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Republic of Burundi

République du Burundi;Republika yu Burundi

CAPITAL: Bujumbura

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white circle in the center with arms extending to the four corners. The circle contains three red stars with green borders. Upper and lower fields formed by the circle and its arms are red; the fields on the sides are green.

ANTHEM: Burundi Bwacu (Our Burundi), beginning "Burundi bwacu, Burundi buhire" ("Our Burundi, O blessed land").

MONETARY UNIT: The Burundi franc (BFr) is a paper currency. There are coins of 1, 5, and 10 francs, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 francs. BFr1 = $0.00088 (or $1 = BFr11,138) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 1 July; Assumption, 15 August; Victory of UPRONA, 18 September; 13 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Easter Monday, Ascension, and Pentecost Monday.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Burundi is a landlocked country in east-central Africa with an area of 27,830 sq km (10,745 sq mi), of which about 7% consists of lakes. Comparatively, the area occupied by Burundi is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. It extends 263 km (163 mi) nnessw and 194 km (121 mi) esewnw. Burundi is bounded on the n by Rwanda, on the e and s by Tanzania, and on the w by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), with a total boundary length of 974 km (605 mi).

Burundi's capital city, Bujumbura, is located in the western part of the country.


Burundi is a country mainly of mountains and plateaus, with a western range of mountains running northsouth and continuing into Rwanda. The highest point is Mt. Heha at 2,670 m (8,760 ft). The only land below 914 m (3,000 ft) is a narrow strip of plain along the Ruzizi River (about 800 m/2,600 ft), which forms the western border north of Lake Tanganyika. From the mountains eastward, the land declines gradually, dropping to about 1,400 m (4,600 ft) toward the southeastern and southern border. The average elevation of the central plateau is about 1,525 to 2,000 m (5,000 to 6,500 ft). The major rivers form natural boundaries for most of the country. The Kanyaru and the Kagera separate Burundi from Rwanda along many sections of the common border. The Kagera and the Ruvubu are important as the southernmost sources of the Nile. Most of Burundi's southern border is formed by the Malagarasi River. The principal lakes are Tanganyika, Cohoha, and Rweru.


Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20°c (68°f). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23°c (73°f); the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16°c (60°f). Bujumbura's average annual temperature is 23°c (73°f). Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the northwest. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (JuneAugust), the short wet season (SeptemberNovember), the short dry season (DecemberJanuary), and the long wet season (FebruaryMay). Most of Burundi receives between 130 and 160 cm (5163 in) of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the northeast receive between 75 and 100 cm (3040 in).


Most of the country is savanna grassland. There is little forest left; Burundi is one of the most eroded and deforested countries in all of tropical Africa. Of the remaining trees, the most common are eucalyptus, acacia, fig, and oil palms along the lakeshores. There are over 2,500 species of plants.

Wildlife was abundant before the region became agricultural. Still found are the elephant, hippopotamus, crocodile, wild boar, lion, antelope, and flying lemur, as well as such game birds as guinea fowl, partridge, duck, geese, quail, and snipe. Some 451 breeding bird species have been reported. The crowned crane is prevalent. As the region becomes more densely populated, some species are dwindling or disappearing.

In Lake Tanganyika there is a great variety of fish, including the Nile perch, freshwater sardines, and rare tropical specimens. Most of the 133 fish species in Lake Tanganyika are found nowhere else in the world.


Wildlife survives only in those areas of the country not heavily cultivated, and rapid population growth is reducing the amount of uncultivated land. The cutting of forests for fuel is uncontrolled despite legislation requiring permits. Only about 5.7% of Burundi's total land area is protected. Soil erosion due to deforestation, improper terracing, and overgrazing is also a serious problem. Burundi also has a problem with maintaining the purity of its water supply. It has only 4 billion cu m of renewable water resources, of which 64% is used for agricultural purposes. About 90% of the nation's urban population and 78% of rural dwellers have access to pure water.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 9 species of birds, 6 species of amphibian, 1 type of mollusk, 3 types of other invertebrates, and 2 species of plants. Threatened species include the mountain gorilla, cheetahs, African elephants, and the whale-headed stork.


The population of Burundi in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 7,795,000, which placed it at number 93 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 47% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. (Adolescent pregnancy was a significant problem, as was low rate of contraceptive use.) The projected population for the year 2025 was 13,913,000. The population density was 280 per sq km (725 per sq mi), making it one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. The density is greatest in north-central Burundi.

The UN estimated that 9% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 6.57%. The capital city, Bujumbura, had a population of 378,000 in that year. Apart from Bujumbura, urban areas are small and serve mainly as commercial and administrative centers.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Burundi. The UN estimated that 8.3% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


At the end of 1992 there were about 271,700 refugees in Burundi. When ethnic massacres broke out anew in Rwanda in 1994, several hundred thousand Rwandan refugees streamed across the border into Burundi. By August 1996, all of these refugees had returned to Rwanda, compelled by the insecurity in Burundi. At the end of 1992, Tanzania was harboring 149,500 refugees from Burundi, and Rwanda another 25,200. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu from Burundi crossed into Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC, formerly Zaire) in late 1993 to escape massacre at the hands of the Tutsi-dominated army. In early 1994, many of these refugees returned home. In 1994, with the outbreak of the civil war in Rwanda, 270,000 Burundi refugees who were there returned home. By November 1996, 120,000 Burundians returned home from the DROC. However, there were still over 240,000 Burundi refugees in the DROC and Tanzania.

At the end of 1996, it was estimated that 500,000 Burundians were still displaced internally, either clustered with military posts if they were of Tutsi ethnicity or in the hills if they were Hutu. In January 1999 Burundi and Tanzania took steps to revive talks on repatriation. However, a series of rebel attacks in the Ruyigi province in April 1999 seriously hindered repatriation efforts in that area. Increased violence in Bujumbura, beginning in July 1999, also slowed efforts. In 2003, there were 381,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country. As of 2004, 48,805 people were registered as refugees, primarily from the DROC; another 11,893 were registered as asylum seekers. Also in 2004, there were 90,321 returned refugees. In 2004 over 19,500 Burundians sought refuge in the DROC and over 440,000 in Tanzania. The net migration rate for 2005 was estimated as zero.


The population is made up mainly of Hutu, a Bantu people, traditionally farmers, who constitute about 85% of the inhabitants. A tall warrior people, the Tutsi (Watutsi, Watusi, Batutsi), a Hamitic people, constitute about 14% of the population but dominate the government and military. The earliest known inhabitants of the region were the Twa (Batwa), a Pygmy tribe of hunters, related to the Pygmies of the DROC. They make up about 1% of the population. There are about 82,000 immigrant Africans. Europeans and Asians number about 5,000.


The main language is Kirundi, a Bantu language. Both Kirundi and French are official languages. Swahili is used as a lingua franca along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area.


About 60% of the population are Roman Catholic and about 10% are Muslim. The remainder practice other Christian faiths, indigenous religions, or have no religious affiliation.

The Transitional Constitutional Act of 2001 provided for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. Religious groups must register with the Ministry of Interior and maintain a headquarters within the country. The heads of major religions are given diplomatic status. Certain Catholic holidays are observed as public holidays.


A great hindrance to Burundi's economic development is lack of adequate transportation. The country is landlocked, and there are no railroads. Roads total 14,480 km (8,998 mi) as of 2002, and only about 7% of them remain open in all weather; the rest are classed as local roads or tracks. In 2003, there were 24,000 passenger cars and 23,500 commercial vehicles.

Burundi is dependent on Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) for its imports. Through Bujumbura, Lake Tanganyika serves as the country's sole inland waterway, and as a link with Kigoma in Tanzania for rail shipment to Dar es Salaam. In 1987, the African Development Bank awarded a 50-year loan of CFA Fr218 billion to finance the construction of a shipyard in Bujumbura.

Air service is maintained by Air Burundi, which operates domestic service and flies to Rwanda, Tanzania, and the DROC. International service is also provided by Air Zaïre, Sabena, and other airlines. As of 2004, there were an estimated eight airports in Burundi, of which the international airport in Bujumbura (as of 2005) was the country's primary and only paved airport. There are also a number of helicopter landing strips. In 1997, 11,000 passengers traveled on international and domestic flights.


The first known inhabitants of what is now Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy tribe of hunters. Between the 7th and 10th centuries, the Hutu, a Bantu agricultural people, occupied the region, probably coming from the Congo Basin. In the 15th and 16th centuries, tall warriors, the Tutsi, believed to have come originally from Ethiopia, entered the area.

The Tutsi, a nomadic pastoral people, gradually subjugated the Hutu and other inhabitants of the region, although they adopted the Hutu language, as did the Twa, so that all three groups were Bantu-speaking. A feudal social system based on castethe conquering Tutsi and the subjected Hutubecame the dominant feature of social hierarchy, and especially of economic and political relations. The Hutu did the farming and grew the food in return for cattle, but generally had no part in government. The Tutsi were the ruling caste and did no manual labor. To a certain extent, however, the castes were open to each other. Custom allowed a particularly worthy Twa or Hutu to rise to the rank of a Tutsi; conversely, an impoverished Tutsi who had fallen from his former estate could be assimilated into the Hutu.

The penetration of and eventual conquest by the Tutsi was reported as a slow and peaceful process that initiated a process of political integration. The ownership of land was gradually transferred from the Hutu tribes to the mwami, the semidivine king of the Tutsi. The first mwami, Ntare I Rushatsi, is thought to have come to power in the 16th century. While the ruling mwami was in theory an absolute king, he was often regarded as primus inter pares among the ganwa, prince-like aristocrats of royal lineage. But the mwami had his court and his army, and he could not easily be removed from office.

The first European known to have reached the territory was John Hanning Speke, who traveled with Richard Burton to Lake Tanganyika in 1858. They paddled to the north end of the lake in their search for the headwaters of the Nile. In 1871, Stanley and Livingstone landed at Bujumbura and explored the Ruzizi River region. Subsequently, other explorers, principally German, visited Burundi. After the Berlin Conference of 188485, the German zone of influence in East Africa was extended to include Rwanda and Burundi. A German, Count von Götzen, discovered Lake Kivu in 1894. The first Roman Catholic missionaries came in 1898 and in 1899 the territories then known as Ruanda-Urundi officially came under the administration of German East Africa.

The German authorities made no changes in the indigenous organization, choosing only Tutsi for positions of colonial authority. They administered the territory through the traditional authorities in accordance with the laws and customs of the region. However, the history of Burundi under the German administration was marked by constant factional struggles and rivalry, in contrast to the peaceful state of affairs in Rwanda. When Belgian troops occupied the country in 1916, they found it in dissension and the three-year-old mwami, Mwambutsa IV, the center of court intrigue. In 1923, the League of Nations awarded Belgium a mandate to the region of Ruanda-Urundi. The Belgians adopted the same policy of indirect administration employed by the Germans, retaining the entire Tutsi-dominated hierarchy. In 1946, RuandaUrundi became a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administration.

On 18 September 1961, elections for the National Assembly were held in Urundi under the auspices of the UN. The result was a sweeping victory for UPRONA, the party headed by Prince Louis Rwagasore, eldest son of the mwami. On 13 October 1961, shortly after Prince Rwagasore had become premier, he was assassinated. Two leaders of the Christian Democratic Party were charged, convicted of responsibility for the murder, and executed.

The UN had strongly urged that Urundi and Ruanda come to independence united, since their relationship had long been close, their economies were integrated, and their people were ethnically one. However, the UN reluctantly decided that there was insufficient support for the union in both regions, and on 27 June 1962, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that called for the creation of two independent nations, Burundi and Rwanda.

On 1 July 1962, Burundi became an independent, constitutional monarchy headed by Mwami (King) Mwambutsa IV. The king set up a government that comprised equal numbers of Hutu and Tutsi, with a Hutu as prime minister. In 1965, the assassination of the prime minister, and Mwambutsa's subsequent refusal to appoint a Hutu prime minister even though the Hutu won a parliamentary majority, began a destabilizing cycle of Hutu uprisings and government repression. Mwambutsa was deposed in July 1966, and was succeeded in September by his son, Charles, who then became known as Ntare V. On 29 November 1966, Ntare V was in turn overthrown by a military coup headed by the Tutsi prime minister, Col. Michel Micombero, who abolished the monarchy and declared Burundi a republic with himself as president.

In 1969, an alleged Hutu coup attempt ended in the arrest of 30 prominent businessmen and officials. Another Hutu-led coup attempt in April 1972 led to widespread civil war, in which mass killings of Hutu by Tutsi and of Tutsi by Hutu were reported. Ntarve V was killed on 29 April 1972, reportedly by Hutu, which, led to the massacre of 150,000 Burundian Hutu a month later. On 21 July 1973, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that there were at least 85,000 Hutu refugees from Burundi, of whom an estimated 40,000 were in Tanzania, 35,000 in Zaire, and 10,000 in Rwanda. President Micombero later conceded that more than 100,000 persons had been killed in the course of the 1972 insurgency, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of refugees had fled. Most of the deaths were among the Hutu, and educated Hutu were systematically massacred under Micombero's de facto military regime. By August 1972 nearly all educated Hutu had fled or been killed. During 1973, rebel bands conducted raids into Burundi from across the Rwandan and Tanzanian borders, and Burundi's relations with those two neighbors deteriorated. By the end of 1973, however, the government was fully in control.

On 1 November 1976, President Micombero was stripped of all powers in a bloodless military coup led by Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, and the Supreme Revolutionary Committee (SRC) that subsequently took power named Bagaza president. The new regime, like the old, was dominated by Tutsi. At a party congress of UPRONA in 1979, a party central committee headed by President Bagaza was selected to replace the SRC, and civilian rule was formally restored. Although the military remained active in both the party and in the government, Bagaza encouraged land reform, electoral reform, and reconciliation. A new constitution was adopted in a national referendum in 1981, and a National Assembly was elected in 1982. Bagaza was reelected unopposed to a new five-year term in 1984. However, after 1984 Bagaza's human rights record worsened due to his suppression of religious freedom and political opposition. In September 1987, he was overthrown in a bloodless military coup while he attended a conference in Canada. Maj. Pierre Buyoya became president.

Buyoya withdrew recognition of opposition parties, suspended the 1981 constitution, and established his ruling Military Committee for National Salvation (CSMN). Ethnic violence erupted in 1988, and in response to rumors of the murder of Tutsi in the north, the army massacred between 5,000 and 25,000 Hutu. Over 100,000 were left homeless and 60,000 took refuge in Rwanda. Throughout 1988, an estimated 150,000 people were killed.

Major Buyoya agreed to the restoration of multiparty politics in 1991, and a new constitution was approved in March 1992. Competition between approved, ethnically balanced parties in the June 1993 election brought to office Burundi's first elected president, as well as its first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye. Ndadaye got 66% of the vote, while Buyoya received just 33%. Ndadaye began to talk of reform of the Tutsi-dominated armed forces, but on 21 October 1993, Ndadaye and several cabinet members were assassinated by a faction of Tutsi soldiers. Other cabinet officers, including Prime Minister Sylvie Kinigi, a Tutsi, took refuge in the French embassy. Ethnic violence continued, launching the country into civil war, with some 10,000 murdered and 800,000 fleeing the country. It has been estimated that as many as 100,000 may have been killed in this round of violence.

The military coup attempt failed, however, and Ndadaye's FRODEBU party (Burundi Democratic Front) regained control, electing Cyprien Ntaryamira as president in January 1994. In February, Ndadaye's successor was inaugurated, but his coalition was unable to restore order. In an effort to negotiate peace, he went to Tanzania for consultations. On his flight home, the plane in which he was returning, along with Rwanda's President Habyarimana, was shot down near the Rwanda capital, Kigali, on 6 April 1994. Two other members of his cabinet also died in the attack. This crash marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.

The constitutionally provided line of succession left the post of president to Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. He served in a transitional capacity until October 1994 when the Assembly elected him to serve a four-year term. In contrast to the genocide that erupted in Rwanda, Ntibantunganya managed to maintain relative stability in Burundifor a time. However, the influx of refugees from Rwanda and increased armament of Hutu and Tutsi groups fueled sporadic violence prompting the government to impose a curfew in Bujumbura in December.

The death toll attributable to ethnic strife and political problems continued to mount during the first half of 1995. In 1993 alone, an estimated 150,000 had died in ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi. The averting of a citywide strike in the capital of Bujumbura in early February 1995 helped ease the ethnic tension, but the relief was short-lived. On 11 March, Mines and Energy Minister Ernest Kabushemeye was shot to death as the violence flared anew. Later that month, fighting in the central market left four people dead. By 25 March, thousands of people were fleeing Bujumbura to escape the violence, and hundreds were feared dead in new fighting. The exodus grew to 50,000 refugees from a city with a total population of 300,000. Two suburbs where clashes had occurred were practically deserted.

The flare-up also affected refugees from neighboring Rwanda who had fled to seven northern Burundi camps to escape HutuTutsi violence in their own country. An estimated 20,000 refugees undertook a two-day trek to Tanzania to escape the violence at one of the camps, which left 12 dead and 22 wounded. The seven camps, which once held more than 25,000 Rwandans, were closed by August 1996 as the last group of the refugees returned to its homeland.

Despite an Organization of African States (OAS) peace mission, the Hutu militias and Tutsi-dominated government army battled throughout the early days of June in Bujumbura's suburbs. The OAS mission was aimed at ending months of fighting between the majority Hutu and the Tutsi before the clashes could develop into an all-out war.

On 25 July 1996, Maj. Pierre Buyoya seized power in a coup backed by the Burundi military. The National Assembly continued to function, although during Buyoya's "Transition Period" its powers were severely curtailed. Soon thereafter, six East African nations cut trade ties to the country and imposed and economic embargo after demanding Maj. Buyoya restore parliament. The African leaders also demanded that Major Buyoya, president of Burundi from 1987 to 1993, begin peace talks with Hutu rebels. Yet ethnic violence escalated in the months following Major Buyoya's takeover. Each side blamed the other for the assassination in September of Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna, Burundi's senior Roman Catholic archbishop. In 1999, in his new role as facilitator of the Arusha Peace Process, Nelson Mandela asked all partiesthe government, rebel forces, and international organizationsto sit down and discuss the issues. In the early months of 2000 several such meetings were held in Tanzania, leading up to the signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi on 28 August 2000. However, Mandela's efforts ran up against entrenched regional conflicts and ethnic animosities as several armed factions refused to accept the peace agreement.

Seeking to secure national borders, Burundian troops intervened in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998, but were redeployed to Burundi to engage rebels operating within the country and from across the Congolese border. In October 2002, Burundi's smaller rebel groupsthe CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratieNational Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy) of Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiye and the Palipehutu-FNL (Forces for National Liberation) of Alain Mugabarabonasigned a cease-fire, followed by a similar agreement between the CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza and the transitional government of Burundi. Only the Palipehutu-FNL of Agathon Rwasa had not signed a cease-fire with the transitional government by mid-June 2003.

Under the Arusha Accords, a three-year transitional government was inaugurated 1 November 2001 under the leadership of Pierre Buyoya. On 30 April 2003, Buyoya stepped down under the terms of the accord, making way for a Hutu vice president, Domitien Ndayizeye, to assume the presidency for the remaining 18 months. However, since the signing of the cease-fires, fighting between the army and CNDD-FDD rebels has occurred on a daily basis. On 3 February 2003, the African Union authorized an African Mission in Burundi (AMIB), which fielded troops from South Africa, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to safeguard cantonment areas and to provide technical assistance to the disarmament and demobilization process. In late 2003 the Burundian government and the CNDD-FDD signed renewed cease-fire and power-sharing agreements. In March 2004, members of the CNDD-FDD assumed governmental and parliamentary offices. Many bilateral donors, as well as the World Bank, assisted in funding Burundi's disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program for former rebel combatants. However, some conflict continued, and in August 2004, the extremist Palipehutu-FNL massacred more than 150 Congolese Tutsi refugees, and as of late 2005 continued to stage attacks.

Reaching a stable compromise on post-transition power sharing was difficult. Although a post-transition constitution was approved in September 2004, it was approved over a boycott by the Tutsi parties. In addition, the Arusha Peace Agreement mandated that local and national elections be held before the ending of the transitional period on 31 October 2004, but transitional institutions were extended. On 28 February 2005, however, Burundians popularly approved a post-transitional constitution by national referendum, with elections set to take place throughout the summer of 2005. After local, parliamentary, and other elections in June and July, on 19 August 2005, the good governance minister, Pierre Nkurunziza, became the first post-transitional president.


Under the 1981 constitution, the president of the republic was elected by universal adult suffrage. The sole candidate was the president of UPRONA, the only legal political party. The president, who was head of state, was assisted by a council of ministers. Legislative power was vested in the 65-member National Assembly, of which 52 were elected and 13 appointed by the president. The president and legislators served five-year terms. Following the September 1987 coup, President Pierre Buyoya dismissed all members of the government and ruled as head of the newly established Military Committee of National Redemption until it was disbanded in December 1990. A new constitution, which recognized "democracy, human rights and development", was adopted on 13 March 1992 after a popular referendum. It provides for a directly elected president, a prime minister, and an 81-seat National Assembly.

In 1998, the position of prime minister was abolished. In 2001, the National Assembly was expanded from 121 to approximately 140 seats under the transitional constitution adopted October 18, 2001. On 17 September, 2004, the National Assembly adopted a post-transition constitution that was approved in a nation-wide referendum 28 February, 2005. A new electoral calendar was established at a regional summit in Uganda, and during the summer of 2005, a post-transition government was elected. Burundian people voted in Commune Council direct elections on 3 June 2005, and National Assembly direct elections on 4 July 2005. Senate members were elected by the electoral college on 29 July 2005, and a joint legislative session elected Pierre Nkurunziza as president on 19 August 2005 in a vote of 151 to 9.

According to the 2005 constitution, the president can be elected to a maximum of two five-year terms, and is named by a vote in the two houses of parliament. The permanent, post-transition government was established 26 August 2005, consisting of 100-seat directly elected National Assembly, and a senate. As of 2005, the assembly also had 18 additional deputies appointed as needed to ensure the stipulations made in the Arusha agreement. This mandates that the assembly is composed of at least 30% women and has an ethnic composition of 60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi, and 3 Batwa members. The structure of the senate from the transitional government was retained, which includes no less than 37, and no more than 54 seats, for five-year terms. There are two senators for each of the 17 provinces (including the capital), one each for Hutu and Tutsi, which are elected in three rounds of voting by communal electoral colleges. Three seats are reserved for the Batwa minority. Additional seats are reserved for all former presidents. Up to 14 additional senators are appointed by the president to achieve the 30% gender quota for women. In 2005, the senate had a total membership of 49 seats.


It was only after 1948 that Belgium permitted competing political parties, and two emerged: the multi-ethnic Union for National Progress (Parti de l'Unité et du Progrès NationalUPRONA), led by Tutsi Prince Louis Rwagasore, and the Belgium-supported Christian Democratic Party (Parti Démocrate ChrétienPDC). However, in 1961, Rwagasore was assassinated following the the UPRONA victory in legislative elections.

Before independence, no fewer than 23 political parties were officially registered. Of these, only two retained political significance in the years following independence: UPRONA, and the People's Party (Parti du PeuplePP), an all-Hutu party. UPRONA, which initially controlled 58 seats in the National Assembly out of a total of 64, was soon torn by internecine leadership rivalries. In time, these rivalries took on the qualities of a racial feud between Tutsi and Hutu. In the National Assembly, the PP merged with the Hutu wing of UPRONA to form the so-called Monrovia Group, while the Tutsi wing of UPRONA referred to itself as the Casablanca Group.

In June 1965, legislative elections were held for the first time since independence. UPRONA won 21 seats, the PP 10, and independents 2. President Micombero, a Tutsi, proclaimed UPRONA to be the sole legal political party by a decree promulgated on 23 November 1966. On 1 November 1976, leaders of the coup that deposed Micombero announced that UPRONA had been dissolved, but in 1979, the party was incorporated into the government structure. According to the 1981 constitution, it was the only legal political organization. The president of UPRONA was president of the republic and also head of the party's 70-member Central Committee and 8-member Politburo.

Fifty-two members of the National Assembly were elected under the auspices of UPRONA in October 1982 from 104 candidates, about 75% of them Tutsi, chosen by local UPRONA committees. Several cabinet members and high party officials were defeated. In September 1987, following the coup that ousted President Bagaza, all members of UPRONA were dismissed.

The 1 June 1993 presidential election and the 29 June parliamentary election that year led to the defeat of UPRONA. President Ndadaye's party, the Burundi Democratic Front (FRODEBU) received 72% of the vote and 65 of parliament's 81 seats. UPRONA won the remaining seats with 21% of the ballots cast. Other parties include the Burundi People's Party (RPB), the Party for the Reconciliation of the People (PRP), and the People's Party (PP).

Newer, smaller parties have emerged in recent years, including: the Burundi African Alliance for the Salvation (ABASA), Rally for Democracy and Economic and Social Development (RADDES), Party for National Redress (PARENA), and the People's Reconciliation Party (PRP).

Smaller rebel factions with political influence include the CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie Forces pour la defense de la democratieNational Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy) and the Palipehutu-FNL (Forces for National Liberation).

As of the elections in late 2005, there were 30 registered political parties without representation in either house of parliament. Six parties are represented in one or both houses, with the formerly small CNDD-FDD controlling the overwhelming majority of seats in both houses. The six major parties are the CNDD-FDD with 32 Senate and 64 Assembly seats; FRODEBU with 5 Senate, 30 Assembly; UPRONA with 2 Senate, 15 Assembly seats; and the CNDD, the breakaway party from the CNDD-FDD with 3 Senate and 4 Assembly seats.


Burundi was formerly divided into 8 provinces, but a redistricting plan in 1982 increased the number to 15which eventually expanded to 16each under a military governor. However, as of the mid-1990s, Burundi was divided into 17 provinces, including the capital city regions.

Communal councils exist for each of the 129 communes. Twenty-five members sit on each of the councils, and on 2 June 2005, the CNDD-FDD won 1,781 of the 3,225 available council seats (55%). There are also local Colline (hill) councils elected independent of party. These elections were held on 23 September 2005. Both of these local councils are directly elected, and the Colline councils serve a term of five years.


The legal system of Burundi is based on German and French civil codes and customary law. In 1987 there were 64 tribunals of first instance. The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are located in the capital, Bujumbura.

The 1992 constitution established a number of new courts, including a constitutional court to review all new laws for conformity to the constitution. It also created a high court responsible for resolving charges of high level crimes by high level government officials. A military court had jurisdiction over crimes by members of the military.

The military coup in 1996 abrogated the 1992 constitution and replaced it by a transitional decree. The decree of 13 September 1996 provided for an independent judiciary, which in fact was dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group. The decree also provided for the right to privacy. Authorities generally respect the law requiring search warrants.

As of 2005, the judicial system was divided into the Cour Supreme (Supreme Court), Constitutional Court (created by the 2005 constitution), and three Courts of Appeal. The president nominates members of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, with the Supreme Court the final court of appeal. There are 17 province-level Tribunals of First Instance, and 123 local tribunals.


In 2005, Burundi had 50,500 active personnel in its armed forces. The Army had 40,000 personnel, including a 200 member Air Wing. The troops included seven infantry battalions, two light armored squadrons, one engineer battalion, one air defense battalion, and one artillery battalion. The Air Wing had two combat capable aircraft that were also used in a training capacity. Paramilitary gendarmerie numbered around 5,500. The defense budget in 2005 was $46.1 million.


Burundi was admitted to UN membership on 18 September 1962 and is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. It also belongs to the African Development Bank, G-77, the ACP Group, COMESA, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. It became a member of the WTO on 23 July 1995. Burundi, Rwanda, and the DROC form the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), which is intended to foster development in the region of lakes Kivu and Tanganyika. Burundi also cooperates with Rwanda and Tanzania in the development of the Kagera River Basin. In addition, Burundi is part of the Nonaligned Movement. The United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) was established in May 2004 and consists of 44 member countries offering support for reconciliation and peacekeeping among the Tutsi, Hutu, and other conflicting ethnic groups from the boundary regions of Burundi, DROC, Rwanda, and Uganda.

In environmental cooperation, Burundi is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Burundi's is an agricultural and livestock economy with over 90% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. Bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, and manioc are Burundi's staple crops, followed by beans, taro, and maize. Coffee and tea are the main export crops. Coffee provides roughly 50% of export earnings, which are thus vulnerable to international coffee prices and seasonal yields. Cotton is Burundi's other principal export, but cotton production has been plagued by excessive rain. Livestock sales are discouraged by a tradition that encourages the maintenance of large herds. Sales of hides and skins amount to some 3% of exports.

Burundi's mineral sector is currently small, with a potential that remains undetermined. Gold, tungsten, columbo-tantalite, bastnaesite, and cassiterite are each mined in small quantities. Explorations have revealed petroleum under Lake Tanganyika and in the Ruzizi Valley, as well as large nickel deposits at Musongati. Copper, cobalt, and platinum are expected to be found in association with the nickel. Phosphate rock deposits have also been located.

Since 1993, ethnic tensions and ongoing violence have severely disrupted the economy, bringing the government's economic reforms to a halt. International sanctions in 1996 exacerbated the poor economic situation, causing further food shortages, and high inflation. There was a 50% increase in the number of people falling below the poverty line. Although the Arusha Peace Accords had been signed in 2000, violence continued into 2003, as one million people fled their homes. Over 300,000 people since 1993 had been killed in Burundi's civil war. Political instability is also compounded by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Nearly one in ten adults are infected with HIV/AIDS, and medicines are in short supply. Sanctions imposed by neighboring countries on Burundi have stunted the economy, although a regional trade embargo was lifted in 1999. However, by the end of 2005 fighting had stopped in most of the country, and greater internal stability and donor-financed capital expenditure is hoped to aid growth throughout the economy during 2006 and in coming years. This can be seen in the gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the period 20002004. In 2000 GDP grew at a negative growth rate of 0.9% but bounced back in 2001 and 2002 to 3.2% and 3.6% respectively. It declined to a 1.3% in 2003 but strongly bounced back to 5.5% in 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Burundi's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $4.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 14%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 45.6% of GDP, industry 20.8%, and services 33.6%.

Foreign aid receipts amounted to $224 million or about $31 per capita and accounted for approximately 39.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Burundi totaled $519 million or about $72 per capita based on a GDP of $595.0 million, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption changed at an average annual rate of -1.7%. It was estimated that in 2002 about 68% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The total labor force in 2002 was put at 2.99 million, mostly in small subsistence farming. Of the total labor force, an estimated 93.6% were engaged in agriculture, followed by 4.1% in the services sector and 2.3% in industry. There was no unemployment data available.

Workers are legally permitted to form and join unions, although the army, gendarmie, and foreign workers are prohibited from unionizing. The current labor code permits strikes but only after alternative remedies have been exhausted and six days notice given. Unions are permitted to be affiliated with international organizations. Urban civil servants make up the majority of union members. Approximately 50% of the country's public sector employees are union members, but less than 10% of those that made up the formal workforce in the private sector were unionized. Most of Burundi's labor force was employed in the informal sector of the economy, which was unregulated and offered little or no protection to worker's labor rights.

Although the country's labor code restricts child labor, limiting minors under the age of 18 to only those forms of employment deemed acceptable to the Ministry of Labor, such as light work, and to apprenticeships that do not hamper the child's health, normal development or schooling, in addition to forced and compulsory labor, reports indicated that the nation's security forces continue to use children (and adults) to perform menial tasks without pay. According to a 2003 survey by UNICEF, some 640,000 minors were performing compulsory labor. In addition, children in rural areas under 16 years of age performed heavy manual labor during the day, during the school year, on a regular basis.

While there was a formal minimum wage of $0.15 per day, as of 2005, this was insufficent to support a family, so most families rely on second incomes and subsistence agriculture as well. Burundi's labor codes mandate a 45-hour workweek and an eight-hour work day, excluding those activities that are related to the country's security. However, enforcement was not always carried out.


About 90% of the population depends on agriculture for a living. Most agriculture consists of subsistence farming, with only about 15% of the total production marketed. An estimated 1,351,000 hectares (3,338,000 acres), or about 52.6% of the total land area, is arable or under permanent crops; about 5.5% of cropland is irrigated. The average farm family plot is 0.8 hectares (two acres). Agriculture accounted for 51% of the GDP in 2004. Coffee and tea exports comprise the majority of foreign earnings; coffee alone accounted for 39% of exports of goods in 2004. Agricultural exports accounted for 48% of exports in 2004. Principal crops for local consumption are manioc, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, corn, and sorghum. Production in 2004 included bananas, 1,600,000 tons, mostly for wine; manioc, 710,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 834,000 tons; beans, 220,000 tons; sorghum, 74,000 tons; corn, 123,000 tons; peanuts, 8,800 tons; and yams, 9,900 tons.

The primary export crop is coffee, chiefly of the arabica variety. The government regulates the grading, pricing, and marketing of the coffee crop, and all coffee export contracts require approval. In 2004, coffee production was 20,100 tons. Other export crops are cotton and tea. Seed cotton production was 3,000 tons, and cotton fiber production (after ginning) was about 1,300 tons in 2004. That year, tea production was 6,600 tons. Tea exports in 2004 of 753 tons represented 3% of total exports; the government has been encouraging cotton and tea production in order to diversify exports. Palm oil is obtained from trees in plantations along the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Tobacco and wheat cultivated in the highland areas also yield some cash income.

Much of the land has suffered a loss of fertility because of soil erosion from poor agricultural practices, irregularity of rainfall, lack of fertilizer, and shortened fallow periods.


Livestock in 2004 included some 325,000 head of cattle, 750,000 goats, 230,000 sheep, 70,000 pigs, and 4.3 million chickens. Social prestige has traditionally been derived from ownership of cattle. This, together with improved sanitary conditions, has resulted in the accumulation of large herds of poor-quality stock; for example, the average milk yield per cow is only 350 kg a year (17% of world average). Total milk production was estimated at 19,200 tons in 2004. Meat consumption is estimated at only 48 calories per person per day, only one-tenth of the world's average. Production of meat in 2004 was 23,400 tons. The herds retard economic development by cutting down the amount of land available for food growing, and they destroy pastureland by overgrazing. Through various technical assistance programs, the government is seeking to eliminate excess cattle, improve the remaining livestock, and introduce modern stock-raising methods.


There are three main methods of fishing in Lake Tanganyika: industrial, native, and traditional. Industrial fishing, which developed after 1946, is carried on by small trawlers accompanied by several rowboats. Native fishing is in catamarans equipped with lights, nets, and engines. Traditional fishing is in pirogues equipped with lights and landing nets. The total fish catch was 14,897 tons in 2003.


Erosion and cutting, chiefly for fuel, have almost entirely eliminated Burundi's forests. The harvesting of wood has increased only slightly since the late 1970s, and the emphasis has now shifted to reforestation. Forests and woodlands cover an estimated 325,000 hectares (803,000 acres). Natural forest covered only about 3.7% of the land area in 2000. The average annual deforestation rate was 9% during the 1990s. Of an estimated 8.6 million cu m (303 million cu ft) in roundwood production in 2003, 99% was for fuel.


Mining and energy accounted for about 1% of Burundi's GDP in 2004. The country has been known to produce columbium (niobium)-tantalum ore, gold, kaolin (china clay), tin, and tungsten ore, mostly for export, and limestone, peat, sand, and gravel for domestic consumption. Burundi had significant deposits of feldspar, kaolin, nickel, phosphate, platinum-group metals, quartzite, rare-earth metals, vanadium, and limestone for cement. There were gold deposits at Mabayi, Muyinga, Cankuzo, and Tora-Ruzibazi, where artisanal mining took place. After waning in the early 1990s, gold production rose to 1,000 kg in 1994 and 2,200 kg in 1996, and then dropped to 1,500 kg in 19972000. In 2004, gold mine production totaled an estimated 2,900 kg. The government has tried to transfer technical skills to artisanal miners, to raise productivity and increase state revenues. The Burundi Mining Corp., a governmentprivate venture, was exploring the possibility of producing gold on a commercial basis at Muyinga, where resources were estimated at 60 tons of gold. Deposits of cassiterite, columbite-tantalite, and wolframite associated with pegamatites were found in Kayanza and Kirundo provinces. Nickel reserves, found in 1974, were estimated at 370 million tons (3%5% of the world's total); high transportation costs, low world market prices, and political instability have delayed their exploitation. Since 1993, foreign investment and development of Burundi's resources have been hindered by civil unrest, social strife, and economic sanctions imposed by regional states; the economy contracted by 23% in the period 199396. Although the sanctions were lifted in 1999, internal strife continued to hurt the economy. In 2000, Burundi joined with 19 other nations to form Africa's first free-trade area, and the World Bank and other international donors pledged to give $440 million in reconstruction aid to Burundi. In 2004, production of columbite-tantalite (gross weight) was 23,356 kg, and of peat, 4,643 metric tons. Kaolin was not mined in 2004. Tin mines produced an estimated 10 metric tons in 2004. Tungsten mine output totaled 9 metric tons in 2004.


Bujumbura and Gitega are the only two cities in Burundi that have municipal electricity service. Burundi's total installed capacity was 49,000 kW in 2001. Two dams completed since 1984 have increased the amount of power production from hydroelectric installations. In 2001, estimated production of electricity totaled 0.155 billion kWh, of which 0.154 billion kWh was from hydroelectric sources, with geothermal and thermal sources accounting for the rest. Consumption in 2001 was estimated at 0.17 billion kWh. Burundi imports all of its petroleum products from Kenya and Tanzania, and has no known reserves of petroleum or natural gas. Consumption of oil in 2001 is estimated at 3,000 barrels per day. Burundi is estimated to have no known consumption of natural gas in 2001. A subsidiary of Amoco has an oil exploratory concession in and around Lake Tanganyika. Wood and peat account for 94% of energy consumption in Burundi. Peat offers an alternative to increasingly scarce firewood and charcoal as a domestic energy source. The government is promoting peat production and is fostering the development of renewable energy resources, such as solar electricity and biogas.


Industrial activities are almost exclusively concentrated in Bujumbura and accounted for an estimated 19.4% of the GDP in 2002. The industrial sector transforms to varying degrees agricultural and forestry products: cotton, coffee, tea, vegetable oil, and woods. There are also several small plants for soft drinks, blankets, footwear, soap, insecticides, building materials, furniture, and metal goods. The future of industrial development is largely linked to the development of political stability and the growth of electric power and transportation, as well as improved commercial relations with neighboring countries.

Industrial production rose almost 2% in 1998, the first increase since ethnic warfare began in 1993. Production of sugar, milk, paints, soap, bottles, pharmaceutical products, and textiles increased between 10% and 40% in 1998. The Teza tea plant was reconstructed (after being destroyed by rebels in 1996), increasing production from 1997 by 59% in 1998. Mining projects were also resumed, including nickel and gold operations. The country has no known oil, natural gas, or coal resources. Since 2001, the construction industry recovered somewhat, as new building projects were started in Bujumbura. Brarudi, a brewery, is the country's largest and most reliable source of tax revenue. Brarudi beer has a good reputation in the region.


Technical aid is supplied by many donors, including the EEC, the World Bank, Belgium, France, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the United States, Switzerland, and China. The National Center of Hydrometeorology, the Ministry of Geology and Mines, the Institute of Agronomical Sciences of Burundi (founded in 1960), and a medical laboratory devoted to nutritional studies are located in Bujumbura. The University of Burundi, in Bujumbura, has faculties of sciences, medicine, psychology and education, agriculture, and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 18% of college and university enrollments. The Higher Institute of Agriculture is in Gitega. In the period 198797, total expenditures for research and development totaled 0.3% of GDP. A total of 32 technicians and 21 scientists and engineers per million people were actively engaged in research and development for the period.

The Living Museum of Bujumbura has a reptile house, an aquarium, an aviary, a fishing museum, a botanical garden, and a herpetology center.


Ethnic violence since 1993 has limited domestic commerce. Burundi's economy is characterized by subsistence agriculture; commercialization and nationwide distribution of daily necessities and foodstuffs are practically nonexistent. There is a very small manufacturing sector centered in Bujumbura, producing beer, soft drinks, soap, insecticides, textiles, and cigarettes, primarily for local distribution. Rural markets are the principal distribution centers. The National Office of Commerce is a state trading concern. Smaller trading operations are often in the hands of Greeks, Indians, and Arabs. All domestic trade is influenced by the coffee harvest, which during the harvest season (JuneSeptember) provides increased income and stimulates trading, with a somewhat inflationary effect.

Business hours are usually 8 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm on weekdays and 8 am to noon on Saturday. Banks are open 8 to 11:30 am MondayFriday.


In 2004, Burundi's imports exceeded its exports by 266%. Burundi's export income is highly volatile and fluctuates sharply with shifts in world coffee prices. Burundi's most important cash crop is coffee (73.3%), which is the most exported commodity. Tea (7.0%), hides (6.7%), gold (5.6%), and sugars (4.9%) encompass practically all of Burundi's remaining exports. Important imports

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 26.5 128.8 -102.3
Belgium 6.2 21.4 -15.2
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 6.2 0.9 5.3
United Kingdom 5.8 1.5 4.3
Rwanda 3.2 0.8 2.4
Netherlands 1.7 2.3 -0.6
Germany 0.9 3.4 -2.5
Congo (DROC) 0.5 0.5
Kenya 0.5 15.7 -15.2
France-Monaco 0.4 9.2 -8.8
Uganda 0.3 1.2 -0.9
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account -37.3
    Balance on goods -92.5
        Imports -130.0
        Exports 37.5
    Balance on services -39.4
    Balance on income -17.3
    Current transfers 112.0
Capital Account -0.9
Financial Account -50.0
    Direct investment abroad
    Direct investment in Burundi
    Portfolio investment assets
    Portfolio investment liabilities
    Financial derivatives
    Other investment assets -19.9
    Other investment liabilities -30.1
Net Errors and Omissions -12.6
Reserves and Related Items 100.9
() data not available or not significant.

include capital goods, petroleum products, foodstuffs, and chemicals.


The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2004 the purchasing power parity of Burundi's exports was $48 million while imports totaled $175.9 million, resulting in a trade deficit of $127.9 million.


Until the DROC became independent in 1960, the monetary and banking systems of Ruanda-Urundi were integrated with those of the Congo. Thereafter, Ruanda-Urundi had its own monetary structure and central bank. Shortly after the UN-sponsored Addis Ababa conference of July 1962, Rwanda and Burundi entered into an economic agreement providing for a continuation of the monetary union. After the breakup of the economic union in December 1963, Burundi's banking operations were transacted through the Bank of the Kingdom of Burundi, which in 1967 became the Bank of the Republic of Burundi, the central bank and bank of issue. Burundi has a number of commercial banks, which handle a substantial portion of short-term credit (vital for the coffee season) that include the Commercial Bank of Burundi, the Credit Bank of Bujumbura, and the Belgian-African Bank of Burundi. There are also a savings bank, a postal savings bank, and a joint Libyan-Burundian financial institution. Other financial institutions are the National Economic Development Bank and the Central Fund for Mobilization and Finance.

The World Bank suspended all but three minor social-sector programs in late October 1996. A World Bank delegation visited Burundi in February 1997 to assess the situation, and concluded that conditions were not right for a resumption of funding. As a result of the deteriorating balance-of-payments situation, reserves were run down, from $209 million at the end of 1995 to $140 million in December 1996 and $108 million in 1998.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $96.4 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $138.7 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 14%.


Insurance companies operating in Burundi include the Commercial Union of Insurance and Reinsurance (Union Commerciale d'Assurances et de Réassurances-UCAR), the partly state-owned Insurance Co. of Burundi (Société d'Assurances du Burundi-SOCABU), and a branch of the General Insurance of France. Motor vehicle insurance is the only compulsory coverage.


Burundi is extremely dependent on foreign aid, although the crisis in 1993 forced the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend structural adjustment programs. Emphasized reforms included price liberalization, governmental transparency, debt reduction, and a wider variety of exports.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Burundi's central government took in revenues of approximately $215.4 million and had expenditures of $278 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$62.6 million. Total external debt was $1.2 billion.

The IMF reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were BFr63,536 million and expenditures were BFr88,593 million. The value of revenues in US dollars that year was us$113 million and expenditures us$157 million, based on a official exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = BFr563.56 (as reported by the IMF). Government outlays

Revenue and Grants 63,536 100.0%
    Tax revenue 59,956 94.4%
    Social contributions
   Other revenue 3,580 5.6%
Expenditures 88,593 100.0%
    General public services 38,185 43.1%
    Defense 24,564 27.7%
    Public order and safety 2,502 2.8%
   Economic affairs 4,568 5.2%
    Environmental protection
    Housing and community amenities
    Health 2,271 2.6%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 345 0.4%
    Education 15,991 18.0%
    Social protection 168 0.2%
() data not available or not significant.

by function were as follows: general public services, 43.1%; defense, 27.7%; public order and safety, 2.8%; economic affairs, 5.2%; health, 2.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.4%; education, 18.0%; and social protection, 0.2%.


There are income taxes on businesses and individuals, and a tax on transactions. Other direct taxes are on vehicles and real estate. About twice as much money is collected from indirect taxes, of which the most important are import and export duties, and a tax on beer.


Import duties, which are levied mainly ad valorem, include a revenue duty averaging 1535% and an import duty averaging 25%. The government also levies a 4% statistical tax on all imports. Burundi is a member of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and, as a party to the Lomé Convention, receives preferential treatment by the European Union.


Because of its ethnic conflict, limited domestic market, and lack of infrastructure, Burundi has attracted few private foreign investors. The 1979 investment code provides basic guarantees to foreign investors and the corporation tax may be waived for five years. In practice there were delays in the repatriation of profits. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to Burundi were insignificant until 2000 when they reached $11.7 million. They later became zero again. The low level of FDI inflows is attributed to the fact that Burundi is a landlocked least developed country with little natural resources and a tiny market. FDI inward stock grew from $30 million in 1990 to about $34 million in 1995 and then jumped to $48 million in 2002. Two of the three largest affiliates of foreign transnational companies (TNCs) in Burundi in 2002 originated from Belgium and are engaged in financial sector activities. The third, which is also engaged in financial sector activities is jointly owned by Belgium and Germany.


Burundi began a complete review of economic and financial policy with the help of the UN in 1986, when a reform of the currency and the first of a series of devaluations occurred. The first five-year plan was designed to improve economic growth, reduce inflation, and diversify export production. Few of these objectives were met, and the program was discontinued in 1991. A second reform of the currency and further devaluation took place in 1992. These reforms led up to the gradual decline of living standards and exacerbated ethnic tensions, resulting in the ethnic clashes of the 1990s.

Burundi is dependent on foreign assistance for both development programs and current operations. Diversification of its export base and financial stability are key goals. The African Development Bank, European Union, and Belgium are Burundi's principal providers of development financial and technical support. Support has been pledged for the health sector, education, refugee rehabilitation, and general reconstruction.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $13 million in assistance to support Burundi's reconstruction and economic recovery program in 2003, following the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. It was the first such IMF assistance to Burundi since the outbreak of hostilities in 1993. The program addresses security and humanitarian assistance needs, as well as the improvement of basic infrastructure. Low world coffee prices in the late 1990s and early 2000s resulted in a reduction of foreign exchange earnings, and the government resolved to find other ways to generate growth.

In 2005, the new government stated its intention to continue with the economic policy reforms contained in the IMF's poverty reduction and growth facility. Inflation has remained high averaging 10.1% per annum for the period 20002005 due in part to a poor harvest which kept food prices elevated. However, there is optimism that the next harvest will be better, and food prices are expected to decline. Strong coffee production in 2004/05 and high international prices boosted exports in the first half of 2005. Donors have promised to support the country's political transition to democracy with financial aid.


Under the tribal system, the individual's basic welfare needs have traditionally been the responsibility of the group. Even now, the family remains the most important social welfare institution. There are social centers for women and youth. Missions help to look after orphans and the aged. For the small percentage of wage earners, there is a government social security system that insures against accidents and occupational diseases and provides old-age and disability pensions. This program is funded by employer and employee contributions. Workers covered by the labor code are entitled to workers' compensation for temporary and permanent disabilities. Employed persons are entitled to family allowances.

The Transitional Constitution Act guarantees equal protection for all citizens, but it has not been effectively implemented. Women suffer job discrimination and sexual violence, which is rarely reported to the authorities. The stigma of rape is so pervasive that women are subject to ridicule by authorities, and often are required to provide food and other costs of incarcerating the rapist. Domestic violence is commonplace although no cases involving abuse of women have ever been heard in a Burundian court. Children are often used for forced labor, have been subjected to violence, and have lost family members to the civil war.

Burundi's poor human rights record remains unchanged, with failure to control excesses by security forces, including reprisals against civilians following rebel attacks. Abductions are commonplace. Prison conditions are life threatening.


Following independence, the World Health Organization (WHO) assisted in the organization of public health services and the training of sanitarians and public health nurses for Burundi. Students from Burundi received medical training at universities in France and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. WHO coordinated all public health programs and helped in campaigns against smallpox, tuberculosis, and malaria. WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and UNICEF also provided aid for nutrition and maternal and child health programs. Following the assassination of the president of Burundi in 1993, widespread violence involving tribal groups uprooted many of the country's people. Approximately 683,000 people fled to neighboring countries, rural villages, or towns where sanitation is poor.

Outbreaks of group A meningitis are occurring in Burundi. There have been over 2,500 cases of meningitis. Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), borne by the tsetse fly, is a problem in the Ruvuvu River Valley. Malaria and schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) are common along the Ruzizi River. Intake of animal protein and fat is inadequate and almost all diseases associated with malnutrition are found in Burundi. In 1995, 2,297 cases of cholera were reported. A four-year program covering 3040% of the country, started in 1986, was intended to rehabilitate and expand rural water supplies. Approximately 58% of the population had access to safe water.

In 2004, there were an estimated 5 doctors, 28 nurses, and 1 pharmacist per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditures were estimated at 3.7% of GDP.

In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 64.39, down from 102 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate of 1,900 per 100,000 live births was one of the highest in Africa. Only 9% of married women (ages 15 to 49) practiced contraception. In 1999, Burundi immunized children up to one year of age as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 74% and measles, 75%. Approximately 38% of children under five years old were considered to be malnourished.

Average life expectancy in 2005 was estimated at 50 years, up from 42 years in 2000. There were approximately 8,000 war-related deaths during the conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus from 1988 to 1992. The death rate was estimated at 16 per 1,000 as of 2002. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 6.00 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 250,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 25,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Civil war has caused homelessness through displacement of residents and destruction of homes. In 2004, about 1.2 million people were still without basic permanent shelter. Foreign assistance programs for reconstruction and improvements in housing are underway. The basic type of housing in the rural areas is the hut, most commonly beehive shaped, made of strips of wood woven around poles, and covered with tin (thatch has become scarce). The huts are generally not grouped into villages but are organized in groups on a family basis. Government resettlement projects have been considering plans to build mud and cement brick dwellings with roofs of corrugated iron sheets or ceramic tile. The average dwelling is a two- or three-room home, which generally houses about five people.


Until 1954, all education was provided by religious missions; it was almost entirely limited to the primary grades. Education is now compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Primary education lasts for six years. General secondary education lasts for seven years. At the secondary level, students also have an option of technical studies (five years) or vocational schooling (seven year). The academic year runs from October to June. The languages of instruction in schools are Kisundi and French.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 57% of age-eligible students; 62% for boys and 52% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was estimated at about 9% of age-eligible students; 10% for boys and 8% for girls. In 2000, it was estimated that only about 26.7% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was estimated at about 50:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 19:1.

The University of Burundi, in Bujumbura (founded in 1960), is the country's only institution of higher learning. In 2001, there were about 11,000 students enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 58.9%, with 66.8% for males and 51.9% for females.

The Ministry of National Education is the primary administrative body. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.9% of GDP, or 13% of total government expenditures.


There are about 60 public libraries in Burundi, with the largest in and around the capital. Libraries in Bujumbura include the Public Library, which has 27,000 volumes; the library of the University of Burundi, with 192,000 volumes; and a specialized collection at the Department of Geology and Mines. The French Cultural Center in Bujumbura holds 33,000 volumes.

The National Museum in Gitega (founded in 1955) houses a collection of musical instruments, weapons, witchcraft implements, and a sizeable library. The Musée Vivant, established in 1977 in Bujumbura, contains exhibits reflecting all aspects of life in the country. It also includes a reptile house, aquarium, aviary, openair theater, and botanical gardens.


In 2003, there were an estimated three mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 4,700 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately nine mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 2001, there were four FM radio stations, two of which were owned by the government, including the Voice of the Revolution, broadcasting in Kirundi Swahili, French, and English. There were eight privately owned radio stations in 2004, including Radio Isanganiro, Bonesha FM, and African Public Radio (RPA); all of these are broadcast in French, Kirundi, and Kirundi Swahili. Some stations receive funding from international donors. Transmissions can be received from British Broadcasting and Radio France Internationale. A television service, Télévision Nationale du Burundi, was established in 1984, and began color transmission in 1985. In 2004, there was only one television station, which was owned by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 220 radios and 35 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 1.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and two of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were two secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The government issues a French-language daily, Le Renouveau du Burundi, with a circulation of 20,000 in 2002, and several periodicals, including a weekly newspaper, Ubumwe, published in Kirundi, with a 1999 circulation of 20,000, and Burundi Chrétien, another weekly published in French. There were five private weekly papers as of 2004 and eight private Internet and fax newssheets.

Though there are no official restrictions upon expression or the press, the regime owns the only daily newspaper and two of the major radio stations, and information is said to be slanted toward pro-government opinions.


Various commercial, agricultural, cultural, social, and welfare organizations exist in Burundi. The Burundi Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Bujumbura. The UPRONA has affiliate labor, youth, and women's organizations.

The National Council of Churches of Burundi has a membership of 500,000 Protestant denominations and congregations. The group supports issues of social welfare, peace, reconciliation, human rights, and general educational as well as evangelical activities.

Youth organizations include the National Youth Council, the Young Catholics Movement, the Red Cross Youth, YMCA, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. There are sports associations representing such pastimes as tennis, handball, and track and field. There are a number of women's organizations, including the Burundi Women's Union, which serves to encourage participation in government and politics, and the multinational Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, UNICEF, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Caritas.


Due to an ongoing civil war, tourism in Burundi has declined since 1993, although it has many tourist attractions. Lake Tanganyika is internationally famous for its scenic beauty. Points of interest include Bujumbura, the capital, on Lake Tanganyika; Gitega, the former capital, with its museum and traditional handicraft center; and the Mosso area in the southeast, with its fairly abundant wildlife. The northeast has a great variety of tropical birds. Burundi is rich in folk art; the dances and drummers of the Tutsi are particularly well known.

In 2003, tourist expenditure receipts totaled $1.2 million. All visitors require a valid passport and visa. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is recommended along with precautions for malaria.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Burundi at $184 per day.


Mwami Ntare I Rushatsi (c.1500), a warrior and astute administrator, succeeded in unifying the country under Tutsi rule. Mwambutsa IV (191378), the last mwami under the Belgian administration, was deposed in July 1966. Prince Louis Rwagasore (193061), the son of Mwambutsa, was the founder of UPRONA. Michel Micombero (194083) was president from 1966 until 1976, when he was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (b.1946). Bagaza served until 1987, when he was succeeded by a military junta led by Pierre Buyoya (b.1949).


Burundi has no territories or colonies.


Chrétien, Jean-Pierre. The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History. New York: Zone Books, 2003.

Eggers, Ellen. Historical Dictionary of Burundi. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1997.

Forster, Peter G. Race and Ethnicity in East Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Janzen, John M. Do I Still Have a Life?: Voices from the Aftermath of War in Rwanda and Burundi. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2000.

Jennings, Christian. Across the Red River: Rwanda, Burundi, and the Heart of Darkness. London: Phoenix, 2001.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Ould Abdallah, Ahmedou. Burundi on the Brink, 199395: A UN Special Envoy Reflects on Preventive Diplomacy. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2000.

Scherrer, Christian P. Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Burundi

Major City:

Other Cities:
Bururi, Gitega, Ngozi


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The Republic of BURUNDI is a landlocked country in a mountainous, isolated region of central Africa. Once a German East African possession, it later was administered by Belgium as part of Ruanda-Urundi, first under a League of Nations mandate, and later as a United Nations trust territory. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1962 and a republic in 1966.

An unusual aspect of Burundi is the scarcity of towns and villagesits traditional social structure is based on scattered farmsteads. Life centers around hillside hut compounds, called rugos, where about 95 percent of the population lives, engaging primarily in subsistence agriculture. A few coffee trees or tea bushes also provide cash income. The lyre-horned cattle, seen throughout the countryside, form another important part of Burundi's traditional rural life.



Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, is a small city in beautiful surroundings, with an agreeable year-round tropical climate. Its population is about 278,000. Downtown Bujumbura stretches along the flat northeastern edge of Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world (after Lake Baikal in southern Siberia), and once thought to be the source of the Nile. The wealthier residential area slowly has been climbing the hillsides east of the city, and some of the villa-like homes have magnificent views of the lake, the Ruzizi River plain, and the beautiful mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), just 15 miles away across the lake.

Bujumbura is a small but colorful city, which can be traversed by car in a matter of minutes. Many of the main streets are paved, and traffic is rarely a problem, except during commuter hours. Streets throughout much of the residential area are not paved but remain passable, even during the rainy season. Flowering trees in Bujumbura include flamboyants, acacia, jacaranda, and frangipani. Tropical ornamental plants thrive here, and flowers are plentiful in any season.

In the downtown commercial area, the streets are lined with small shops, usually owned by Greeks, Belgians, or Asians. Among these are various food businesses, general dry goods shops, sales and service establishments, shoe stores, some European gift shops, pharmacies, and a flower shop. Street vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables. A large open-air market thrives in the mornings, selling basketry, foods, charcoal, used clothing (much of it from the U.S.), cloth, and small items for African consumers.

Three hotels in Bujumbura, the Source du Nil, Novotel, and the Club des Vacances provide international rooms and service. Other hotels are available at much lower cost, but are not normally used by Americans.

Bujumbura's lakefront is dominated by a port area which is visited weekly by two steamers transporting goods and passengers up and down the 400-mile lake under the Tanzanian flag. Just south of the port is a scenic beach area, where residents like to drive in the evenings to view the sunset and look for hippopotami who live in the reeds and waters along the beach.

The residents of Bujumbura live in and around the city in various "quarters" and suburbs which have developed according to ethnic origin and economic status. Large foreign groups include Zairians, Belgians, Indians, Ismaili Muslims, French, and a few Arabs. Although Kirundi and French are the official languages in Burundi, many of these foreign groups use Swahili for commerce. At least some knowledge of French is necessary for shopping and social life, as little English is spoken here.

The American community is limited to the U.S. diplomatic staff and a few business people and missionaries. There is little tourism in Burundi.


Fresh tropical fruits (such as bananas, papayas, pineapples, man-goes, lemons, avocados, tangerines, strawberries, and oranges) and vegetables (including cucumbers, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, potatoes, turnips, onions, peas, leeks, green onions, green peppers, and parsley) are available at reasonable prices, although some are seasonal.

Lake Tanganyika provides Bujumbura with succulent whitefish, such as capitaine, sangala, and bangabanga, which are mild flavored and of varying size. An indigenous freshwater sardine that makes a tasty cocktail snack when deep fried can be found.

Local beef and poultry are expensive, and quality varies. Local pork and lamb are quite good. Three local European butcher shops make a variety of sausages and bacon and several types of ham and lunch meat. Other sausages, ham, special meats, and shellfish imported from Kenya and Europe are expensive.

Local milk is not considered safe; yogurt and butter are good but not always available. Cheeses, when available, are good. European cheeses, ice cream, poultry, temperate zone fruit, and other special foods are available in food stores that cater to Europeans or can be special ordered from Europe, but prices are high because of air freight costs.

Bakeries in town produce a variety of European-type breads and some pastries. Bread always seems to be available locally, but flour shortages do occur.

Burundi's locally grown and processed arabica coffee is excellent. Good locally produced tea is also available. The local brewery makes fine light and dark beers in addition to bottling cola, orange and lemon sodas, tonic, and a good soda water. Brief shortages of these beverages sometimes occur.

Some stores carry a large selection of canned goods and other European and Kenyan food and household products, but prices are high.


Summer clothes are worn throughout the year in Burundi. Little ready-made clothing is sold locally. Tailors are available, but the selection of yard goods is small, and any high-quality wash-and-wear fabric is expensive. All clothing should be washable, as dry cleaning is of questionable quality.

Lightweight suits, similar to those worn in summer in Washington, D.C., are appropriate year-round. Short-sleeved shirts are acceptable at work, but a coat and tie are preferred for special business visits. Men also wear safari suits, made to order in Bujumbura or in Nairobi. For most evening social occasions, a sport shirt without tie and coat is worn. A dinner jacket is rarely needed. For trips into the mountains, a light jacket or sweater is useful. A variety of footwear is recommended.

Women find that summer dresses, slacks, or pantsuits are worn to the office or around town. Hosiery is unnecessary. A good supply of shoes is needed; open styles are best for this tropical climate, along with tennis or hiking shoes for outdoor activities. For most evening occasions, the dress is tenue relaxe, which for women usually means long dresses or evening pants outfits that range from casual to dressy, depending on the occasion and the host. One or two long dresses will serve for more formal occasions. A stole is useful for cooler evenings, and mountain trips call for a light jacket or sweater. Some find raincoats too hot in the tropics, but umbrellas are necessary.

A generous supply of washable children's clothing as well as shoes are needed for any extended stay. Jeans and T-shirts are as popular in Burundi as elsewhere. Boys of all ages wear shorts as well as long pants. Smaller children wear rubber boots during the rainy season. Sweaters are needed occasionally in the evening.

All family members should bring appropriate gear for swimming, boating, tennis, golf, horseback riding, or other sports in which they plan to participate.

Supplies & Services

There is a lack of some services and products in Bujumbura. Most basic hygiene items, such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products are available, but at high prices. Limited supplies of play materials and household products are also expensive, as are gift wrap and party favors (which are depleted rapidly during holiday seasons). Local pharmacies stock basic needs, but do not often have special items. Photographic supplies must be ordered from abroad.

Bujumbura has no reliable dry cleaning service. Some tailors are available, and best results can be obtained through personal recommendations. Four beauty shops and two barbershops operate in Bujumbura, and the beauty shops serve both men and women.

Some skilled European electricians work in the capital, but labor and materials are expensive.

Religious Activities

In Bujumbura, Catholic Sunday services are held in Kirundi or French at the Cathedral Regina Mundi. Protestant services are offered in Kirundi or French in various churches around town. In addition, a number of English-speaking missionaries in rotation conduct Protestant Fellowship services often featuring visiting speakers from all over the world. A children's English Sunday School is held during the fellowship service.

Domestic Help

Reliable household help is available. Most households employ a combination houseboy/cook, who does the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The employer is responsible for the medical care of the servant and his family. The employer may also provide work clothing and give an additional month's pay for a New Year's bonus.

Larger families often hire servants who specialize in particular functions, such as laundry, cooking, and child care. Servants generally are male, and speak French.


Bujumbura has no English-language schools. However, American children at nursery, elementary, and secondary levels are successfully pursuing their studies in French at the French School of Bujumbura, which is a member of the French overseas school system, and partially supported by the Government of France. Some American students also enroll in the Belgian School of Bujumbura, which is also highly regarded.

Because studies are conducted in a language other than English, supplemental tutoring in French is provided, as is additional course work to help students maintain their U.S.-system grade level. Tutors are also available for supplemental English classes to help school-aged children attain appropriate levels of reading, writing, grammar, and spelling in English. Some expatriate children attend school in Europe or return to the U.S. In addition, there are English-language boarding schools in Kenya, but matriculation is sometimes difficult.

Special educational opportunities are limited, or nonexistent, depending on the availability of qualified instructors which varies from year to year. Official Americans and their families are eligible for French and Swahili lessons, following the guidelines of the Foreign Service Institute program. Kurundi lessons are available from private tutors. Adult and child education in art, music, or dancing is available.


Soccer is Burundi's national sport, and matches usually are played on Sunday afternoons. The various sporting clubs sponsor occasional competitions or tournaments but, otherwise, spectator sports are infrequent. Basketball and volleyball are played in the schools.

The few organized activities that take place center around private clubs, where dues are reasonable and where no special clothing is required, except for tennis whites. The clubs include:

Entente Sportive, a social and sports club with a large outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, a nine-hole golf course, outdoor basketball, and a club house with an excellent restaurant that is the center of social activities in the city.

Cercle Hippique, a riding club where rates are reasonable and formal riding attire is not required. Lessons are available for adults and children.

Cercle Nautique, a small yacht club on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, with mooring for sailboats and power boats. Water-skiing is common here, and fishing from the pier is popular on weekend afternoons, although catches are marginal. Cercle Nautique is a gathering spot for drinks and snacks in the early evenings and on weekends. A good bar that serves light lunches on weekends is also available.

In addition to the club facilities in Bujumbura, there is a popular swimming beach located at the Club des Vacances Hotel. The hotel is situated on the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika, approximately four miles from Bujumbura. The Castle, near Rumonge, a 45-to 60-minute drive south from Bujumbura, features an uncrowded, pleasant, sandy beach and crystal-clear water, making it another popular spot. Bring any beach equipment, such as chairs and umbrella. Such items here, if available, are expensive.

All along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, some danger exists from crocodiles and hippopotami, as well as from bilharzia, a waterborne disease spread by a tiny snail that breeds near reeds in still water. Swimming from a boat in the middle of the lake is considered safe from these dangers. No restrictions on beach attire exist.

Hunting permits are difficult to obtain, and importation of firearms, even for use in a neighboring country, should not be done without consulting authorities.

Burundi has no proper campsites, but camping opportunities are extensive in neighboring Tanzania, as well as in Kenya. Campers should bring all necessary gear, including tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, lanterns, camp stoves, and eating and cooking utensils. Tents can be rented at some campsites. Several attractive picnic areas are within a short drive from Bujumbura.

Burundi is a birdwatcher's paradise, with a region in the north noted for its various species. Bujumbura is full of colorful birdlife, as is the Ruzuzi River plain.

The mountainous interior of Burundi is beautiful. Except for the few paved truck roads, traveling is difficult. Hotels and restaurants are found only in three or four towns.

A 40-minute drive (21 miles) along the paved road to Bugarama leads to the over 6,000-foot crest between the Nile and Zaire River basins. The area offers many picnic sites, including the beautiful tea plantation at Teza.

Road trips outside the country are feasible to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and to Rwanda. Travel by car from Bujumbura north to Kigali, Rwanda, takes five hours. From Kigali, it is possible to reach the Akagera Game Park in northeastern Rwanda. The park has abundant wildlife, and its flora has not been damaged by elephants and giraffes, as is sometimes the case in East Africa. Rwanda also has the highly scenic volcano region in the northwest, around Lake Kivu, where gorillas can be seen. The nearby twin towns of Gisenye (Rwanda) and Goma (DRC) offer pleasant hotel accommodations.

The same Lake Kivu area can be reached by going from Bujumbura to Bukavu, DRC, (about 90 miles) and from Bukavu to Goma (about 150 miles) along the western shore of Lake Kivu. The Bukavu-Goma road is twisting, rough, and slippery during the rainy season, but the magnificent scenery is worth the effort. In the Goma vicinity, there are opportunities for hiking up to volcanos, some of which are still active. Two-and-a-half hours north of Goma is lovely Virunga Game Park, with a good hotel. The park is known for its hippos, elephants, lions, and Cob antelope. Bukavu has a park with a mountain gorilla group, just 24 miles from town. The sometimes exhausting hike through the thick forest to find and observe the gorillas is a unique experience.

The closest modern rest spot is Nairobi, Kenya, which is 500 air miles and 960 land miles from Bujumburamuch of it over difficult roads in Uganda. (Currently, travelers are discouraged from making this trip by land because of Ugandan political conditions.)

Many people take advantage of the proximity to Tanzania, which contains some of the best game parks in Africa. Travel by road, while sometimes difficult, provides an enjoyable and memorable experience.


Entertainment is limited in Bujumbura. Movies at the three cinemas are always in French. Several excellent restaurants are patronized by the American community; the menus are somewhat varied, and the cuisine is generally French, Greek, or Belgian. Prices range from moderate to expensive. Musée Vivant, a small museum with a botanical garden, reptile house, aviary, and crafts village is an interesting spot.

Private social activity is informal and frequent, usually revolving around home entertainment such as barbecues, poker nights, or dinner and a movie. There is some entertaining in private clubs or restaurants, but this is expensive. Two nightclubs in town have recorded or taped music. Bujumbura also has several discotheques, but private clubs offer the best opportunity for meeting new people.

Much of the American community is organized around the Bujumbura American Recreation Association (BARA). It operates the Torchlight Club, a nightclub-like place for parties and movies. BARA also has a video club with over 300 films.

Lions Club International, Rotary Club, and Round Table are represented in Bujumbura, and these groups also serve in forming international contacts.

Burundians value courtesy and good manners. At the same time, they do not necessarily follow Western conventions of social conduct. Personal contact generally plays a much greater role here. Burundians seem to enjoy the relaxed, informal style of entertaining favored by many Americans.


Located in the southwestern section of the country, BURURI has sites of interest including mosques and Roman Catholic churches. The tropical climate allows the growth of various fruits, corn, and rice. Fishing on nearby Lake Tanganyika makes the production of smoked fish a major industry here.

Burundi's only community of appreciable size (other than the capital) is the small city of GITEGA in the central part of the country. Gitega is located approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Bujumbura and is connected to the capital by a major road. It is a center for education and religion. Several primary, secondary, and technical schools are located here along with places of worship for Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims. Crops such as sorghum, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, and corn are grown in areas surrounding Gitega. Industrial enterprises in Gitega are limited to peat exploitation and a small tannery. It is the location of the National Museum, opened in 1955, with its well-displayed historical and folk exhibits, as well as the site of a library. A Catholic mission here operates an art school that sells some native carvings, bas-reliefs, and ceramic work. There also are a few hotels and restaurants in the city. Gitega's population is approximately 27,000.

NGOZI is a small town located in north-central Burundi. A government hospital is located here along with several churches and mosques. Cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, coffee, bananas, and tea are grown near the town. In recent years, tin mining has become a growing industry near Ngozi. Ngozi has a population of roughly 15,000.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Burundi, measuring 10,747 square miles, is about the size of Maryland. It is located in the heart of central Africa, along the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. To the north is Rwanda, a country of about equal size, with the same local language and many of the same customs. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) is to the west, across the shared Ruzizi River and Lake Tanganyika, both forming a part of the western section of the Great Rift Valley. To the south and east lies Tanzania.

Mountains rise steeply from the Tanganyika shore to almost 9,000 feet along the Zaire-Nile watershed divide to the east of Bujumbura, which itself is situated at an altitude of 2,600 feet. Green valleys and hillsidesintensively cultivated in wheat, peas, corn, and teatypify the rest of the countryside on the divide. East of the divide, the central plateau (3,500 to 6,000 feet) gradually becomes more open and rolling, with predominating crops of bananas, corn, beans, and coffee. Toward the Tanzanian border, the altitude drops sharply at some eastern points into largely uninhabited valleys, such as the Mosso in southeastern Burundi.

The Bujumbura area has a distinct dry season and two rainy seasons. The short rainy interval extends from October to December. The long rainy period begins in February and continues through mid-May. Average annual rainfall in Bujumbura measures about 31 inches, but twice that amount occurs in the mountains. During the long, dry, summer season (mid-May to early October), a haze often obscures the mountains and even much of the lake view, but a brisk breeze around midday helps to freshen the air.

Temperatures in Bujumbura generally range from about 72°F at night to between 85°F-91°F during the day. However, temperatures may be hotter at midday during the dry season or cooler (below 80°F) on cloudy days during the rainy period. The equatorial sun at Bujumbura's altitude can be intense and very hot, with attendant sunburn problems. Humidity during the rainy season is not as severe or oppressive as in coastal African towns. Cool evenings may require a light sweater or stole, particularly after acclimatization brings sensitivity to minor temperature changes.

Much cooler temperatures are recorded in the mountains of the interior, where there are occasional night frosts in June and July. Hailstorms sometimes occur during the rainy season. Daytime temperatures in the shade are usually in the upper 60s or low 70s along the crest, and nighttime lows are about 50°F. However, midday exposure of unprotected skin to strong suneven for brief periodsat altitudes greater than 6,000 feet can result in severe burns.


Burundi's population is estimated at 5.9 million. With a population density of approximately 600 people per square mile, Burundi is one of the most densely inhabited countries in Africa. Three ethnic groups comprise the indigenous population: Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa, all of whom speak Kirundi as their native tongue.

The official languages of Burundi are French and Kirundi, although Swahili is spoken in Bujumbura and a few other commercial sectors. Because Kirundi is a difficult tonal language that requires a long learning process, most Westerners rely on French to communicate with Burundians. In recent years, the government has stressed English in schools, and some Burundian officials now have a good knowledge of English.


Burundi, formerly known as Urundi, came under the German East African Administration at the close of the 19th century. In 1919, the area called Ruanda-Urundi (now Rwanda and Burundi) was ceded to Belgium under a League of Nations mandate, which in turn became a United Nations trustee-ship after World War II. Burundi was granted independence July 1, 1962 as a constitutional monarchy.

A military coup d'état in November 1966 overthrew the king (mwami ), and established a republic under the leadership of Capt. (eventually Lt. Gen.) Michel Micombero. A second military coup 10 years later ousted Micombero on charges of corrupt and inefficient government, and brought to power Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, who had received university-level military training in Belgium. Bagaza was elected by direct suffrage in 1984. However, Bagaza's regime became increasingly repressive and unpopular. In September 1987, Bagaza was overthrown in a military coup. His replacement, Major Pierre Buyoya, suspended Burundi's constitution and named a 31-member Military Committee for National Salvation (CMSN) to govern the country. The CMSN remained the primary governmental authority until mid-1990, when it was replaced by a civilian-led National Security Council. A new constitution adopted in 1991 provided for a directly elected president, a prime minister, and an 81-seat National Assembly. It was supplanted on 6 June 1998 by a Transitional Constitution which enlarged the National Assembly to 121 seats and created two vice presidents.

Two national, mainstream governing parties are the Unity for National Progress or UPRONA; and the Burundi Democratic Front or FRODEBU. A multiparty system was introduced after 1998.

Burundi is divided into 16 provinces, each headed by a governor. Provinces are subdivided into communes, communal subsectors called zones, and groups of hills and individual hills (collines ) which traditionally organize along family lines.

The Burundi flag consists of a white diagonal cross on green and red quarters, with three red stars (for unity, work, and progress) on a central circle.

Arts, Science, Education

There is no compulsory education in Burundi. The country's literacy rate in 1995 was about 35 percent.

The University of Burundi, including the semi-autonomous Teachers College (ENS) in Bujumbura, has an estimated 3,300 students. Its law, arts and letters, economics, and agricultural departments, as well as the ENS, offer four years of study leading to a degree. The University of Burundi has a medical school. A large number of French, Belgian, Swiss, Russian, and other foreign professors teach at the university.

Five schools in Bujumbura operate for foreign students, offering classes from kindergarten through high school.

Four private kindergartens operate for preschool children aged three to five.

Commerce and Industry

Burundi's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Over 90 percent of Burundi's people are engaged in subsistence farming. Burundi's principal product is arabica coffee, most of which is sold to the European Community (EC). Coffee provides up to 80 percent of Burundi's export earnings. Other cash crops include tea, cotton, tobacco, and palm oil.

The manufacturing sector in Burundi is small and centered primarily in Bujumbura. The city has a few light industries producing beer, soft drinks, soap, metal parts, insecticides, textiles, cigarettes, and paint.

High-grade nickel deposits and other minerals were discovered in the 1980s, providing new resource potential. The government, international organizations, and several firms are studying techniques for exploiting these minerals. In 1985, Amoco began a major oil exploration program in Burundi.

Wood is Burundi's main source of energy. The Mugere hydroelectric dam, constructed by the Chinese, was opened in 1986 and supplies part of the electrical power consumed in Bujumbura.

EC countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium are Burundi's main trading partners.

Burundi is extremely dependent on foreign aid. The EC nations, China, the United States, World Bank, and the United Nations have all contributed substantial amounts of economic assistance.

The Chambre de Commerce et de l'Industrie du Burundi has an office in Bujumbura. The postal address is B.P. 313.


No domestic transportation system is acceptable except weekly Air Burundi flights to Gitega. A World War I era German navy steamer transports passengers and cargo around Lake Tanganyika. Bujumbura International Airport is located approximately 10 miles (15 kilometers) from Bujumbura. Direct air service exists between Bujumbura and Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Uganda, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Russia, and Belgium. Participating airlines are Air France, Aeroflot, Air Tanzania, Air Zaire, Kenya Airlines, Cameroon Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Sabena.

Although all-weather roads provide access to the game parks in Zaire and Rwanda, as well as overland travel to Uganda and Kenya, political conditions may discourage such travel. Travelers can reach the game parks in Tanzania by car, but distances are great, and roads may be impassable.

Taxis are available within Bujumbura. Fares are negotiated at the beginning of a trip. A vehicle with a driver may be rented, but rates are high. Tips (always less than 10 percent) are welcome, but not mandatory.

The country's rudimentary public transportation system makes a dependable, personally owned automobile a necessity. Burundi, and its most easily reached neighbors, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), use left-hand drive, but right-hand-drive cars are permitted. A valid operator's license is the only requirement for obtaining a permit to drive in Burundi.

Most roads outside the city of Bujumbura are unpaved. However, there is a good, all-weather highway to Kigali, Rwanda; a fair road connects the city to Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire); and, within the country, roads to the cities of Rumonge, Gihofi, Nyanza Lac, Muyinga, and Gitega are paved. Generally rough roads dictate the need for a car with adequate ground clearance.

The Americans living in Burundi own an equal mix of American and foreign-made cars. Outside the U.S. community, predominant makes include Toyota, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Land or Range Rovers. Smaller cars prevail because of the extremely high cost of gasoline. Local dealers and service are available for the above makes, but there is no guarantee of parts availability. Cars built for the American market have different specifications from those built for Burundi. Ideally, vehicles should be equipped with heavy-duty suspension, cooling systems, heavy-duty batteries, and tube-type tires.

Air conditioning is a welcome feature, but not essential. It is advisable to keep an extra supply of oil, gas, and air filters; spark plugs; oil, brake, and transmission fluid; fan belts; windshield wipers; and various bulbs and fuses to simplify maintenance and reduce costs.


Bujumbura has a relatively dependable local telephone service, although it is subject to interruptions. Service within the country is fairly good. Delays are often encountered when placing international calls, but a ground-satellite relay station usually produces clear connections.

Commercial cable service is available, but extremely expensive. The rate system is complex.

International airmail service to and from Burundi is generally good. Letters to Europe take about five days for delivery, and to the U.S., about 10 days. Surface mail is in transit four to eight months to or from the U.S. Packages are subject to customs problems, and service is often unreliable.

The one radio station in Burundi is the government-controlled La Voix de la Révolution. It broadcasts on several FM frequencies in French, Kirundi, Swahili, and English.

A shortwave radio is a must for international and sports news. A good receiver can pick up British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), as well as non-English broadcasts.

Burundi's television service, Télévision Nationale du Burundi broadcasts from a station in Bujumbura. Programs are in Kirundi or consist of French-language news and films. Also, Zaire television can be seen on a set capable of receiving SECAM standard broadcasts for color or, CCIR standard for black-and-white. Many expatriates have American standard (NTSC) television and VCRs and order commercially or privately made tapes from the U.S.

The only local Western-language newspaper is Le Renouveau du Burundi, an eight-page, daily, French-language paper published by the Burundi Ministry of Information. It often features good and accurate international news, but generally arrives one day late. The most widely read English-language newspaper is the International Herald Tribune, which arrives from The Hague one to five days late. Editions of Time, Newsweek, and The Economist, or Sunday editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post can be ordered by mail, but these subscriptions often are three to four weeks in arriving.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

General medical practitioners, both European and Burundian, can be consulted in Bujumbura. Local opto-metrical and ophthalmological care is not recommended, but good care is available in Nairobi. Burundi's hospitals do not meet Western standards and, except in emergencies, most Western expatriates use facilities in Kenya or South Africa.

Routine dental care is unavailable in Bujumbura. However, Nairobi, Kenya has good dental facilities. Orthodontic work cannot be done in Bujumbura. Western Europe or South Africa offer the nearest acceptable facilities.

Community Health

Malaria, viral infections, colds, insect bites, and easily infected cuts are the most common ailments in Bujumbura. Those suffering from asthma or allergies also may have problems, particularly during the dusty dry season.

The level of public sanitation compares favorably with other developing countries, but falls below U.S. standards. Open drains, lack of a sewage system, garbage piles, open field burning, and other unsanitary practices are still common.

Preventive Measures

Malaria prophylaxis should be initiated at least one week before arriving in Burundi. Mefloquine is recommended because the mosquitoes are chloroquine resistant. The list of inoculations recommended by the U.S. Department of State for its employees includes those for yellow fever, smallpox, tetanus, typhoid, and polio; gamma globulin shots also are on the list. Yellow fever and cholera immunizations are required for entry into the country.

AIDS is a major problem, especially among prostitutes. In Africa, AIDS is primarily a heterosexual disease and extreme caution is urged.

Although the water supply in Bujumbura is considered safe, boiling and filtering is recommended because of the doubtful condition of pipes, particularly in the older downtown areas. In restaurants, locally bottled beverages are readily available (cola, soda water, tonic, orange and lemon-lime soft drinks, and an excellent beer). Scrupulous care must be taken in the preparation of food. Vegetables should be washed and all household staff members who handle food should receive periodic physical examinations.

The risk of bilharzia exists along much of the Lake Tanganyika shoreline, although some beaches and mid-lake areas are less dangerous.

Persons with pets should bring flea and tick collars, spray, or powder. Competent veterinary care is available, but it is often necessary to purchase veterinary medicines and vaccines from Nairobi, Europe, or the U.S.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 5 Unity Day

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1 Labor Day

May/June Ascension Day*

July 1 Independence Day

Aug. 15 Assumption Day*

Oct. 13 Prince Louis Rwagasore Day

Oct. 21 President Ndadaye's Day

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to Burundi is nearly always by air, although it is possible to cross the border by road or ferry. Travelers generally transit Paris, Brussels, or Nairobi, Kenya. Most flights go through Nairobi, and provide an opportunity for last-minute shopping.

A passport, visa, and evidence of immunization against yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis are required. Only those travelers resident in countries where there is no Burundian Embassy are eligible for entry stamps, without a visa, at the airport upon arrival. These entry stamps are not a substitute for a visa, which must be obtained from the Burundi Immigration Service within 24 hours of arrival. Travelers without a visa are not permitted to leave the country. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007; telephone (202) 342-2574 or the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations in New York. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Burundian embassy or consulate.

Travelers who wish to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Burundi, Rwanda or Uganda may experience difficulties at DRC airports or other ports of entry. Some travelers with those visas or exit/entry stamps have been detained for questioning in DRC.

Americans living in or visiting Burundi are encouraged to register at the Consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Burundi and obtain updated information on travel and security within Burundi. The U.S. Embassy is located on the Avenue des Etats-Unis. The mailing address is B.P. 34, 1720 Bujumbura, Burundi. The telephone number is (257) 223-454, fax (257) 222-926.


All pets entering Burundi must have accredited rabies and health certificates. The rabies vaccination should be given 30 to 60 days before arrival, and the health certificate should be dated within 48 hours of the start of the pet's travel. Quarantine is not required for arriving animals.

Pet food is available, but extremely expensive and often past the date of expiration on the label. Most expatriates prepare pet food from meat products that are locally available.

The time in Burundi is Greenwich Mean Time plus two.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The official currency is the Burundi franc (BFr), linked directly to the U.S. dollar. Currency importation is not restricted, but must be declared.

No U.S. banks have affiliated offices in Bujumbura.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Africa South of the Sahara 1992. London: Europa Publications, 1991.

Kay, Reginald. Burundi Since the Genocide. London: Minority Rights Group, 1987.

Powzyk, J.A. Tracking Wild Chimpanzees in Kibira National Park. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1988.

Wolbers, Marion T. Burundi. Places& Peoples of the World Series. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

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Republic of Burundi

République du Burundi

Republika yu Burundi



Burundi is a landlocked state in Central Africa, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, south of Rwanda, and west of Tanzania. It has an area of 27,830 square kilometers (10,745 square miles), slightly smaller than Maryland. Burundi's capital city, Bujumbura, is located on the shore of Lake Tanganyika near the country's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.


The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimated Burundi's population at 6.97 million in 2000, growing at an annual rate of 2.5 percent. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 40.46 births per 1,000 population while the death rate was 16.44 deaths per 1,000. The population is expected to reach 10.37 million by 2015 and 16.94 million by 2050. In 1999, only 9 percent of Burundians lived in urban habitats, which was one of the lowest levels of urbanization in Africa. About 67 percent of Burundians are Christians, mostly Roman Catholics, while 23 percent hold some form of indigenous beliefs, and 10 percent are Muslims.

Approximately 99 percent of the citizens of Burundi are Rundi (or Barundi) and speak Kirundi. Kirundi and French are the country's official languages. Ethnic groups include the Hutu (85 percent), Tutsi (14 percent), and Twa (1 percent). Due to conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, and among different Tutsi groups, the country experienced mass emigration of refugees. Many people fled to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hoping to avoid violence. The net emigration rate was estimated to be 7.43 emigrants per 1,000 people in 2000.

Burundi has a very young population with 47 percent aged 14 or younger and just 3 percent aged 65 or older. As the younger half of the population grows to maturity and reproduces, Burundi's already high population density of 260 per square kilometer (100 per square mile) is expected to reach dangerous levels. However, the terrifying death toll of the AIDS epidemic may retard such population growth.

It is estimated that 39,000 Burundians died from AIDS in 1999 and 30 percent of all 25-29 year olds were HIV positive. The national rate of HIV infection stood at 11.32 percent. The social and economic costs of the disease are high. For example, the drawn out nature of death from AIDS requires a large amount of care and attention. As a result many of the population (mostly women) who could be employed are instead providing long-term care for the dying. In addition, by 1999 the estimated number of orphans created due to AIDS in Burundi reached 230,000.


Agricultural production dominates Burundi's national economy. During the colonial period (1899-1962) the German and Belgian administrations forced Burundi's workers to produce goods like coffee and tea for export to Europe. This pattern of production continues, while the mining, manufacturing, and service sectors are less developed.

Violence and political conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups plagued Burundi after its independence from Belgium in 1962. By the 1990s the instability caused by civil war, Burundi's landlocked status, its colonial legacy, a limited material base, and the general decline of investment in Africa throughout the 1990s led to an overall collapse of the economy. In 1986 the government agreed to a program of economic liberalization with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. However, a brief but brutal resumption of ethnic massacres in 1988, and the resumption of the conflict in 1993, halted this program of economic development.

While Burundi's gross domestic product enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 4.4 percent between 1980-1990, during 1990-1999 the annual growth rate declined by an average of 2.9 percent. Agricultural production fell by 2 percent, industrial production fell by 6.7 percent, and services production fell by 2.5 percent annually during the 1990s. The failing economy was aggravated by an economic embargo imposed by regional and Western powers in an attempt to encourage Burundi's politicians to make peace. This embargo and economic instability contributed to the national economy's balance of payments deficit of US$54 million in 1998 and US$27 million in 1999.

In 1980 Burundi's total external debt stood at US$166 million, but with a government surplus of 9.8 percent of gross domestic product (including external aid) the country was able to pay interest on its debt. By 1998 Burundi's total external debt was US$1.12 billion while the government had a deficit equal to 5.4 percent of the gross domestic product. Burundi's financing of debt as a percentage of exports rose from 20.4 percent in 1985 to 40 percent in 1998, draining the foreign capital generated from exports. Due to the national crisis, external donors were reluctant to lend money to Burundi, and external aid per capita fell from US$53.1 in 1992 to US$11.6 in 1998. The country continues to rely on a decreasing level of foreign aid while it is unable to pay off debts. The inflation rate was recorded at 26 percent in 1999. At the dawn of the 21st century, Burundi was a country in deep economic crisis.


Burundi was ruled by a king (mwami) from the 1500s until colonization. European colonial powers Germany (1899-1916) and Belgium (1916-62) forced Burundians to cultivate crops for European consumption (such as coffee and tea), to act as porters and laborers, and to pay taxes. When Burundi achieved independence in 1962, Belgium still influenced its government and politics. When legislative elections were held in 1961, a Tutsi-dominated party which included Hutus, the Parti de l'Unité et du Progrés National du Burundi (UPRONA), won 80 percent of the votes. Prince Louis Rwagasore was appointed Prime Minister, but at the end of 1961 Rwagasore was assassinated in a plot by the Belgian-sponsored Hutu party, the Parti du Peuple (PDC).

Burundi's main political parties are the multiethnic Front pour la démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), UPRONA, and the militant Hutu party Parti de la libération du peuple hutu (PALIPEHUTU). The army is also of central importance in Burundi's politics, as are militia groups, which are often linked to political parties. After an extensive period of military rule, Melchior Ndadaye of FRODEBU won 1993 multiparty elections with 65 percent of the vote. However, after only a few months President Ndadaye was assassinated by the Tutsi-dominated military. This led to a series of large-scale massacres of both Hutu and Tutsi by various militias and the army.

In 1996 Major Pierre Buyoya became president after a military coup. In 1998 Buyoya ushered in a new constitution, which gave executive powers to an elected president and gave legislative power to the 812-member elected Assembly. He led the creation of a 10-year power sharing agreement in 2000, which brought together many of Burundi's political and military organizations. However, a full compromise remained elusive despite mediation and financial inducements by the European Union and the United States. Over 300,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed between 1993 and 2000. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced, and over 0.5 million Hutus were forcibly relocated by the army to live in camps.

The revenue collecting capabilities of the Burundian government are minimal. Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product amounted to only 12.7 percent in 1999, falling from a 1990 level of 16.3 percent. The IMF estimates that in 1998, taxes on goods and services amounted to 43.2 percent of government revenue, tax on international trade was 28.6 percent, and taxes on income and profits constituted 22.6 percent. The most important individual source of revenue was taxes on the brewing industry, which provided around 40 percent of total government tax receipts. Petroleum provided around 8 percent of indirect taxes .


Burundi's transport infrastructure is very limited. A crumbling network of 14,480 kilometers (8,998 miles) of roads, of which 1,028 kilometers (639 miles) are paved, is used by only 19,000 passenger cars and 12,300 commercial vehicles. In 2000 the World Bank encouraged a 50 percent reduction of tanker trucks bringing in fuel to Burundi to reduce the erosion of the country's roads. A 30 percent refined petrol and diesel price rise at the beginning of 2000 helped to create a fuel shortage. The majority of Burundi's trade is conducted across Lake Tanganyika with the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is no rail infrastructure. As Burundi is landlocked it relies on the sea ports of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. Burundi has 1 international airport, which is located at Bujumbura, while another 3 airports exist but are unpaved. Only 12,000 people traveled by air in Burundi in 1998.

Burundi's power needs are partially supplied by the parastatal Regideso. It controls 4 small hydroelectric power stations that produced 127 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 1998. Burundi is also an importer of electricity which is drawn from hydroelectric plants in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of this power is consumed within Bujumbura. With only 17,000 telephone main lines, 343 mobile cellular phones in use by 1995, and no Internet hosts, Burundi's telecommunications system was underdeveloped.


Because Burundi is landlocked, its exports are costly. They also lose competitiveness due to the tariffs imposed on them from neighboring countries. The most important and largest sector in the economy is agriculture, both for the domestic supply of food and for the provision of

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Burundi 3 71 4 N/A 0 0.7 N/A 0.00 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
Rwanda 0 102 0 N/A 1 0.1 N/A 0.00 5
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

foreign currency through the export of coffee and tea. However, Burundi's dependence on agricultural commodities is a weakness since coffee and tea production are subject to the constant fluctuation of the weather, and the change of prices on international markets. The agricultural sector provided 46 percent of Burundi's GDP in 1998 and employed 93 percent of its people. Comparatively, industry contributed 17 percent of GDP and employed 1.5 percent, while services contributed 37 percent and employed 1.5 percent. Four percent of the country's workers are employed by the government.


Burundi's agricultural sector benefits from a mild climate due to high elevation of the land and regular rainfall. However, deforestation and poor farming methods have caused extensive soil erosion and depletion. It is estimated that there will be no more arable land left in Burundi by 2020, at current depletion rates. The agricultural sector provided 46 percent of GDP in 1998, and 93 percent of the labor force was employed in agricultural production. In the 10-year period from 1988-1997 Burundi produced an annual average of US$80 million of agricultural exports. The most important of these exports were cash crops such as coffee, tea, tobacco, and cotton.

The export of coffee accounts for around 80 percent of all export earnings. In 1992, 40,000 metric tons of Burundian coffee was sold abroad. However, due to the civil war and economic embargo, coffee exports dropped between 1993 and 1996 with an annual average export of only 18,500 tons. By 1997 the coffee sector recovered with 32,000 tons exported. Tea accounts for around 10 percent of all export earnings. Exports actually grew slightly during the civil war and economic embargo. Between 1988-1992 an annual average of 4,600 tons of dry green tea leaves were exported, yet between 1993-1997 an annual average of 5,400 tons was recorded. In 1999 the parastatal Office du Thé du Burundi raised the price of tea by 15 percent in order to encourage farmers to raise production for 2000. However, there was a price slump of both coffee and tea on international markets in 2000 and early 2001.

Burundi's major food crops consist of bananas, cassava, sorghum, rice, maize, and millet. Production of these crops was steady between 1989 and 1997 except for rice, which grew by more than 50 percent from 40,000 tons to 64,000 tons, and cassava, which grew from 569,000 tons to 610,000 tons. However, over the same 9-year period Burundi imported an average of US$16.4 million of food per year.


Industry is very limited in Burundi. The industrial sector accounted for 19 percent of GDP in 1990, but due to the instability caused by civil war this fell to 17 percent by 1998.


Burundi has extensive mineral reserves. By 2001, gold, tungsten, and cassiterite (tin ore) were mined on a small scale. One gold reserve was estimated to contain 60 tons of gold ore. It is estimated that about 5 percent of world nickel reserves are on Burundian territory, and there are significant reserves of uranium, platinum, and vanadium. Due to political instability, the country's landlocked status, and its limited infrastructure, many of these highly profitable mineral deposits remain untouched.


Manufacturing is based in Bujumbara. Reaching a high of US$11 million of exports in 1992, manufacturing exports fell to US$1 million by 1997. Imports of manufactured goods heavily outweigh exports with US$55 million imported in 1992, falling to US$33 million in 1997.

A key manufacturing sector within Burundi's economy is the brewing of beer. In 1996, 40 percent of all government tax receipts were received from only 1 brewery, the Dutch-and government-owned company Brarudi. Due to rising inflation Brarudi lost money throughout 1998-1999. High inflation caused a rise in the price of raw material imports used to manufacture beer. Sales fell by 10 percent in 1999 due to the price increases that were passed on to consumers. Other products manufactured in the country include soft drinks, cigarettes, soap, glass, textiles, insecticides, cosmetics, cement, and some agricultural processing.


The service sector in Burundi is of minimal importance. Credit and banking services are limited and the retail sector is based on small trading and shops. Due to the instability caused by civil war the export of commercial services declined from US$7 million in 1990 to US$3 million in 1998.


Although Burundi has a great deal to offer tourists, such as rare wildlife, beautiful green mountainous landscapes, national parks, and access to one of Africa's largest lakes (Lake Tanganyika), terrible massacres and roaming militia members act as a considerable deterrent to tourists. In 1992, before the outbreak of the political crisis, 86,000 tourists arrived in Burundi (the majority from Africa and Europe), by 1996 only 26,670 were recorded entering the country.


Burundi's balance of trade showed an average annual deficit of US$39.5 million between 1985-1999. In 1999 the deficit stood at US$52 million on exports of US$56 million and imports of US$108 million. To counter this deficit the government consistently resorted to borrowing in order to maintain its spending levels. This led to greater indebtedness and a rise in annual debt repayment levels. Imports and exports were partially reduced in 1996 due to an embargo imposed by regional countries and the European Union in an attempt to force a peace agreement. However, due to smuggling to and from Burundi this embargo was soon rendered ineffective. At the outset of 1999 civil conflict had lessened in intensity, yet shortages of sugar and fuel raised the population's discontent.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Burundi
Exports Imports
1975 .032 .062
1980 .065 .168
1985 .112 .189
1990 .075 .231
1995 .106 .234
1998 .065 .158
SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated Burundi's principal imports in 1997 as US$70.4 million of intermediate goods , US$63.1 million of capital goods , US$55.1 million of food, and US$31.2 million in energy. The main origins of these imports were neighboring Tanzania which supplied 14.8 percent of the total, Kenya (14 percent), the United States (11.1 percent), Belgium-Luxembourg (8.3 percent), and Germany (5.1 percent). The import of refined petroleum products represented around 15 percent of Burundi's total imports, and took between 20-30 percent of all national foreign exchange earnings.

In 1997, Burundi's most important exports were coffee, which sold US$45.2 million, tea (US$20.7 million), hides (US$4.6 million), and cassiterite (US$3.7 million). Burundi's main export partners for these goods were based in the European Union. Belgium and Luxembourg consumed 36.1 percent of all Burundi's exports, while Germany consumed 20.6 percent. Other destinations for Burundi's exports were the Netherlands, which imported 4.1 percent, the United Kingdom (2 percent), and the United States (1 percent).


Due to a lack of confidence in Burundi's national economy since the 1993 conflict, the Burundi franc (BFr) consistently declined in value against the U.S. dollar. In 1995, BFr249.76 bought US$1, while in 2000 a dollar was

Exchange rates: Burundi
Burundi francs per US$1
Jan 2001 782.36
2000 720.67
1999 563.56
1998 477.77
1997 352.35
1996 302.75
SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

the equivalent of BFr720.67. The decline in value of the Burundi franc meant that the average citizen was paying more and more in order to obtain even the most essential products. This process of inflation led to a rise in the price of consumer goods by 31 percent in 1997 and 17 percent in 1998. This meant that, in constant Burundi francs, the price of sugar rose from BFr230 in 1996 to BFr350 in 1999, and the price of petrol per liter rocketed from BFr165 to BFr350. In sum, inflation contributed considerably to the rise of extreme poverty between 1993 and 2000.


With an annual average GDP per capita of US$730 in 1999, Burundi was one of the poorest countries in the world with 60 percent of the population living in conditions of extreme poverty. The vast majority of Burundians were farmers on small plots of land used for subsistence agriculture or for the cultivation of cash crops such as coffee and tea. The poorest 40 percent of the country controlled only 20 percent of the wealth, whereas the richest 40 percent controlled 63.7 percent. The government spent only 0.6 percent of its gross domestic product on health but 5.8 percent on military expenditures. The majority of Burundian citizens struggled to supply themselves and their families with even the most basic

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Burundi 162 176 198 206 147
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
Rwanda 233 321 312 292 227
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Burundi
Lowest 10% 3.4
Lowest 20% 7.9
Second 20% 12.1
Third 20% 16.3
Fourth 20% 22.1
Highest 20% 41.6
Highest 10% 26.6
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE : 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

health care, with only 6 doctors and 17 nurses per 100,000 people. The daily intake of calories for the average Burundian fell from 2,104 in 1970 to only 1,685 in 1997. Over the same period the daily supply of protein fell by 30.8 percent and the intake of fat by 26.7 percent.


In 1998, the minimum wage in Burundi for urban areas was US$0.37 a day and $0.24 a day for the rest of the country; this represents a considerable decline from the 1994 minimum wage of $0.63 and $0.42 respectively. Considering that inflation, nation-wide instability, and the economic embargo led to a dramatic price increase of consumer goods throughout the late 1990s, the decline of the minimum wage over the same period meant that Burundi's 4 million workers were having to pay more to survive with reduced means to do so. The very low level of organization and influence of trade unions and their division along ethnic and religious grounds meant that Burundi's workers lacked a sufficient mechanism to assert their rights against declining pay and poor working conditions.

The rate of illiteracy in Burundi gradually improved through the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985 illiteracy amongst the population aged 15 and above was 68 percent. By 1997 this had been reduced to 55 percent, but this was still 13 percent below the African average. This level of illiteracy worsened due to the civil war, which helped to reduce the level of primary school enrollment from 73 percent in 1990 to 54.2 percent in 1998. In addition, it will be difficult for a government with such limited revenue to provide sufficient education and vocational training for the large number of Burundi's youth. This has significant implications for the country's economic development as the labor force remains generally unskilled. The problem of an unskilled workforce will be accentuated by the AIDS epidemic, which hits the mature working sector the hardest.


1500s. Kingdom of Burundi is formed.

1885. Burundi is allocated to Germany at the Berlin Congress of European colonial powers.

1899. Burundi becomes a full military district of the German Empire.

1916. Belgium occupies Burundi in World War I.

1961. Prince Louis Rwagasore is elected president, and is assassinated less than 5 months later.

1961. Burundi gains independence and the ethnic violence begins.

1972. Massacre by the army and militias claims 200,000 lives and 150,000 Hutu flee the country.

1986. Burundi adopts a program of economic liberalization as prescribed by the IMF and World Bank.

1993. Assassination of democratically elected President Melchoir Ndadaye leads to civil war.

1996. Major Pierre Buyoya becomes president in a military coup.


Even though Nelson Mandela and many others have attempted to assist Burundi's peace process it remains unlikely that a long-term solution will be found to the highly complex and tragic conflict in Burundi. This is in part due to the exclusion of certain Hutu militias from talks and the involvement of the Burundian army and Hutu militia groups in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. External donors such as the IMF, World Bank, and European Union are eager to provide aid to the country if it is able to properly adapt free market reforms and end the conflict. In fact, it seems likely that these donors will accept any kind of reform as an excuse to provide much needed capital in this devastated country whose crisis has negative effects on the region as a whole. If a suitable peace agreement can be reached the national economy will enjoy significant growth due to the input of promised external aid, the reconstruction of the national infrastructure, and increased economic stability.


Burundi has no territories or colonies.


Africa Institute. Africa A-Z: Continental and Country Profiles. Pretoria, Republic of South Africa: Africa Institute of South Africa, 1998.

Amnesty International. Burundi: Protecting Human Rights: An Intrinsic Part of the Search for Peace. London: Amnesty International, January 2000.

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). <>. Accessed March 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Rwanda, Burundi. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Human Rights Watch. Burundi: Neglecting Justice in Making Peace. New York: HRW, Volume 12, Number 2(A), April 2000.

International Monetary Fund. Burundi: Statistical Annex, IMF Staff Country Report No.99/8. Washington DC: IMF, February 1999.

International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2000. Washington DC: IMF, 2000.

Jennings, C. Across the Red River: Rwanda, Burundi and the Heart of Darkness. London: Victor Gollancz, 2000.

Lemarchand, R. Burundi: Ethnic Conflict and Genocide. NewYork: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996.

Mazrui, A. M. "Ethnicity in Bondage: Is Its LiberationPremature?" in Ethnic Violence, Conflict Resolution, and Cultural Pluralism. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), 1995.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. <>. Accessed March 2001.

United Nations, Statistical Yearbook, Forty-Third Issue, 1996. New York: United Nations, 1998.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed July 2001.

World Bank. World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty. New York: Oxford University Press 2000.

Liam Campling




Burundi Franc (BFr). The largest Burundian note in circulation is BFr5,000 and the smallest is BFr10. There are also BFr20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 notes. The only coins in circulation are BFr1, 5, and 10.


Coffee, tea, cotton, cigarettes, soft drinks, and beer.


Cement, asphalt, petroleum, fertilizer, pesticides, textiles, and vehicles.


US$885 million (purchasing power parity, 1998 est.). [Source: 2000 World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2000.]


Exports: US$56 million (1999 est.). Imports: US$108 million (1999 est.).

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Burundi (bərōōn´dē), officially Republic of Burundi, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,371,000), 10,747 sq mi (27,834 sq km), E central Africa. It borders on Rwanda in the north, on Tanzania in the east, on Lake Tanganyika in the southwest, and on Congo (Kinshasa) in the west. Bujumbura is the capital and largest city; Gitega is the only other major town.

Land and People

The country falls into three main geographic regions. The narrow area in the west, which includes the Ruzizi River and Lake Tanganyika, is part of the western branch of the Great Rift Valley and includes some lowland. To the east of this region are mountains, which run north-south and reach an altitude of c.8,800 ft (2,680 m). Farther east is a region of broken plateaus with somewhat lower elevations (c.4,500–6,000 ft/1,370–1,830 m), where most of the population lives.

The inhabitants of Burundi are divided among three ethnic groups: the Hutus (about 85% of the population), who are mostly agriculturalists; the Tutsis (about 14%), who despite their relatively small numbers have historically dominated the government and the army and are traditionally cattle raisers; and the Twa (Pygmies, about 1%), who historically engaged in hunting and gathering. There are also small minorities of Europeans and South Asians. The Tutsis and Hutus historically had a lord-serf relationship, with Hutus tending the farmlands and cattle owned by the Tutsis. Kirundi (a Bantu language) and French are both official languages; Swahili is also spoken. About two thirds of the people are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic; about 25% follow traditional beliefs and 10% are Muslim.


Burundi is one of the poorest, smallest, and most densely populated nations in Africa. Its poor transportation system and its distance from the sea have tended to limit economic growth. The economy is almost entirely agricultural, with most engaged in subsistence farming, growing corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, and manioc. Coffee, Burundi's chief export, accounts for 80% of its foreign exchange income. Cotton, tea, sugar, and hides are also exported. Cattle, goats, and sheep are raised.

The country's industries include food processing, the manufacture of basic consumer goods such as blankets and footwear, assembly of imported components, and public works construction. Heavy industry is government-owned. Burundi relies on international aid for economic development and has incurred a large foreign debt. Nickel, uranium, and other minerals are mined in small quantities; platinum reserves have yet to be exploited.

Burundi's imports (capital goods, petroleum products, and foodstuffs) usually considerably exceed the value of its exports. Germany, Belgium, Kenya, and Tanzania make up its chief trading partners. Most exports are sent by ship to Kigoma in Tanzania and then by rail to Dar-es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean.


Burundi is governed under the constitution of 2005. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term (but may be elected by a two-thirds vote of Parliament); the president is eligible for a second term. There is a bicameral Parliament. The 54-seat Senate has 34 members who are elected by indirect vote to serve five-year terms; the remaining seats are assigned to ethnic groups and former heads of state. The 100-seat National Assembly is 60% Hutu and 40% Tutsi, with at least 30% women; its members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Administratively, Burundi is divided into 17 provinces.


The Twa were the original inhabitants of Burundi and were followed (c.AD 1000), and then outnumbered, by the Hutus. Probably in the 15th cent., the Tutsis migrated into the area, gained dominance over the Hutus, and established several states. By the 19th cent., the country was ruled by the mwami (king)—a Tutsi who controlled the other Tutsis of the region in a vassal relationship. In 1890, Burundi (along with Rwanda) became part of German East Africa, but the Germans began to govern the area only in 1897. During World War I, Belgian forces occupied (1916) Burundi, and in 1919 it became part of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi (which in 1946 became a UN trust territory). Under the German and Belgian administrations Christianity was spread, but the traditional social structure of Burundi was not altered, and there was little economic development.

On July 1, 1962, the country became an independent kingdom ruled by the mwami of Burundi. The mid-1960s were marked by fighting between the Tutsis and Hutus and by struggles for power among the Tutsis. In 1965 a coup attempted by Hutus failed, and the Tutsis retaliated by executing most Hutu political leaders and many other Hutus. In July, 1966, Mwambutsa IV was deposed by his son, who became Ntare V. The new ruler was himself deposed by a military coup in Nov., 1966, when a republic was established.

Michel Micombero, a Tutsi who had been appointed prime minister in 1966, became president; a new constitution was adopted in 1970. Renewed fighting between Tutsis and Hutus in the early 1970s resulted in the death of many thousands of Hutus. In 1972 a rebellion attempting to return Ntare V to power was crushed by the government; Ntare was executed and the Hutus were further repressed. In 1976, Micombero was overthrown by Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (also a Tutsi), who became president and consolidated the Tutsi stranglehold on political power. His authoritarian rule led to conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, and many priests and missionaries suspected of sympathizing with the Hutu population were expelled in 1985.

Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi who became Burundi's head of state after a coup in 1987. Outcry after a Hutu uprising the following year was again brutally suppressed led to reforms designed to lessen ethnic divisions. Buyoya appointed a majority of Hutus to the cabinet, including the prime minister, and encouraged enlistment of Hutus in the military. Many Hutus had fled Burundi in 1988 and settled in Tanzania, but by mid-1989 most of them had returned.

A new constitution adopted in 1992 provided for a multiparty political system; in the 1993 elections, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, defeated Buyoya to win the nation's first free presidential election. Soon afterward he was overthrown and killed in a coup attempt by Tutsi soldiers. Burundi was convulsed by ethnic violence in which thousands of Hutus and Tutsis died, and many fled the country. The coup collapsed, but civilian authority was restored slowly, and sporadic violence continued. In Apr., 1994, Cyprien Ntaryamira, a Hutu who had been chosen as president by parliament, was killed with the president of Rwanda when their plane crashed, possibly having been shot down. He was succeeded by Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, an ethnic Hutu, while a new power-sharing arrangement provided for a Tutsi prime minister.

Ntibantunganya, however, was unable to exercise control over the army. Fighting between Hutu militants, who had taken up arms after the 1993 coup and won control of much of NW Burundi, and Tutsi soldiers persisted, along with a high rate of civilian casualties and the continued flight of Hutus from the country. In July, 1996, the army overthrew the government, and Pierre Buyoya was once again installed as president. Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania applied economic sanctions against the country in the wake of the coup but lifted them in 1999 as talks between the warring factions progressed. In Dec., 1999, Nelson Mandela was appointed by a group of African nations to act as a mediator in the conflict. An accord was reached in 2000, but some aspects of the agreement were left incomplete. In addition, two Hutu rebel groups refused to sign the accord, and young army officers unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Buyoya twice in 2001.

In July, 2001, the Arusha accords, a Tutsi-Hutu power-sharing agreement, were finalized. Under them, Buyoya remained president, with a Hutu vice president (Domitien Ndayizeye), for 18 months; the new government was installed in Nov., 2001. Fighting with the Hutu rebel groups remained unaffected by both the accord and a Dec., 2002, cease-fire agreement with one of the rebel groups.

Ndayizeye succeeded Buyoya as transitional president in Apr., 2003, also for an 18-month term. Alphonse Kadege, a Tutsi, became vice president. At the same time, African Union observers began arriving in Burundi to monitor the peace. A peace accord with the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the main rebel group, was finalized in Nov., 2003, and CNDD-FDD representatives joined the government the next month. The smaller Forces for National Liberation (FNL) meanwhile continued attacks on the army. In Jan., 2004, the FNL participated in talks with the government for the first time, but no progress was made. In May, 2004, there were tensions between the CNDD-FDD and the main Tutsi and Hutu parties in the government, and the CNDD-FDD withdrew from the government for several months. The United Nations took over peacekeeping duties from the African Union the following month.

A constitution proposed in July was not signed by Tutsi parties, who wanted a guarantee that the presidency would alternate between Hutus and Tutsis and objected to the way seats were assigned in the legislature. Although a disproportionately large number of seats and government posts were guaranteed to Tutsi candidates, none of those seats were guaranteed to the candidates of Tutsi parties. The disagreement led to a cabinet boycott by the parties and stalled movement toward national elections, which were postponed until 2005. In Feb., 2005, however, the proposed constitution was overwhelmingly approved by Burundi's voters.

In Apr., 2005, the transitional period for the government was extended into Aug., 2005. The FNL agreed to a truce with government forces in May, but clashes continued to occur, and both sides were accused of violating the cease-fire. The CNDD-FDD won a majority of the seats in May's local council elections, a victory that prefigured its win in the June national assembly elections. Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the CNDD-FDD, was elected president of Burundi in August.

The following month the FNL rejected holding peace talks with the new government. UN peacekeepers began withdrawing in Dec., 2005, and completed their withdrawal a year later. In May, 2006, the FNL and the government began talks, agreeing in principle in June to a cease-fire. A cease-fire was signed in September, and by June, 2007, some progess had been made in the negotiations. In July, however, the FNL broke off the talks; FNL dissidents split from the group, leading to FNL attacks on the dissidents in subsequent months. Clashes between the FNL and the government resumed as well.

Meanwhile, former president Ndayizeye and several others were arrested in Aug., 2006, on charges of plotting to assassinate Nkurunziza and overthrow the government (Ndayizeye and most of those arrested were acquitted in Jan., 2007), and in early September the vice president resigned, accusing the CNDD-FDD of corruption. The main opposition parties boycotted the parliament beginning in July, 2007, objecting to the composition of the cabinet; a new, more inclusive cabinet was formed in November.

In May, 2008, the FNL and the government again signed a cease-fire agreement, and in June the FNL leader announced an end to the Hutu rebel group's war against the government. In Dec., 2008, under pressure from foreign mediators, both sides committed to beginning the delayed implementation of their peace agreement, but the FNL did not disarm until Mar.–Apr., 2009. Despite the progress toward peace, political repression and politically motivated violence by both sides against individuals has continued.

The last of Burundi refugee camps in Uganda and Tanzania closed in 2009, and most refugees returned to Burundi, ending a process that had begun in 2002. However, many Burundian refugees who had fled to Tanzania in 1972 accepted an offer of Tanzanian citizenship. The CNDD-FDD won 64% in local elections in May, 2010; opposition parties accused the government of fraud, but foreign observers said the voting was generally free and fair, though the campaign had been marred by violence. The opposition candidates for president withdrew from the June presidential election, asserting it would be rigged, and Nkurunziza was reelected unopposed. The July legislative elections, which most opposition parties also boycotted, were won overwhelmingly by the CNDD-FDD.

The government subsequently moved to arrest a number of opposition leaders, some of whom fled Burundi, and engineered a replacement of the FNL leadership that aligned it with the ruling party. By the end of 2011, there was increasing evidence of politically related, often clandestine killings by government and opposition forces, and in Sept., 2012, the former leader of the FNL announced that the group had declared war on the CNDD-FDD government. In 2013, the government enacted a number of restrictions on press freedom. Politically related violence subsequently continued to be a problem.

The power-sharing government was threatened in 2014 after the president dismissed his Tutsi vice president and appointed another Tutsi to the post who lacked the support of UPRONA, the predominantly Tutsi party in the government. UPRONA ministers subsequently resigned from the cabinet, and the president replaced them with other UPRONA party members who lacked the party's support. In 2015 the president formalized plans to run for a third term, arguing that his first term was not an elected one, and secured the approval of the constitutional court, reportedly through intimidation. The move led to a series of antigovernment demonstrations that were suppressed by security forces and to an unsuccessful coup against the president; tens of thousands of Burundians fled the country, including the second vice president. The subsequent June, 2015, legislative elections were boycotted by the main opposition parties, and CNDD-FDD easily won most of the seats.


See G. C. McDonald et al., Area Handbook for Burundi (1969); R. Lemarchand, Rwanda and Burundi (1970); W. Weinstein, Historical Dictionary of Burundi (1976); M. T. Wolbers, Burundi (1989).

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POPULATION: More than 6 million

LANGUAGE: Kirundi, French, Swahili

RELIGION: Christianity, indigenous beliefs


Rwanda and Burundi are two African countries with long histories. Both were kingdoms centuries before Europeans arrived. It is believed that the Twa were the first people to inhabit the area. Hutus arrived between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. The Tutsi came into the region beginning in the fifteenth century.

European colonists ruled the Hutu and Tutsi kingdoms under one government. The Tutsi mwami (king) stood at the top of the social ladder, followed by the princes. At a lower level were the Tutsi and Hutu masses, whose members often married members of the other ethnic group. Hutu serfs, who were forced to work for the Tutsi upper class, were the lowest social class.

The Germans began to rule in 1899. During World War I (191418), The League of Nations gave the colony to the Belgians. The Belgians strengthened Tutsi political and economic power, using the Tutsi to rule for them.

Burundi became independent in 1962, Since then, Hutus have rebelled against their lower status and mistreatment. The Tutsi rulers have strongly resisted change in the balance of power. As a result, Burundi has had many episodes of violence between the groups on a massive scale; so has its neighbor, Rwanda. Since 1962, some 300,000 Burundians, mostly Hutus, have been killed. Nearly a million more have lost their homes.


Burundi is somewhat larger than the state of Maryland, but it has more than six million people. This makes it one of Africa's most densely populated countries, with 20.4 persons per square kilometer.

Most of the country is a high plateau. In the east, a mountain range rises to over 5,900 feet (1,800 meters). Lake Tanganyika and the Ruzizi river form a beautiful natural border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Two official languages are spoken in Burundi: Kirundi and French. Many Burundians along the western shore of Lake Tanganyika also speak Swahili. It is the language of East African trade. A traditional greeting in Kirundi is Amashyo ("May you have herds [of cattle]"). The reply is Amashon-gore, meaning, "I wish you herds of females." The language is full of references to cattle. Wishing a person "herds" means wishing them health and good fortune.


The Burundian literary tradition is passed down to younger generations in spoken poetry, fables, legends, riddles, and proverbs. There are epic poems about peasants, kings, ancestors, and cattle. Oral stories may be told through "whispered singing." Men sing quietly, accompanied by traditional instruments. The inanga is somewhat like a zither (a flat instrument with a number of strings stretched across it). The idono resembles a stringed hunting bow.


Most Burundians are Christians. Over 60 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and 5 percent is Protestant. The other 35 percent of the people follow traditional African religions.


The national holiday of Burundi is Independence Day, July 1. Sometimes, however, the government faction that has taken power by force most recently celebrates its own victory instead.

Burundians celebrate Christian and traditional holidays. The most important holiday is Christmas. It is an occasion for buying new clothes and wearing them to church. After church, people return home to spend the day with family and friends, enjoying a good meal.

The Burundian traditional day is umuco or akaranga. The traditional games that have been part of it are no longer played. But Burundians still enjoy dancing, drinking, and traditional foods on this day.


As in much of Africa, rites of passage are important markers in the life cycle. Six days after birth, babies are presented to the family in the ujusohor ceremony. The mother receives flowers for her hair, and gifts of money and beer are given. Christian parents and their families usually baptize their children one month after birth. When the child becomes a toddler, it receives a name in the kuvamukiriri ceremony.

Initiation rites were once extremely important in Burundian society. However, the practice was discouraged by European missionaries. Today few Burundian children are initiated, although most of their grandparents were. The church has replaced initiation with the Christian rite of first communion. After a long period of religious instruction, young people are taken into the church as adults.


Burundians are sociable people and visit each other without announcing it ahead of time. They typically greet each other by shaking hands with the right hand. Friends often greet by touching cheeks three times. Friends of the same sex give each other a firm hug, grasping each other's shoulders.

There is a set of gestures for pointing to people and calling people that is special to Central Africa. They point to someone by holding an arm out with the hand open and palm upward. Pointing at someone with the index finger is considered very rude. A person beckoning someone else extends an arm with the palm turned down and brings the fingers toward the wrist.


Traditional huts were made from reeds and canes. The tradition has given way in rural areas to houses of mud brick with thatched or tin roofs. Some are cylindrical in shape, and the mud walls may be whitewashed. In towns, houses built of hollow concrete blocks with galvanized iron or clay tile roofs are common.

Warfare has greatly affected living conditions in Burundi. People have been killed, homes have been burned, and cattle have been destroyed. Great numbers of people have become homeless. In 1994, the average number of years a person was expected to live was estimated at only about 40.3 years.


In Burundian society, the man is in charge of the home and makes the decisions. Women do the housework, raise the children, fetch water, collect firewood, cook the meals, and wash the clothes. Girls help with these chores and tend the younger children.

Some men have more than one wife, but this custom has been disappearing. Overcrowding and the cost of educating children have led to smaller families.

In Burundi, disciplining children is not just the parents' job. The extended family, friends, and acquaintances may correct another person's child. If they do not correct bad behavior, they may be accused of shirking their duty to the community.


Burundian traditional clothing consists of cloth wraparounds (pagnes). Women, girls, and elderly men still wear them in rural areas.

Male herders wear two pieces of cloth, which hang down to the knees, with a cord around the waist. Many people go barefoot in the villages.

In Bujumbura, the capital, fashionable men and women, known as sapeurs, wear the latest fashions. The men dress up in suits and ties, and the women wear Western dresses and shoes. Young people are fond of blue jeans and T-shirts.


The staple foods in Burundi are tubers, plantains (matoke), and beans. Burundians are most fond of sweet potatoes and cassava served with different types of beans, greens, and cabbage. They also enjoy cassava flour, boiled in water, and stirred to make a thick paste (ugali).

Villagers usually rise early and do not eat breakfast. They return home for a large meal at noon. At night, they may eat leftovers or have tea. In the cities, French bread is very popular. European beverages such as coffee and tea have become common.

Burundians produce their own traditional drinks, including banana beer (urwarwa) and sorghum beer.


From 1986 to 1992, most children dropped out of school after reaching grade five. High school enrollment was only 7 percent for boys and 4 percent for girls.

Half of Burundians age fifteen and older can read and write, according to an estimate made in 1990. Because of the preference given to boys, more of them (61 percent) can read and write than girls (40 percent).


Traditionally, Burundians played drums mainly for ceremonies. More and more, drumming has become a form of entertainment. As many as twenty-five men of all ages play huge drums carved from tree trunks. The drums are three feet tall. Men beat the drums with two sticks about eighteen inches long. They wear costumes of red and white cloth tied in the traditional way, one over each shoulder with a cord around the waist.

Burundian dancing is very athletic, with dancers leaping high into the air and spinning around. Sometimes dancers use wooden shields and spears and wear head-bands and armbands made of beads.

Burundians make several traditional instruments that they play during family get-togethers.


Burundi is one of the world's twenty-five poorest countries. Most Burundians work in subsistence farming (producing the basic foods necessary to keep a family alive) and cattle herding. Those without steady jobs manage as best they can. Some set up sidewalk repair stands, repairing anything from watches to shoes. Unfortunately, these jobs pay very little.


Burundians are soccer fanatics. They play soccer wherever and whenever they can. Any kind of ball will do. Homemade goals mark parking lots, fields, streets, and any other flat surface. Schools have introduced other sports such as basketball, volleyball, and European handball.


In the cities, where electricity is available, people enjoy watching television on evenings and weekends. Whenever someone has money, they invite their friends to go out to a neighborhood bar (buvette) for a round of drinks.

Bujumburans really enjoy nightlife and are fond of a variety of popular music.


Burundians produce many crafts of excellent quality. Among the best are mats and baskets. Papyrus roots, banana leaves, and bast (a strong, woody fiber) are the raw materials for the baskets. The Twa people are skilled in making pottery for their own use and for the tourist market. Wood carving has a long tradition. Carvers produce highly decorated drums for the tourist market.

Burundian craftsmen make fine instruments such as the thumb piano (ikembe). The ikembe is small and not like a Western piano. It has eleven metal bands for producing tones, and a sounding box. The indingiti is a traditional banjo or violin with a single string that is played with a bow. The inanga is an eight-stringed instrument with a large sounding board.


Burundi faces several serious environmental and health threats, including AIDS. However, making peace between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples is the most urgent problem. To have a stable nation, Burundians will have to deal with the inequalities in political power, land ownership, and wealth between these two ethnic groups.


Lemarchan, Rene. Burundi: Ethnocide as Discourse and Practice. New York: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Nyankanzi, Edward L. Genocide: Rwanda and Burundi. Rochester, Vt.: Schenkman Books, 1997.

Wolbers, Marian F. Burundi. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989.


Internet Africa Ltd. Burundi. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Burundi. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Official name: Republic of Burundi

Area: 27,830 square kilometers (10,745 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Heha (2,670 meters/8,760 feet)

Lowest point on land: Lake Tanganyika (772 meters/2,533 feet)

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 263 kilometers (163 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 194 kilometers (121 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: 974 kilometers (605 miles) total boundary length; Rwanda, 290 kilometers (180 miles); Tanzania, 451 kilometers (280 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo, 233 kilometers(145 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Burundi is a small, densely populated, land-locked country (does not have access to the sea) in east-central Africa, bounded by Rwanda, Tanzania, and Lake Tanganyika. It is slightly larger than the state of Maryland.


Burundi claims no territories or dependencies.


Although Burundi lies within fifty degrees of the equator, its high elevations keep temperatures at a comfortable level. Humidity, however, is high. The average annual temperature in the western plains (including the capital city of Bujumbura) is 23°C (73°F). Temperatures average 20°C (68°F) in the plateau region and 16°C (60°F) in the mountains.

Dry seasons occur from June to August and December to January, and rainy seasons from February to May and September to November.

Season Months
Long dry season (winter) June to August
Short wet season (spring) September to November
Short dry season (summer) December to January
Long wet season (fall) February to May


Burundi has three major natural regions: 1) the Rift Valley area in the west, which consists of the narrow plains along the Rusizi River and the shores of Lake Tanganyika, together with the belt of foothills on the western face of the divide between the Congo and Nile Rivers; 2) the mountains that form the Congo-Nile divide; and 3) the central and eastern plateaus and the warmer, drier plains near the country's eastern and southeastern borders.


Burundi is landlocked.


Burundi shares Lake Tanganyika with Tanzania, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its shores form Burundi's southeastern border, extending for over 161 kilometers (100 miles). Burundi also has a number of smaller lakes located entirely within its borders, of which Lake Rweru in the north is among the largest.


West of the mountains that form the Congo-Nile divide, runoff waters drain down Burundi's narrow western plains into the Rusizi River and Lake Tanganyika. This area is known as the western watershed (area where all the rainfall drains into a common river or lake system). The major rivers of the central plateaus include the Ruvironza (or Luvironza) and the Ruvubu; the latter is an extension of the White Nile River. In the east, the two principal rivers on the border with Tanzania are the Rumpungu and the Malagarasi, which forms most of Burundi's southern border.


There are no desert areas in Burundi.


Above the flat western plains that border the Rusizi River and Lake Tanganyika, a belt of foothills and steeper slopes forms the western face of the Congo-Nile divide. This region includes valleys and farmland. At the west-ernmost edge of the country, the narrow Imbo plain extends south along the Rusizi River from the Rwanda border through Bujumbura. It then continues southward for another 48 kilometers (30 miles) along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. This plain, which belongs to the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, is entirely below 1,066 meters (3,500 feet) in elevation. On Burundi's southeastern border, the Mosso plains lie along the Malagarasi, Rumpungu, and Rugusi Rivers.

Most of Burundi's terrain (land surface) is a treeless plain, called savannah, covered with grasses. Burundi once had areas of forest, but most of the country's trees have been cut down.


Burundi's mountains, located in the western part of the country, form part of the divide between the basins of the Nile and Congo Rivers. They extend the entire length of the country from north to south, forming a series of long, narrow ridges that are generally less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide, with an average elevation of about 2,438 meters (8,000 feet).


There are no significant caves or canyons in Burundi.


East of the rugged Congo-Nile divide lies a large central plateau with an average elevation of 1,525 to 2,000 meters (5,000 to 6,500 feet). This pleasant highland, inhabited by farmers and cattle herders, is heavily farmed and grazed.


Burundi, with help from international experts, is developing factories and methods for converting its natural peat (partially decomposed water plants) into fuel, since there is a shortage of wood to burn for cooking and heating.



Forster, Peter G., Michael Hitchcock, and Francis F. Lyimo. Race and Ethnicity in East Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Nyankanzi, Edward L. Genocide: Rwanda and Burundi. Rochester, VT.: Schenkman Books, 1998.

Weinstein, Warren. Historical Dictionary of Burundi. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

Web Sites

University of Pennsylvania Web site. (accessed February 10, 2003).

World Atlas Website. (accessed June 13, 2003).

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27,830 sq km (10,745 sq mi)



capital (population):

Bujumbura (846,000)



ethnic groups:

Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa (pygmy) 1%


French and Kirundi (both official)


Christianity 85% (Roman Catholic 78%), traditional beliefs 13%


Burundi franc = 100 centimes

Republic in e central Africa. Burundi is the fifth-smallest country on the mainland of Africa, and the second most densely populated (after its neighbour Rwanda). West Burundi is part of the Great Rift Valley, which includes Lake Tanganyika. The capital, Bujumbura, lies on its shores. East of the Rift Valley are high mountains, reaching 2760m (8760ft). In central and e Burundi, the land descends in a series of step-like grassy plateaux, home to the majority of Burundi's population.

Climate and Vegetation

Bujumbura has a warm climate. A dry season lasts from July to September. The mountains and plateaux are cooler and wetter. Rainfall generally decreases to the e. Grassland covers much of Burundi. The land used to be mainly forest, but farmers have cleared most of the trees.

History and Politics

The Twa pygmies were the first known inhabitants of Burundi. About 1000 years ago, Bantu-speaking Hutus gradually began to settle in the area, displacing the Twa. From the 15th century the Tutsi, a tall, cattle-owning people, gradually gained control of Burundi. The Tutsi forced the Hutu majority into serfdom. In the 1890s, Germany conquered what is now Burundi and Rwanda. The area, called Ruanda-Urundi, was occupied by Belgium in 1916, and became a trust territory. In 1962 Burundi became an independent monarchy, ruled by a Tutsi king. In 1965 an attempted Hutu coup against the monarchy was foiled and resulted in violent Tutsi reprisals. In 1966 the monarchy was overthrown and a republic established. Another attempted coup led to the establishment of an authoritarian, one-party state (1969). In the early 1970s, further Hutu rebellions were ruthlessly crushed. During the mid-1980s, the Tutsi government introduced limited reforms to quell ethnic divisions. In 1988 another Hutu coup led to massacres by the Tutsi-dominated army. A new constitution (1991) resulted in multi-party politics and the election (1993) of a Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye. In 1993 Ndadaye was assassinated in a military coup. Two months of civil war left more than 50,000 dead and created 500,000, mainly Hutu, refugees. Ndadaye was succeeded by another Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira. In April 1994, Ntaryamira and Rwanda's president Habyarimana died in a rocket attack. A coalition government failed to contain the genocide, which continued throughout 1995. In 1996 the Tutsi army, led by Pierre Buyoya, seized power. The international community imposed sanctions, but instability and ‘ethnic cleansing’ continued. In 2002 Jean Minani, a Hutu, led a transitional assembly.


Burundi is one of the world's ten poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$630). Agriculture employs more than 90% of the workforce, mostly at subsistence level. The main food crops are beans, cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes. Burundi relies on food imports. Coffee accounts for 80–90% of export earnings. Manufacturing is on a small scale.

Political map

Physical map



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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Burundi
Region: Africa
Population: 6,054,714
Language(s): Kirundi, French, Swahili
Literacy Rate: 35.3%

The country of Burundi continues to go through fundamental changes that affect, like all its institutions, the educational system. Early in the twentieth century, what is now Burundi was part of Belgium's colony of Ruanda-Urundi (which also included what came to be known as Rwanda). From 1908 until 1948, many of the schools were operated by churches. These were mostly primary schools with some middle schools. The Catholic missions were given an official status and government funding. Protestant schools were also permitted and recognized, but they did not receive government funds. Some of this changed when the Belgium government created a new plan, the "Organization of Free Subsidized Instruction for the Indigenous with the Assistance of Christian Missionary Societies," which promoted greater diversity in curriculum and the establishment of more secondary schools. This set the foundation for education when Burundi became independent in 1962.

Since that time Burundi suffered through tribal wars, between the Hutu and Tutsi, that also involved neighboring Rwanda. At least 250,000 people are believed to have died in Burundi between 1993 and 1999. Besides the citizens' loss of life and, for many, their livelihoods, the country is also dealing with many refugees who are moving back and forth between other counties such as Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The governmental infrastructure has been strained.

With a population estimated in 2000 at 6,054,714 people, the nation has been receiving some international assistance for humanitarian and educational programs from organizations like the United Nations. The need for a primary and secondary education system is substantial since 17 percent of the population was 14-years-old or younger (2000 estimate). The national literacy rate (those at least 15 years old who are able to read and write) is 35.3 percent, one of the lowest in the world. To break the figures down further, 49.3 percent of males and 22.5 percent of females were categorized as literate, according to a 1995 estimate. Kirundi and French are the country's official languages, and Swahili is also used is some of the districts.

Education is free in the country and taught mainly in Kirundi. Primary education, which is compulsory, begins at age seven and lasts for six years. Secondary education, which is not mandatory, consists of two programs, one of four years and another of three years. The University of Burundi, which uses French as a primary language, is located in the capital city of Bujumbura and is the country's only major university. The minority Tutsi students are often accused by the Hutu of having a disproportionate percentage of the enrollment in both the secondary and university levels. This is seen by some as an impediment to the Hutu majority assuming greater upward mobility in government and business.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Michael W. Young

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Ruanda-Urundi (rōōän´dä-ōōrōōn´dē), former colonial territory, central Africa, now divided between the independent states of Rwanda and Burundi. The original inhabitants of the area were the Twa, a Pygmy people, who around AD 1000 were driven into the forests by the numerically superior Hutu, a Bantu-speaking agricultural people who immigrated from the east. Probably in the 15th cent., the pastoral Tutsi entered the area from the north. Although greatly outnumbered by the Hutu, the Tutsi gained dominance over them and by the 19th cent. had established two centralized states, Rwanda and Burundi. The first Europeans to explore the region were Oskar Baumann (in 1892) and Graf von Götzen (in 1894). Germany had gained rights to the region at the Conference of Berlin (1884–85), but only began to administer (as parts of German East Africa) Burundi in 1897 and Rwanda in 1907. During World War I, Belgium conquered (1916) the region, and, in 1924, Ruanda-Urundi was formally constituted a mandate of the League of Nations under Belgian rule. In 1946 it became a UN trust territory. Under neither the German nor the Belgian administrations was the social structure of Burundi altered, but in Rwanda the Hutu in 1960–61 gained dominance over the Tutsi. There was little economic development during the colonial period, but missionaries gained many adherents for Christianity. When Ruanda-Urundi achieved independence on July 1, 1962, it was split into two territories, Rwanda and Burundi, and by 1964 all common administrative bodies had been dissolved.

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Culture Name



Identification. Burundi has to two distinct ethnic groups: the Hutu and the Tutsi. While these cultures have coexisted in the area for centuries and now share a common language and many common cultural elements, they remain separate in terms of group identification.

Location and Geography. Burundi is a small landlocked country in east central Africa, bordering Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its total area is 10,750 square miles (27,830 square kilometers). The country is situated on a high plateau, with the altitude ranging from 2,532 feet (772 meters) at Lake Tanganyika in the east, to 8,760 feet (2,670 meters) at the highest point, Mount Heha. The country lies along the East African rift and experiences occasional tremors and earthquakes. Forty-four percent of the land is arable, but only 9 percent is planted with permanent crops. One-third of the country is used as pastureland. The most fertile areas are in the highlands, where temperatures are moderate and rainfall averages sixty inches (152 centimeters) a year. The mountain slopes are dense with trees. The plateau is also wooded, particularly at the higher altitudes. The wildlife includes elephants, hippopotamus, crocodiles, buffalo, warthogs, baboons, and antelopes. These animals are being threatened as development encroaches on their natural habitat, and the country has not established national park areas or sanctuaries where species are protected. Laws against poaching are not strictly enforced. The country also is experiencing deforestation and soil erosion because of overgrazing and the spread of farming.

Demography. The population was estimated at 6,054,714 in 2000, with one of the highest population densities in Africa. Through much of the country's history, the majority (around 85 percent) of the people have been Hutu. The Tutsi, the largest minority, traditionally have accounted for about 14 percent of the population. One percent of the people are Twa. The ethnic balance has begun to shift as Hutu from Burundi have fled to neighboring Rwanda to escape ethnic persecution and Tutsi have escaped violence in Rwanda and settled in Burundi. The Tutsi now make up closer to 20 percent of the population. There is a small population of three thousand Europeans and two thousand South Asians; most of these immigrants live in the capital, Bujumbura, and are involved in church-related activities.

Linguistic Affiliation. Both the Hutu and the Tutsi speak Kirundi, a Bantu language. The Twa also speak Kirundi, although theirs is a slightly different dialect. Along with French, Kirundi is the official language. Swahili, a mixture of Arabic and Bantu languages that is the language of trade and business in much of East Africa, also is spoken, mostly in the region of Lake Tanganyika and in the capital city. English is taught in some schools.

Symbolism. The Tutsi are historically a herding society, and the cow therefore holds a great deal of symbolic power in the national culture. This is reflected in the language: a typical Kirundi greeting, Amashyo, translates as "May you have herds of cattle." The language is full of references in which cattle stand for health, happiness, and prosperity.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The original inhabitants of present-day Burundi are thought to be the Twa people, descendants of the pygmies. The Hutu arrived from the west in a gradual migration between the seventh and the eleventh centuries. They outnumbered the Twa and put their own regional kings, called bahinza, in place. Most of the Twa retreated farther into the forested highlands. The Tutsi began to appear in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, migrating from the Nile region in present-day Sudan and Ethiopia south and west in search of new cattle pastures. The Tutsi are tall, martial people, and while they never accounted for more than their current 15 percent of the population, they established economic and political control of the region, effectively subduing the Twa and the Hutu majority. From the seventeenth through the nineteen centuries, the kingdom continued to expand, eventually encompassing parts of present-day Rwanda and Tanzania. However, rule was decentralized, following a system similar to that of feudal lords, and internal conflicts led to a situation in which the king controlled only half the land that was nominally part of his domain by 1900.

In 1885, Germany declared present-day Burundi and Rwanda part of its sphere of influence, forming a territory it called German East Africa; however, Germans did not begin to settle in the area until 1906. They made a deal with the Tutsi king, guaranteeing him protection from his enemies in exchange for following German commands, thus making the king a puppet. The European conflict of the World War I spread to the African continent, and in 1916 Belgium sent 1,400 troops to Burundi. They wrested control of the land from the Germans with little opposition. In 1923, Burundi and Rwanda were officially declared a Belgian mandate by the League of Nations. The territory was known as Ruanda-Urundi.

After the World War II, the mandate was superseded by a United Nations trusteeship. Throughout colonial times, internal strife continued to build. When independence was declared in 1962, the area reverted to Tutsi rule. In the first elections, which were overseen by the Belgians, the Tutsi-led Union for National Progress and Unity (UPONA) won a majority in the National Assembly. The first prime minister, Louis Rwagasore, from the UPONA party, was assassinated a few weeks after the election and was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Andre Muhirwa. Because Burundi and Rwanda were populated by the same ethnic groups and spoke the same language, the United Nations thought that they should remain one nation, but the two wanted independence separately, and the United Nations acquiesced. Rwanda, unlike Burundi, was controlled by the Hutu, and before European rule, the two had never constituted a single political entity.

Anti-Tutsi sentiment began to intensify among the Hutu in Burundi. In a 1964 election, a Hutu won the popular vote but the Tutsi refused to accept a Hutu prime minister. In 1965, a Hutu rebellion was put down violently. A coup in 1966 replaced the monarchy with a military government and put Michel Micombero in power. Micombero's party, UPONA, was declared the only legal political party, and Micombero consolidated his power by declaring himself both president and prime minister. The coup resulted in further Hutu deaths. A civil war that began in 1971 caused some Tutsi deaths in addition to the Hutu toll of 100,000 to 150,000 dead and 100,000 displaced or homeless.

Another coup in 1976 left the country with a one-party government and elected the coup's leader, Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, as president. Bagaza declared the goal of eliminating corruption in the government; however, in the subsequent election in 1982, he was the only candidate. Bagaza's regime harbored suspicion toward Catholics, who were considered dangerously sympathetic to the Hutu. In 1986, the government seized control of the seminaries, banned Catholic prayer meetings, and arrested and jailed several priests. These policies were largely unpopular, however, and Bagaza began to soften his stance.

The year 1987 saw the coup engineered by Major Pierre Buyoya. Buyoya suspended the constitution that had been in place since 1981 and installed a transitional government. In the following year, twenty thousand Hutu were killed in the ongoing ethnic conflict. As president, Buyoya attempted to make peace between the two groups, including representatives of both parties in the cabinet.

In 1992, a new constitution established a multi-party system, and in the following year, Melchior Ndadaye, the nation's first Hutu ruler, was elected president. Five months after assuming office, Ndadaye and several other Hutu leaders were assassinated in a failed coup attempt. A further outbreak of violence ensued, resulting in the deaths of 150,000 people (both Hutu and Tutsi) in two months and the emigration of an estimated eighty thousand.

The National Assembly named another Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira, to replace Ndadaye in 1994. Later that year, he and Juvenal Habyarimana, the president of Rwanda, died in a plane crash under suspicious circumstances. The next president, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, held office for two years, until a 1996 coup by the Tutsi installed Pierre Buyoya as president again. The president of Tanzania, who had led peace talks between the Hutu and the Tutsi, called for sanctions against the Buyoya regime, and the rest of the world responded by halting trade and international flights. Despite the crippling effect on the economy, no change was effected; the bloodshed that had begun in 1993 continued with little sign of abatement, and the peace process was put on hold. In 1999, the sanctions were lifted, and at the end of that year Nelson Mandela was appointed as moderator of the peace talks. However, no clear end to the fighting is in sight.

National Identity. The country's history of ethnic strife goes back centuries. Cultural identity stems from tribal affiliation rather than from any unifying national characteristic. The domination of the Hutu majority by the Tutsi minority has not resulted in a fusion but in extreme divisiveness in terms of national identity. Neither tribe is contained within the borders of current-day Burundi; the Hutu-Tutsi conflict also has affected neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the latter of which was part of the same territory under colonial rule. Belgium's influence as a colonial power did little to unite the two tribes.

Ethnic Relations. Relations between the Hutu and the Tutsi are extremely antagonistic. While the two tribes share a good deal culturally, their mutual disdain is evident. The Hutu have a number of sayings reflecting the rapacious nature of the Tutsi, and the Tutsi, traditionally cattle herders, look down upon the farming tradition of the Hutu. Animosity and resentment have led to continued violence and political unrest. The violence and hatred extend beyond the borders of the country; Rwanda is engaged in similar ethnic warfare. Whereas in Burundi much of the violence is perpetrated on the Hutu by the Tutsi, in Rwanda the situation is reversed. However, the two nations are closely linked, and events in one often influence and precipitate events in the other. The small population of Twa in Burundi remain isolated from both groups, preferring to live in the forest as hunter-gatherers, although as their land has been lost, some have adopted different trades and have settled closer to the Hutu and the Tutsi.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The capital city, Bujumbura, is the populous and most industrialized city. It is located on the north shore of Lake Tanganyika, and its port is the country's largest. Cement, textiles, and soap are manufactured there, and it is home to one of the country's two coffee-processing facilities. Bujumbura, once known as Usumbura, was also the colonial capital, and many of its buildings reveal a European influence. The majority of foreigners in the country are concentrated in the capital, which gives the city a cosmopolitan feel. Large sections of the city, however, are almost entirely untouched by colonial influence. The second-largest city, Gitega, is east of Bujumbura on the Ruvuvu River. It was the old capital of the kingdom under Tutsi rule and has grown rapidly in the last several decades from a population of only five thousand in 1970. Gitega is in the fertile highlands and is surrounded by coffee, banana, and tea plantations. It has a coffee-processing plant and a brewery that manufactures beer from bananas.

These are the only two urban centers. Ninety-two percent of the population lives in a rural setting, mostly in family groupings too small to be called villages that are scattered throughout the highlands. A number of market towns draw inhabitants of surrounding rural zones to buy, sell, and trade agricultural products and handicrafts.

Burundians traditionally built their houses of grass and mud in a shape reminiscent of a beehive and wove leaves together for the roof. The traditional Tutsi hut, called a rugo, was surrounded by cattle corrals. Today the most common materials are mud and sticks, although wood and cement blocks also are used. The roofs are usually tin, since leaves are in short supply as a result of deforestation. Each house is surrounded by a courtyard, and several houses are grouped together inside a wall of mud and sticks.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The most common foods are beans, corn, peas, millet, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas. The diet consists mainly of carbohydrates; vitamins and minerals are provided by fruits, vegetables, and combinations of grains, but little fat and protein are available. Meat accounts for 2 percent or less of the average food intake. As a result, kwashiorkor, a disease caused by protein deficiency, is common. Fish is consumed in the areas around Lake Tanganyika. Meal production is labor-intensive. The cassava root is washed, pounded, and strained, and sorghum is ground into flour for pancakes or porridge. The porridge is rolled into a ball with one hand and dipped in gravy or sauce.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Beer is an important part of social interactions and is consumed at all important occasions, such as the marriage negotiations between two families. It is drunk through straws. A number of food customs revolve around the treatment of cows, which are considered sacred. For example, milk cannot be heated or boiled or drunk on the same day that peas or peanuts are consumed. When a cow dies, the family eats its meat and then plants its horns in the soil near the house to bring good luck.

Basic Economy. Burundi has one of the lowest gross national products in the world. It is moving toward a free-enterprise economy, with a system that is partly state-run and partly private. There is a severe trade imbalance as the country imports twice as much as it exports. The entire economy has been severely altered by the ethnic warfare that has plagued the country since 1993, resulting in 250,000 deaths and the displacement of 800,000 people and leaving the country with limited supplies of food, medicine, and electricity. In 1990, before the violence began, 36 percent of the population lived below the poverty line; in rural areas, this number approached 85 percent. Ninety percent of the population supports itself through subsistence farming, growing cassava, corn, sweet potatoes, bananas, and sorghum. Four percent of the population is employed by the government, 1.5 percent by industry and commerce, and 1.5 percent in the service sector.

Land Tenure and Property. In the system imposed by the Tutsi in the fifteenth century, Hutu worked as serfs for Tutsi landholders. This system, which is called cattle clientage, meant that the Hutu cared for the land and the cattle but did not own it. In fact, they were in effect possessions of the Tutsi. This contract was called ubugabire. After independence, the Tutsi did not want to relinquish their land and managed to keep the ubugabire system in place until 1977. The legacy of this system remains, as much of the land is still owned by the Tutsi minority.

Commercial Activities. Farmers cultivate a large number of crops for domestic consumption, including bananas, dry beans, corn, sugarcane, and sorghum. They also raise goats, cattle, and sheep. These products are transported to local markets and to the capital. Bartering is still common, particularly the use of cattle as currency.

Major Industries. There is little industry and development is slow because of a lack of trained workers and little investment or aid from foreign countries. It is difficult to develop industry in a country in which most people cannot afford to purchase the goods industry would produce. Currently, the country is involved mainly in processing food (primarily coffee), brewing beer, and bottling soft drinks. There is some production of light consumer goods, including blankets, shoes, and soap. The country also engages in the assembly of imported components and public works construction.

Trade. Coffee, which was introduced to the area in 1930, is the main cash crop, accounting for 80 percent of foreign revenue. This leaves the economy vulnerable to variations in weather and to fluctuations in the international coffee market. To combat this problem, Burundi has been attempting to diversify its economy by increasing the production of other products, such as tea and cotton. Other exports include sugar and cattle hides. It exports mainly to the United Kingdom, Germany, Benelux nations, and Switzerland. Burundi receives goods from the Benelux nations, France, Zambia, Germany, Kenya, and Japan. The main imports are capital goods, petroleum products, and food. While the country produces some electricity from dams on the Mugere River, it receives the majority of its power from a hydroelectric station at Bukavu in the Congo and by importing oil from the Persian Gulf. Burundi had a large trade deficit in the 1980 and 1990s, but this was mostly alleviated by foreign aid from Belgium, France, and Germany.

Division of Labor. The Hutu have a long tradition of working the land. The Tutsi were originally cattle herders, although much of the labor of caring for their cattle was done by the Hutu. This class division is still evident, as most of the few prestigious jobs are held by the Tutsi, who dominate both the government and the military. A few Hutu have attained positions in business and government, but the majority are farmers.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Since the Tutsi came to power in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, they have occupied a higher social position than the Hutu. Agricultural Hutu were forced to become caretakers for the large Tutsi cattle herds. The ruling class was composed entirely of Tutsi. It was possible, although rare, for Hutu (or even occasionally Twa) to join the Tutsi class through acts of unusual bravery or honor, and Tutsi could fall into the Hutu class by committing a dishonorable act. The Tutsi still are represented disproportionately in the government and among the wealthy. This discrepancy has been exaggerated by Tutsi violence specifically targeting Hutu with professional jobs and training. Thus, the Hutu as a whole have been left even more disproportionately illiterate and poor.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The possession of a large number of cattle is traditionally the sign of a wealthy person. Even today, especially among rural people, cattle are a visible token of prosperity, and people are reluctant to slaughter them even when the sale of the meat could bring money to the family. Other traditional status symbols include the spear, which is carried on ceremonial occasions, and drums. The ultimate symbol of power traditionally was the drum of the mwami, or king. Being selected to play this drum was considered one of the highest achievements a young man could attain. Traditional attire consists of brightly colored wraps for women and white clothing for men. Today, especially in the cities and among the wealthier classes, Western-style clothes are common.

Political Life

Government. The constitution ratified in 1992 established a plural political system that was suspended after a military coup in 1996. In 1998, it was replaced by a transitional constitution that enlarged the National Assembly and created two vice presidents. The president, who is elected for a maximum of two five-year terms, is both chief of state and head of the government. The legislative branch is the unicameral National Assembly, which has 121 members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Technically there is universal suffrage, but the current president came to power through a coup, at which point he suspended all elections for the National Assembly. The country is divided into fifteen provinces that are administered by governors appointed by the president. These regions are further subdivided into arrondissements, then into communes or townships.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political leaders are not trusted among the population. Instability and frequent changes in regime, as well as the disregard for the democratic process shown by many rulers, have led to a feeling of disenfranchisement and bitterness, especially among the Hutu. A number of elected Hutu leaders have been assassinated since independence. While it has been exacerbated in recent years, this sentiment of distrust dates back centuries to the long standing domination by the Tutsi in a nonrepresentative governmental system.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is based on traditional tribal customs and the German and French models introduced by the Belgians. The highest level of legal recourse is the Supreme Court, under which there are several lower levels of courts. Crime rates are high in and around the capital. The most pressing social problem is the ongoing ethnic violence, which often is dealt with brutally by the police and military forces.

Military Activity. At independence, the country had a separate army and police force. The two were consolidated in 1967. Since that time a navy and an air force have been added. The armed forces include an army, an air force, a navy, and a paramilitary organization for police action and riot control. The army is dominated by the Tutsi, who have used it since independence to ensure their control of the government. Males are eligible for military service at sixteen.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The social welfare system provides health care only for people who are employed and earn a salary and therefore is largely ineffective in dealing with the country's health problems. Money is scarce, and the government has no effective mechanism in place for dealing with the many widespread problems that affect the country, ranging from unemployment, to illiteracy and lack of education, to AIDS.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The United Nations has been a presence since the country gained independence in 1962, especially through the World Health Organization, which has provided money and training to combat smallpox, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition, and AIDS. Catholic and Protestant churches have a long history of sending missionaries and aid workers to the region.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women's primary duties are childbearing and child care. They are also responsible for household chores, including cleaning and food preparation. In rural regions, women also work in agriculture and do most of the work of planting, as their fertility is believed to be transferred to the seeds. Women are almost entirely unrepresented in business and at all levels of government.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women are respected, particularly for their power as life bearers. The role of the mother is highly honored, but in practice, women have little decision-making authority in the family or in society as a whole. Fatherhood is considered an important responsibility, and it is the man who is in charge of the family. Women's status is little higher than that of children, and like them, women are expected to defer to the wishes of any adult male.

Marriage, Family and Kinship

Marriage. Polygamy was practiced traditionally. Despite being forbidden by both civil law and the Christian churches, it still exists. Traditionally, it was the duty of the father to find a first wife for his son. It is still common practice for the parents of a young man to meet with his potential bride and her parents and discuss issues such as the bridewealth. This is the equivalent of a dowry, but it is given by the groom's family to the bride's. Traditionally, it consisted of cattle, goats, and hoes, but today it can include cash, clothing, and furniture. The bridewealth is delivered on the wedding day, when the bride leaves her parents (who do not attend the wedding ceremony) to participate in the festivities at the husband's home.

Domestic Unit. Each family generally has its own house, and these houses are grouped together in compounds that include the homes of extended family members. Upon marriage, a woman becomes part of her husband's family. In Tutsi tradition, wives and husbands live separately, but in Hutu practice, they share a house.

Inheritance. Inheritance passes from the male head of the family to his oldest son after the father's death. This is symbolized by the bequest of the ceremonial spear.

Kin Groups. Family ties are very powerful, and extended families live in close proximity as a clan. Particularly in the countryside, the extended family is the primary social unit, as kin groups live together in relative isolation from other groups. The Tutsi divide themselves into four ganwa (royal) clansthe Batare, Bezi, Bataga, and Bambutsu descendants of the four dynasties that once ruled the country.


Infant Care. Birth usually occurs at home, assisted by midwives and other women. Six days after a baby is born, a ceremony called ujusohor is observed in which he or she is presented to the family. The mother receives a crown of flowers and gifts of beer and money. Children are named in the kuvamukiriri ceremony. The paternal grandfather bestows on the child a proper name, a clan name, and one or two nicknames. If the family is Christian, baptism occurs at the same time. This is not done until the child reaches the age of about one year, as infant mortality is high.

Children are breast-fed for as long as possible. At age two or three, they begin to be fed the typical national diet. Mothers generally tie their babies to their backs (or when they are older, perch them on their hips) and carry them everywhere.

Child Rearing and Education. Children are highly valued. They are viewed partly as insurance for the future, as one proverb suggests: "The greatest sorrow is to have no children to mourn for you." Traditionally, male Tutsi children are given extensive training in public speaking, storytelling, traditional dances, and military skills. In the agricultural Hutu culture, the work ethic is inculcated early; both boys and girls begin to be assigned chores at around the age of five. They also are schooled in proper behavior and in communal and family values. Those values include treating elders with supreme respect and responding promptly and willingly to their commands.

The overall literacy rate is 35 percent: 49 percent for men and 22 percent for women. Education is free and technically mandatory for children between the ages of seven and twelve, but only an estimated 50 percent of eligible children attend primary school; for secondary school, the figure is only 8 percent. The functioning of the schools has been hindered by political instability, a severe shortage of teachers, and a lack of supplies. Many families prefer to keep their children at home to work in the fields and care for younger siblings. School is taught in Kirundi in the lower grades and in French at the secondary level.

Higher Education. There is one university, located in Bujumbura, which was opened in 1960. There are two technical colleges in the capital that train people in crafts, mechanics, carpentry, and other skilled labor. Several institutions provide training in teaching and other professions.


Exchanges often include literal or figurative references to cattle. A typical greeting involves both parties wishing each other large herds. Handshakes are important, and the type varies by location. One version involves touching one's left hand to the other person's elbow. People stand close together in conversation and often continue holding hands for several minutes after shaking. Social gatherings, whether large or small, formal or informal, often include food and drink, especially beer. It is considered rude to turn down food or drink when it is offered.


Religious Beliefs. Sixty-seven percent of the population is Christian (62 percent Roman Catholic and 5 percent Protestant); 23 percent of the people follow exclusively traditional beliefs, and the remaining 10 percent are Muslim. The first Roman Catholic mission was set up in 1898, and the Protestants arrived in 1926. In addition to converting a large percentage of the population, they established schools and hospitals. Although the majority of the people today profess to be Christian, many retain some animist beliefs and practices.

Traditional beliefs place a strong emphasis on fate as opposed to free will. Everything is in the hands of Imana, the source of all life and goodness. The traditional religion is a form of animism in which physical objects are believed to have spirits. There is great respect for dead ancestors. In the Hutu tradition, these spirits often visit with evil intent, whereas in Tutsi belief, the ancestors' influence is more benign. Cattle are invested with a special spiritual force. They are cared for according to specific customs dictated by the religion and are objects of prayer and worship.

Religious Practitioners. Diviners, or fortune-tellers, are believed to have a special connection with the spirit world and can be called upon as go-betweens. The Hutu sometimes use their services to appease the spirits of their ancestors. When Burundi was a Tutsi kingdom, the mwami, or king, played an important role in some religious ceremonies.

Rituals and Holy Places. Kubandwa is one of the most important religious festivals. It celebrates the grain harvest and pays homage to Kiranga, a spirit who is the leader of all the dead ancestors. At this ceremony, young men decorate their bodies and engage in traditional chants and dances; one of them dresses as Kiranga. At the end of the festival, people bathe in a stream in a cleansing ritual. Another central ritual is a fertility ceremony called umuganuro, in which a sacred drum is played and a virgin plants the first sorghum seeds to assure a good harvest.

Death and the Afterlife. Departed ancestors are considered an essential part of the culture. There are various practices and ceremonies to exalt and appease their spirits, which are seen as powerful influences in the world of the living.

Medicine and Health Care

Burundi has extremely poor health conditions and few doctors to alleviate those problems. Malaria, influenza, diarrhea, and measles are common. Diseases are spread through poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water. While access to potable water has increased in the last decades, it is still low, particularly in rural areas. Epidemics of infectious diseases such as cholera are relatively rare, but when they occur, the death toll is high. The country has a high birthrate and a high infant mortality rate. As in much of Africa, AIDS is the major health problem today. As a result, life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world: forty-seven years for females and forty-five years for males. The AIDS epidemic has resulted in lower population growth and a low proportion of males to females.

Secular Celebrations

Independence Day is celebrated on 1 July.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The Center of Burundi Culture, founded in 1977, provides support for traditional art forms. Located in Bujumbura, it sponsors a "living museum" that honors the artistic aspects of people's daily lives as well as an open-air theater, a botanical garden, a music pavilion, and a crafts village. Gitega is home to a national museum that contains folk art, historical artifacts, and a library. That city also has an art school. Cultural programs have suffered as a result of poverty and political upheaval.

Literature. Because of widespread poverty and illiteracy written literature is virtually nonexistent. However, there is a strong oral tradition consisting of stories, legends, fables, poems, riddles, and songs. In this way, history and culture are passed from one generation to the next. Storytellers are highly respected, and it is part of their duty to train young people in the art. There are a number of epic poems about cattle. Storytelling is used as a way to report news, but subtlety and creative figures of speech are more valued than is strict accuracy.

Graphic Arts. While people value the artistic expression of craftsmen, all the items they produce are functional as well as decorative. Baskets traditionally are woven by Tutsi women with the help of their servants. They are made from papyrus root, bast fiber, and banana leaves and are decorated with mud dyes in elaborate patterns. The baskets serve a variety of purposes, from water canisters, to carrying containers for the head, to storage vessels for food and seasonings. Other handicrafts include leather goods and ironwork, both of which are often decorated with geometric patterns similar to those used in baskets. Blacksmiths fashion spears for warfare and hunting, which are handed down from father to son. The Twa are famous for pottery, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

Performance Arts. Burundi has a unique and long-standing musical heritage. At family gatherings imvyino songs with a short refrain and a strong beat that often include improvised verses, are sung. The indirimbo song is a more subdued form that is performed by a single singer or a small group. Men sing kwishongora, a rhythmic song with shouts and trills, whereas the bilito, a sentimental musical expression, is generally a female form. "Whispered singing" is also typical of Burundian music. It is performed at a low pitch so that the accompaniment of the instruments can be heard more clearly. Songs are played on the inanga, an instrument while six to eight strings stretched over a hollow wooden bowl; the idono, a fiddle with one string; the ikihusehama, a clarinetlike woodwind; and the ikimbe, a linguaphone. Drums are important not only as musical instruments but as symbols of power and status. Several men play one drum at the same time and alternate playing solos.

Dance is an integral part of the culture. One form of Tutsi dance, performed by a group of highly trained men, has gained international attention. The troop Les Tambouinaires du Burundi has performed in New York and Berlin. The dancers dress in leopard fur and headdresses and enact an elaborate choreography of leaps. This form has its roots in the dances of the royal court in the time of the Tutsi kingdom.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Because of the extreme poverty and lack of education, facilities for the study of the social and physical sciences are virtually nonexistent. There is a run-down geology museum and a reptile park in the capital.


Bonvin, Jean. Social Attitudes and Agricultural Productivity in Central Africa, 1986.

Daniels, Morna, compiler. Burundi, 1992.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Rwanda, Burundi, 1999.

Eggers, Ellen K. Historical Dictionary of Burundi, 1997.

Jennings, Christian. Across the Red River: Rwanda, Burundi, and the Heart of Darkness, 2000.

Lemarchand, René. Rwanda and Burundi, 1970.

Longman, Timothy. Proxy Targets: Civilians in the War in Burundi, 1998.

Melady, Thomas Patrick. Burundi: The Tragic Years, 1974.

Ndarubagiye, Léonce. Burundi: The Origins of the Hutu-Tutsi Conflict, 1996.

Webster, John B. The Political Development of Rwanda and Burundi, 1966.

Weinstein, Warren. Political Conflict and Ethnic Strategies: A Case Study of Burundi, 1976.

Wolbers, Marian F. Burundi, 1989.

Web Sites

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). State of Burundi's Children, 1995, http://www.HORN/burundi/UNICEF/burundi

U.S. State Dept. Central Intelligence Agency. Burundi,

Eleanor Stanford

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The people of Burundi are known as the Burundians. The largest group, the Hutu (also known as Bahutu), are traditionally farmers and make up about 85 percent of the population in both Burundi and the neighboring country of Rwanda. The Tutsi (also known as Watutsi, Watusi, Batutsi), a tall warrior people, make up less than 15 percent of the population, but dominate the government and military. For more information on the Hutu, refer to the chapter on Rwanda in Volume 8.

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Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

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