Republic of Burundi

Republic of Burundi

Market in Burundi

Market in Burundi

Burundi is a country in east-central Africa. Burundi or Republic of Burundi is a small, landlocked nation in East-Central Africa. It lies just south of the Equator and is bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area is 10,747 square miles (27,834 km 2)—slightly larger than that of Massachusetts.

Most of Burundi occupies a hilly plateau some 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,200 to 1,800 m) above sea level. In the west are mountains with peaks up to about 8,800 feet (2,680 m). The western slopes of the mountains drop sharply into a major branch of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, in which lies Lake Tanganyika. The Ruvironza River is the southernmost souce of the Nile.

Although near the Equator, Burundi has a moderate climate because of its elevation. The weather is tropically warm and humid in the rift valley. Temperatures in Bujumbura, the capital, for example, average 74° to 77° F. (23° to 25° C.) during all months of the year. Rainfall is about 35 inches (890 mm) annually. The weather is cooler and rainier on the plateau.

Map of Burundi

Map of Burundi


Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world. Roughly 90 per cent of the people live by farming small plots, which provide only a bare subsistence. Nearly all the land suitable for farming, about 50 per cent of Burundi’s total, is used for growing food crops, yet barely enough food is produced for the rapidly increasing population. Virtually no machinery or fertilizer is used. Soil erosion and depletion are fairly widespread. Famines occur periodically.

The main food crops are cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, bananas and plantains, sorghum, and corn. Coffee, tea, and cotton are grown as cash crops by some farmers. Coffee is by far the leading export. Many cattle, goats, and sheep are raised, cattle primarily as a sign of wealth rather than for food.

Forests cover only about 3 per cent of Burundi and yield firewood and small amounts of timber. There is some commercial fishing in Burundi’s part of Lake Tanganyika. A number of mineral deposits are known, including nickel and vanadium, but few are exploited.

Manufacturing in Burundi consists mainly of processing agricultural products and making simple consumer goods. Products include beverages, cigarettes, sugar, cotton textiles, and shoes. Virtually all the manufacturing is in Bujumbura.

Roads are generally poor; railways are nonexistent. An international airport, which also provides limited domestic and regional service, and a lake port are at Bujumbura.

Burundi’s basic currency unit is the Burundi franc.

The People

Burundi is one of Africa’s most densely settled countries. In 1990 the population was 5,139,073, and the density was 478 persons per square mile (185 per km 2 )—about 6.8 times that of the United States. There are few cities. Bujumbura, the capital and largest city, had 235,440 residents.

The Hutu (or Bahutu), a Bantu people, make up about 85 per cent of the population. The Tutsi (or Watusi), a Nilotic people who are known for their great height, make up about 14 per cent. Most of the remaining population consists of the Twa (a pygmy group) and Europeans. Most of the people speak Kirundi; this tongue and French are the official languages. About 67 per cent of the population is Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. Most Burundians, including Christians, also adhere to animist beliefs.

Primary education begins at age seven and lasts six years. Secondary education consists of a four-year program followed by a three-year program. Most children do not attend school, however, and the illiteracy rate is about 50 per cent. The national university is in Bujumbura.



 Government and History

The constitution of 1992, revised in 1998. provides for a president, who serves a five-year term; and a legislature, the National Assembly, whose members serve five-year terms.

Among the first known inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa and the Hutu. About the 15th century, the Tutsi migrated into the region from the north. They forced the Hutu and Twa into virtual serfdom and established a feudal monarchy. Burundi remained largely unexplored by Europeans until the 1890’s, when it became part of German East Africa. It was taken over by Belgium during World War I and then was made part of Ruanda-Urundi, a League of Nations mandate (later, a United Nations trust territory) under Belgian administration.

In 1962 Burundi achieved independence, becoming a constitutional monarchy under a Tutsi mwami (king). Violent conflict broke out between the Hutu and Tutsi. In 1965, a Hutu rebellion was put down by Tutsi elements in the army. The following year Tutsi army officers overthrew the king and proclaimed a republic. The Hutus rebelled again in 1972; the revolt was brutally suppressed, with some 100,000 Hutus being killed.

Burundi returned to civilian rule in 1974, but the government remained unstable. In 1976 a military group seized control, but civilian rule was restored in 1982. During 1985–86, the government clashed with the Roman Catholic Church, contending the church was supporting Hutu interests. Priests were jailed or expelled and Catholic schools were taken over by the government. In 1987 a military group overthrew the government; priests were freed from jail and Catholic property was returned.

In elections, held in June, 1993, the Hutus won the presidency and control of parliament. In October, the president was killed by Tutsi army officers in a coup, and violence erupted between the Hutus and Tutsis, leaving some 100,000 dead. The coup failed, and the Hutu-dominated government remained in pawer until 1996 when it was overthrown by the military.

In 2000, the government and several rebel groups signed a peace agreement. In 2001, a transitional constitution was adopted, and Buyoya became president of a transitional government. In February 2005, voters approved a new constitution that guarantees both the Hutu and the Tutsi a certain share of legislative seats, cabinet posts, and military roles. In July 2005, elections were held for a National Assembly and a Senate. In September 2006, the government and the only remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), signed a cease-fire agreement.

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