Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

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Burundi (pronounced /bəˈɹʊndɨ/), officially the Republic of Burundi (Kirundi: Republika y'u Burundi, [buˈɾundi]; French: République du Burundi, [byˈʁyndi]), is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.

The Twa, Tutsi and Hutu peoples have lived in Burundi for at least five hundred years and, for over two hundred years, Burundi was ruled as a kingdom. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, Germany and Belgium occupied the region and Burundi and Rwanda became a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. Social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu have since contributed to political unrest in the region, leading to civil war in the middle of the twentieth century. Presently, Burundi is governed as a presidential representative democratic republic.

Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world. It has one of the lowest per capita GDPs of any nation in the world[5] and a low gross domestic product largely due to warfare, corruption, poor access to education and the effects of HIV/AIDS[citation needed]. Burundi is densely populated and experiences substantial emigration.

Cobalt and copper are among Burundi's natural resources, while coffee and sugar are two of its main exports.


Kingdom of Burundi

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

Colonial period

After its defeat in World War I, Germany handed control of a section of the former German East Africa to Belgium.[6] On October 20, 1924, this land, which consisted of modern-day Rwanda and Burundi, became a Belgian League of Nations mandate territory, in practical terms part of the Belgian colonial empire, known as Ruanda-Urundi. However, the Belgians allowed Ruanda-Urundi to continue its kingship dynasty.[7][8]

Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi was a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administrative authority.[7] During the 1940s, a series of policies caused divisions throughout the country. On October 4, 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.[8] In 1948, Belgium allowed the region to form political parties.[6] These factions would be one of the main influences for Burundi's independence from Belgium.

Independence and civil war

Flag of the Kingdom of Burundi (1962–1966).

Independence Square and monument in Bujumbura.

On January 20, 1959, Burundi's ruler Mwami Mwambutsa IV requested from the Belgian Minister of Colonies a separation of Burundi and Rwanda and a dissolution of Ruanda-Urundi.[9] Six months later, political parties were formed to bring attention to Burundi's independence from Europe and to separate Rwanda from Burundi.[9] The first of these political parties was the Union for National Progress (UPRONA).

Burundi's push for independence was influenced to some extent by the instability and ethnic persecution that occurred in Rwanda. In November 1959, Rwandese Hutu attacked the Tutsi and massacred them by the thousands. Many Tutsi escaped to Uganda and Burundi to find freedom from persecution.[10] The Hutu took power in Rwanda by winning Belgian-run elections in 1960.[11][12]

The UPRONA, a multi-ethnic unity party led by Prince Louis Rwagasore and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) became the most prominent organizations throughout Burundi-Urundi. After UPRONA's victory in legislative elections, Prince Rwagasore was assassinated on October 13 in 1961, allegedly with the help of the Belgian colonial administration.[6][13]

The country claimed independence on July 1, 1962,[6] and legally changed its name from Ruanda-Urundi to Burundi.[14] Mwami Mwambutsa IV was named king.[11] On September 18, 1962, just over two months after declaring independence from Belgium, Burundi joined the United Nations.[15]

Upon Burundi’s independence, a constitutional monarchy was established and both Hutus and Tutsis were represented in parliament. When King Mwambutsa appointed a Tutsi prime minister, the Hutus, who were the majority in parliament, felt cheated. An ensuing attempted coup by the Hutu-dominated police was ruthlessly suppressed by the Army, then led by a Tutsi officer, Captain Michel Micombero.[16] When the next Hutu Prime Minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, was assassinated in 1965, Hutus engaged in a series of attacks on Tutsi, which the government repressed ruthlessly, fearing the killings of Tutsis by Hutus, who wanted to follow the "Model Rwanda". The Burundi police and military were now brought under the control of the Tutsi.

Mwambutsa was deposed in 1966 by his son, Prince Ntare V, who claimed the throne. That same year, Tutsi Prime Minister Captain Michel Micombero deposed Ntare, abolished the monarchy, and declared the nation a republic, though it was in effect a military regime.[17]

In 1972, an all Hutu organization known as Umugambwe w'Abakozi b'Uburundi or Burundi Workers' Party (UBU) organized and carried out systematic attacks on ethnic Tutsi with the declared intent of annihilating the whole group.[18] The military regime responded with large-scale reprisals targeting Hutus. The total number of casualties was never established, but estimates for the Tutsi genocide and the reprisals on the Hutus together are said to exceed 100,000 at the very least, with a similar number of asylum-seekers in Tanzania and Rwanda. In 1976, another Tutsi, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, led a bloodless coup and promoted various reforms. A new constitution was promulgated in 1981, keeping Burundi a one-party state.[16] In August 1984, Bagaza was elected head of state. During his tenure, Bagaza suppressed political opponents and religious freedoms.

Major Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, overthrew Bagaza in 1987 and suspended the constitution, dissolved the political parties, and reinstated military rule under the Military Committee for National Salvation (CSMN).[16] 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 by the government, though some international NGOs believe this understates the losses.

The new regime did not unleash harsh reprisals (as in 1972), but the trust it gained was soon eroded when it decreed an amnesty for those who had called for, carried out, and taken credit for the killings on ethnic grounds, which amounts to genocide in international law. 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.

In the aftermath of the killings, a group of Hutu intellectuals wrote an open letter to Pierre Buyoya, asking for more representation of the Hutus in the administration. The signatories were sent to prison. Nevertheless, only a few weeks later, Buyoya appointed a new government with an equal number of Hutu and Tutsi, and a Hutu, Adrien Sibomana, as Prime Minister. Buyoya also created a commission in charge of addressing the issue of national unity.[16] In 1992, a new constitution that provided for multi-party system was promulgated,[16] and a civil war sprang up from Burundi's core.

An estimated 250,000 people died between 1962 and 1993.[19] 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,[20] and the 1993 mass killings of Tutsis by the Hutu populace are both described as genocide in the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi presented to the United Nations Security Council in 2002.[21]

First attempt at democracy

In June 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, leader of the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), won the first democratic election and became the first Hutu head of state, leading a pro-Hutu government. However, in October 1993, Tutsi soldiers assassinated Ndadaye, which started further years of violence between Hutus and Tutsis. It is estimated that some 300,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the years following the assassination.[22]

In early 1994, the parliament elected Cyprien Ntaryamira, also a Hutu, to the office of president. He and the president of Rwanda both died together when their airplane was shot down. More refugees started fleeing to Rwanda. Another Hutu, parliament speaker Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was appointed as president in October 1994. Within months, a wave of ethnic violence began, starting with the massacre of Hutu refugees in the capital, Bujumbura, and the withdrawal of the mainly Tutsi Union for National Progress from the government and parliament.

In 1996, Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, took power through a coup d’état. He suspended the constitution and was sworn in as president in 1998. In response to the rebel attacks, the population was forced by the government to relocate to refugee camps.[23] Under his 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, and on August 28, 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).[24]

In 2003, FRODEBU Hutu leader Domitien Ndayizeye was elected president.[25] In early 2005, ethnic quotas were formed for determining positions in Burundi's government. Throughout the year, elections for parliament and president occurred[26][dead link] and Pierre Nkurunziza, once a leader of a Hutu rebel group, was elected president. As of 2008, the Burundian government is talking with the Hutu-led Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (NLF)[27] to bring peace to the country.[28]

Peace agreements

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”.[29]

The main objective framing the talks was a structural transformation of the Burundian government and military as a way to bridge the ethnic gap between the Tutsis and Hutus. This would be accomplished in two ways. 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, there were several obstacles facing the mediators and negotiating parties. 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 were deceived by the Tutsis in past agreements.[30]

In 2000, the Burundian President signed the treaty, as well as 13 of the 19 warring Hutu and Tutsi factions. However, disagreements persisted over which group would preside over the nascent government and when the ceasefire would commence. 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

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, which then 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.[31]

The mission’s mandate, under Chapter VII of the UN 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 and has greatly benefited from the existence of a fairly functional transitional government, which is in the process of transitioning into a more legitimate, elected entity.[31]

The main difficulty the operation faced at first was the 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 was brought back into the political process. All political parties have accepted a formula for inter-ethnic power-sharing, which means no political party can gain access to government offices unless it is ethnically integrated.[31]

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 has managed to win the trust and confidence of a majority of the formerly warring leaders as well as the population at large.[31] It has also been involved with several “quick impact” projects including rehabilitating and building schools, orphanages, health clinics, and rebuilding infrastructure such as water lines.

2006 to present

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.[32] Toward achieving economic reconstruction, Rwanda, D.R.Congo and Burundi relaunched the regional economic bloc: The Great Lakes Countries Economic Community.[32] 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.[33] 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.[32] The rebel factions disagreed with the government over disarmament and the release of political prisoners.[34] 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.[34]

The 2007 report[34] 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 .[34] Even though the government has granted this in the past to people, the FLN has been unable to obtain the provisional immunity.

On April 17, 2008, the FLN bombarded Bujumbura. The Burundian army fought back and the FLN suffered heavy losses. A new ceasefire was signed on May 26, 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 agree to meet twice a week to establish a commission to resolve any disputes that might arise during the peace negotiations.[35]

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 peackeeping missions, including the mission to Somalia against Al-Shahab militants.[36]


Pierre Nkurunziza, President 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.[6] On March 13, 1992, Tutsi coup leader Pierre Buyoya established a constitution,[37] which provided for a multi-party political process[38] and reflected multi-party competition. Six years later, on June 6, 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.[39]

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.[6] Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote and serve for five-year terms.[40]

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.[6] For each of Burundi's seventeen provinces, one Hutu and one Tutsi senator are chosen. One term for the Transitional Senate is five years.[41]

Together, Burundi's legislative branch elect the President to a five-year term.[42] Burundi's president appoints officials to his Council of Ministers, which is also part of the executive branch.[39] The president can also pick fourteen members of the Transitional Senate to serve on the Council of Ministers.[6] Members of the Council of Ministers must be approved by two-thirds of Burundi's legislature. The president also chooses two vice-presidents.[42] As of 2010, the President of Burundi is Pierre Nkurunziza. The First Vice President is Therence Sinunguruza, and the Second Vice President is Gervais Rufyikiri.[43]

The Court Supreme (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.[39]

Provinces, communes and collines

Burundi is divided into 17 provinces,[7] 117 communes,[6] and 2,638 collines (hills).[44] Provincial governments are structured upon these boundaries. In 2000, the province encompassing Bujumbura was separated into two provinces, Bujumbura Rural and Bunjumbura Mairie.[5]

The provinces are:

  • Bubanza
  • Bujumbura Mairie
  • Bujumbura Rural
  • Bururi
  • Cankuzo
  • Cibitoke
  • Gitega
  • Karuzi
  • Kayanza
  • Kirundo
  • Makamba
  • Muramvya
  • Muyinga
  • Mwaro
  • Ngozi
  • Rutana
  • Ruyigi


Map 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 5,600 feet (1,707 m), with lower elevations at the borders. The highest peak, Mount Heha at 8,810 feet (2,685 m),[45] lies to the southeast of the capital, Bujumbura. The source of the Nile River is in Burundi province, and is linked from Lake Victoria to its headwaters via the Ruvyironza River[46][clarification needed] Lake Victoria is also an important water source, which serves as a fork to the Kagera River.[47][48] Another major lake is Lake Tanganyika, located in much of Burundi's southwestern corner.[49]

Burundi's lands are mostly agricultural or pasture. Settlement by rural populations has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss.[50] Deforestation of the entire country is almost completely due to overpopulation, with a mere 230 square miles (600 km2) remaining and an ongoing loss of about 9% per annum.[51] 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.[52]


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,[7] 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.[53] Famines and food shortages have occurred throughout Burundi, most notably in the 20th century,[8] and according to the World Food Programme, 56.8% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition.[54] One scientific study of 178 nations rated Burundi's population as having the lowest satisfaction with life in the world.[55] As a result of poverty, Burundi is dependent on foreign aid.[7]

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi's largest industry is agriculture, which accounted for 58% of the GDP in 1997. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture.[56] The nation's largest source of revenue is coffee, which makes up 93% of Burundi's exports.[57] Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk, and hides. Some of Burundi's natural resources include uranium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and platinum.[58] Besides agriculture, other industries include: assembly of imported components; public works construction; food processing, and light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes, and soap. Burundi's currency is the Burundian franc (BIF); as of May 26, 2012, 1,371.00 Burundian franc were equivalent to one United States dollar.[59]

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 percent of the total population holds bank accounts, and fewer than 0.5 percent use bank lending services. Microfinance, however, plays a larger role, with 4 percent 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.[60]

Burundi is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation.


A group of Burundian women rearing goats.

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.[7] Over 500,000 have been displaced due to the disease.[5]

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.[61]

Most Burundians live in rural areas, while 11% of the population lived in urban areas in 2010.[62] The population density of around 315 people per square kilometer (753 per sq mi) is the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.[6] Roughly 85% of the population are of Hutu ethnic origin, 15% are Tutsi, and fewer than one percent are indigenous Twa/Pygmies.[63] Burundi has the fifth highest total fertility rate in the world, at 6.08 children born/woman (2012 estimates).[62]


Religion in Burundi[64]
religion percent
Christianity 75%
Indigenous 20%
Islam 5%

Sources estimate the Christian population to be 75 percent, with Roman Catholics representing the largest group at 60 percent. Protestant and Anglican practitioners constitute the remaining 15 percent. An estimated 20 percent of the population adheres to traditional indigenous religious beliefs. The Muslim population is estimated to be at 5 percent, the majority of whom live in urban areas. Sunnis make up the majority of the Muslim population, the remainder being Shi'a.[64]


There is less health care in Burundi than in most other countries. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 59.24 years.[7] A large proportion of the population is undernourished. There were 3 physicians per 100,000 persons in 2004.[7] The World Health Organization estimated that HIV/AIDS prevalence in Burundi was 3.3% of the adult population in 2009.[65] Demographic and Health Surveys completed two surveys in Burundi in 1987 and 2010 .[66]


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 in Burundi, 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 footballer Mohammed Tchité and singer Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidumu (who is based in Nairobi, Kenya).[67]

Crafts are an important art form in Burundi and are attractive gifts to many tourists. Basket weaving is a popular craft for Burundian artisans.[68] Other crafts such as masks, shields, statues and pottery are made in Burundi.[69]

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.[70] 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.[71]

Football in Burundi.

Kirundi, French, and Swahili are spoken throughout Burundi.[7] 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.[72]

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, located in Downtown, and four others located throughout the city.[73] Football (soccer) is a popular pastime throughout the country, as are mancala games.

Most Christian holidays are celebrated in Burundi, with Christmas being the largest.[74] Burundian Independence Day is celebrated annually on July 1.[75] In 2005, the Burundian government declared Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic holiday, to be a public holiday.[76]

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 Burundi’s constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy.[77]


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

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.[78] Literacy among adult women in Burundi has increased by 17% since 2002.[79] 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.[80][dead link]

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.

Further reading

  • Abdallah, Ahmedou Ould Burundi on the Brink, 1993–95: A UN Special Envoy Reflects on Preventive Diplomacy
  • 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
  • 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 and Krueger, Kathleen From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide
  • 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

More information

Airports7 (2012)
Borders WithCongo
Borders WithRwanda
Borders WithTanzania
Coastline0 km (landlocked)
Coordinates3 30 S, 30 00 E
Domain Suffix.bi
Ethnic GroupHutu (Bantu) 85%
Ethnic GroupTutsi (Hamitic) 14%
Ethnic GroupTwa (Pygmy) 1%
Ethnic GroupEuropeans 3,000
Ethnic GroupSouth Asians 2,000
Female Life Expectancy61.02 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age17.3 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate6.08 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$5.184 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$4.976 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$4.794 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth4.2% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth3.8% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth3.5% (2009 est.)
Government typerepublic
Highest PointHeha 2,670 m
Land Area25,680 sq km
Land boundary974 km
LanguageFrench (official)
LanguageKirundi (official)
LanguageSwahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)
LocationCentral Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Lowest PointLake Tanganyika 772 m
Male Life Expectancy57.52 years
Male Median Age16.6 years
Population Growth3.104% (2012 est.)
RegionCentral Africa
Roadways12,322 km
Terrainhilly and mountainous, dropping to a plateau in east, some plains
Total Area27,830 sq km
Total Life Expectancy59.24 years
Total Median Age17 years
Water Area2,150 sq km
Waterways(mainly on Lake Tanganyika between Bujumbura, Burundi's principal port, and lake ports in Tanzania, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) (2011)


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Neighboring countries

Important people