African Country
  • Weinstein, Warren (2006). Historical Dictionary of Burundi. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, Incorporated. ISBN 0-8108-0962-1.  1st. edition.

External links[edit]