Republika y'u Burundi
République du Burundi
Republic of Burundi
Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Bujumbura
Government - Republic
Currency - Burundi franc (BIF)
Area total: 27,830 km2
water: 2,180 km2
land: 25,650 km2
Population - 6,373,002 (July 2002 est.)
Language - Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)
Religion - Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23%, Muslim 10%
Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a country in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The former name was Urundi. Urundi is the shortened form of "Urundi Rwanda" ("The other Rwanda"), as the Belgian colonial powers formerly referred to the territory. It is bordered by Rwanda on the north, Tanzania on the south and east, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west. Although the country is landlocked, much of its western border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika. The country's modern name is derived from its Bantu language, Kirundi.
Geographically isolated, facing population pressures and having sparse resources, Burundi is one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries in Africa and in the world. Its small size belies the magnitude of the problems it faces in reconciling the claims of the Tutsi minority with the Hutu majority.
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Weather and Climate
The climate is tropical, moderated in most places by altitude. The average annual temperature is 20°C (68°F) on the plateau and 23°C (73°F) in the Great Rift Valley. Dry seasons are from May to August and from January to February, and the rest of the year is rainy. The average annual precipitation is about 850 mm (about 33 in), but can vary significantly year to year. Lack of rain periodically causes droughts, and excessive rainfall can cause floods and landslides.
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Major Travel and Tourism Info (Travel Guide)
Traveling by Plane
Bujumbura's airport is served by Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways, both of whom make frequent flights via their respective hubs in Nairobi and Addis, respectively. Kenya Airways flights occasionally pass through the Rwandan capital, Kigali en route, and both airlines connect to major international hubs in Europe, codesharing with principal international carriers. Smaller flights via charter and private planes from Eastern DRC and other cities in the sub-region arrive in Bujumbura as well, though are presumably not the preferred route for the risk-averse western traveler.
the safest way to travel by bus is through the Yahoo Express minibuses. It it still very dangerous to travel through the country side owing to rebel attacks.
You can use the ferries to travel along lake tanganyika.
Language and Communication
Although most travelers will find that they can get around passingly well with a working knowledge of French (and increasingly, English), some familiarity with Swahili, or the related local language, Kirundi, is helpful particularly in rural areas.
Burundi Food and Diet
For the international traveler, Burundi offers some culinary surprises -- fresh fish from Lake Tanganyika and produce from the nation's rich volcanic soil are particularly notable. There is a sizable Southeast Asian community, offering curried dishes alongside the more traditional rice and beans, and french-inspired European offerings. For lighter meals, samosas and skewered meats are common, and bananas and fresh fruit are often served as a sweet snack.
Although accommodations in rural areas can be spartan, Bujumbura hosts a number of international-grade hotels, catering to a mainly a U.N. and international clientele. The only international-brand hotel to be found is a Novotel, which will set you back about $120 a night. Other notable hotels include the Source du Nil ($120/night), the Hotel Botanika ($85/night), the Clos de Limbas ($70/night) and the new, anglophone Sun Safari.
Although some semblance of normalcy has returned to much of the country with the conclusion of the nation's democratic transition and a democratically chosen head of state in August, 2005, travelers should be warned that there is still significant insecurity throughout the country and exercise extreme caution. Besides the still-active rebel group, the Forces Nationales de la Liberation (FNL), who continue to attack government forces and civilians, threats posed by banditry and armed robbery, as well as petty crimes remain. Visitors should exercise caution, avoid traveling after dark, and be aware of curfew laws. Many roads close at night, and most embassies put out curfews on their staff. As any conflict or post-conflict situation, visitors should consult their embassy to be apprised of the latest local developments, and be sensitive to the changing security environment.
Be careful of Kiosk foods and avoid unboiled water. Also ensure you have been vaccinated.
As in many other African countries, HIV infection is widespread. One source suggests 18.6% in the cities and 7.5% in the coutryside as of 2002.
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History in Brief: Summary
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples (now living in Congo DRC). They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations. Burundi existed as an independent kingdom from the 16th century. In 1903, it became a German colony and passed to Belgium in World War I. It was part of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi in 1923, later a United Nations Trust Territory under Belgian administrative authority following World War II. The origins of Burundi monarchy are veiled in myth. According to some legends, Ntare Rushatsi, founder of the original dynasty, came to Burundi from Rwanda in 17th century; other, more reliable sources, suggest that Ntare came from Buha, in the south-east, and laid the foundation for his kingdom in the Nkoma region.
Until the downfall of the monarchy in 1966, kingship remained one of last links that bound Burundi with its past.
From independence in 1962, until the elections of 1993, Burundi was controlled by a series of military dictators, all from the Tutsi minority. These years saw extensive ethnic violence including major incidents in 1964 and the late 1980s, and the Burundian genocide in 1972. In 1993, Burundi held its first democratic elections, which were won by the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU). FRODEBU leader Melchior Ndadaye became Burundi's first Hutu President, but a few months later he was assassinated by a group of Tutsi army officers. The killing plunged Burundi into a vicious civil war.
In retaliation for Ndadaye's killing, Hutu extremists massacred thousands of Tutsi civilians. The Tutsi-dominated army responded by massacring hundreds of thousands of Hutus. Years of instability followed until 1996, when former president Pierre Buyoya took power in a coup. In August 2000, a peace-deal agreed by all but two of Burundi's political groups laid out a timetable for the restoration of democracy. After several more years of violence, a cease-fire was signed in 2003 between Buyoya's government and the largest Hutu rebel group, CNDD-FDD. Later that year, FRODEBU leader Domitien Ndayizeye replaced Buyoya as President. Yet the most extreme Hutu group, Palipehutu-FNL (commonly known as "FNL"), continued to refuse negotiations. In August 2004, the group massacred 152 Congolese Tutsi refugees at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi. In response to the attack, the Burundian government issued arrest warrants for the FNL leaders Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, and declared the group a terrorist organisation.
In May 2005 a cease-fire was finally agreed between the FNL and the Burundian government, but fighting continued. Renewed negotiations are now under way, amid fears that the FNL will demand a blanket amnesty in exchange for laying down their arms. A series of elections, held in mid-2005 were won by the former Hutu rebel National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD).
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Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
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