Geography and Landscape
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The landscape is hilly and mountainous. The Congo-Nile ridge (a fringe mountain range) continues into Burundi, along the Rusizi Valley and Lake Tanganyika. Only the highest parts are covered with forest (the Kibira National Park). To the east of the ridge mountain is a plateau with an average height of 1700 meters. The Ruvubu, the source river of the Nile, flows along the northeast border with Tanzania. Northeast Burundi is relatively flat and includes lakes, swamps and park savannas. The southeast consists of the relatively dry Kumosa Depression. Mount Heha is the highest point of Burundi at 2670 m, Lake Tanganyika is the lowest at 772 meters.
Climate and Weather
Burundi has a tropical climate, the temperatures do differ per area. The dry season lasts from June to August and another short dry season from December to January. The long wet season from February to May and also in September and November. Because the average altitude is 1700 meters, it does not get hot in Burundi with an average early 20 degrees Celsius.
Plants and Animals
Photo:John Moss in the public domain
Burundi has a lush vegetation including: banana, bamboo, eucalyptus, cotton, coffee, cassava, palm and tea plantations.
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There are many wild animals in Burundi: monkey, antelope, buffalo, crocodile, lion, leopard, hippo and elephant.
Unlike most other African countries, Burundi was already a political entity at the time of colonization. The kingdom of Burundi was added to German East Africa in 1899 and came under Belgian rule in 1916. In January 1962 Burundi became independent. Burundi's history is characterized by frequent changes of political elite, often involving violent uprisings (in particular in 1965, 1969, 1972, 1988 and 1993). Especially in 1972 a lot of blood was spilled: approximately 250,000 people died. About 150,000 people fled the country, including to what was then Zaire and Tanzania, where a large group still resides today.
From independence until 1993 Burundi had three republics, each of which was ended in an unconstitutional way. After independence in 1962, the Union pour le progrès national (Uprona) won the elections. In 1976, Jean-Baptiste Bagaza seized power (at the expense of Michel Micombero, President of the First Republic), only to be deposed in 1987 by Major Pierre Buyoya. This began a process of political reform that in 1992 led to a new constitution, the introduction of multiparty democracy and general elections. In the June 1993 elections, the Hutu Melchior Ndadaye (Frodebu) was elected president, a milestone in Burundian history, as a Hutu was first elected president. Buyoya stepped back peacefully and internationally there was hope that Burundi could become the symbol of peaceful democratic transition in Africa.
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These hopes were abruptly dashed when Ndadaye was assassinated in October 1993, triggering widespread violence and retaliation between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples. Tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands fled to Tanzania and Zaire. After the murder, Burundi was ruled by a series of weak and internally divided governments and unrest continued. In March 1996, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights characterized the conflict as "genocide by attrition". A few months later, Major Buyoya seized power again, and neighboring countries declared sanctions against Burundi. These remained in effect until January 1999.
After two and a half years of negotiations led by former Tanzanian president Nyerere, and after his death by former president of South Africa Mandela, the Arusha peace agreement was signed in August 2000 by the Burundian government and the 17 armed groups. The armed resistance of the "Forces pour la Défense de la Democracy" (FDD) and the "Palipehutu-Forces Nationales pour la Libération" (Palipehutu-FNL) did not participate in the negotiations. On November 1, 2001, a transitional government composed of nearly all political parties took office under President Buyoya. On April 1, 2003, he was succeeded by the Hutu Domitien Ndayizeye (Frodebu). On November 16, 2003, the CNDD-FDD also joined the transitional government. Only the FNL still refuses to lay down its weapons (although negotiations are currently again taking place between the government and rebels). On June 3, 2005, the Burundian people elected the municipal councils and on July 4, the Parliament. On July 29, local and provincial councilors elected the members of the Senate.
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Parliament subsequently elected Pierre Nkurunziza as President of Burundi on 19 August. The transition phase came to an end with the inauguration of President Nkurunziza (CNDD-FDD) in August 2005. In September 2006, a ceasefire between the government and the FLN will be concluded in Tanzania. In April 2008 the weather is unstable, the FLN is accused of a mortar attack on Bujumbura. A UN mission to oversee the peace process has been postponed. In April 2009, Godefroid Niyombare is appointed army chief, the first Hutu to hold this position. President Nkurunziza wins the June 2010 presidential election, which was boycotted by the opposition. In August 2013, Agathon Rwasa, the leader of the FLN, declares that he wants to participate in the 2015 presidential election. In January 2014, Burkina Faso sends a battalion to the Central African Republic to join the international intervention force. In March 2014, parliament blocked an attempt to amend the constitution, fearing it would upset the balance between the different ethnic groups. In July 2015, President Nkurunziza wins a third term, granted by the constitutional court. In 2016 there is a lot of unrest, the EU is suspending financial aid. In October 2017, Burundi became the first country to ever leave the International Court of Justice, which leaves the court ordering an investigation into crimes against humanity in Burundi in November. Gitega will become Burundi's new capital in April 2019. After Nkurunziza's death, former Hutu rebel leader Evariste Ndayishimiye will become the new president in June 2020.
Photo:J. Bariyanga in the public domain
Burundi is home to 11.5 million people (2017) and has a population density of approximately 470 inhabitants per square kilometer.
- The natural population growth is 3.25%. (2017)
- Birth rate per 1000 inhabitants is 41.3 (2017)
- Mortality rate per 1000 inhabitants is 8.8 (2017)
- Life expectancy is 60.9 years. (men 59.2 and women 62.7 years (2017)
- Hutu (Bantu) 85%,
- Tutsi 14%,
- Twa (Pygmy strain) 1%,
- Others: small groups of Europeans and Asians
Kirundi and French are the official languages of Burundi. Since 2014, English has been added as an official language. Kirundi is the spoken language of the vast majority of the population. Furthermore, local languages are spoken and here and there some Swahili.
Christianity is the dominant faith in Burundi. More than 80% of the population is Christian. Of these, about 2/3 are Roman Catholic, the rest are Protstant. There are also followers of Islam and indigenous religions. Freedom of religion is regulated by law.
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The constitution of Burundi is based on the Arusha Peace Agreement of August 28, 2000, and the agreements made on that basis. The transitional constitution was adopted in October 2001. The constitution was formally adopted in a referendum on February 28, 2005. A transitional government was installed in January 2002. Official Presidential and Parliamentary elections took place in July and August 2005. The elections were won by the former CNDD-FDD rebel movement at the expense of President Ndayizeye's ruling party Frodebu. The new government, headed by CNDD-FDD president Pierre Nkurunziza, consists of 20 members. The transition phase has come to an end with the inauguration of Pierre Nkurunziza. The current legislative branch consists of 100 members of a directly elected parliament. In addition, 18 have been designated to ensure ethnic and gender composition. There is also the Senate, which consists of 54 senate members.
Burundi is administratively divided into 17 provinces, which in turn are divided into districts and then into communes. Burundian legislation is based on the Belgian one.
Photo:Syanarion62 in the public domain
Burundian politics has 21 registered parties. The main national parties are the CNDD (Conseil National pour la défense de la démocratie), this is Hutu dominated, with its armed wing FDD (Forces pour la défense de la démocratie), FRODEBU (Front pour la démocratie au Burundi), from Hutu origin and UPRONA (Union pour le Progrès National), of Tutsi origin. The army is dominated by Tutsis.
On May 1, 2003, Tutsi President Buyoya transferred power to his Hutu Vice President Ndayizeye as agreed. This strengthened confidence in the peace process. President Ndayizeye has further consolidated and expanded the peace process during his term in office. One of the most important achievements under Ndayizeye's reign is the agreement reached between all parties on a new constitution, incidentally after a lengthy negotiation process led by South African Vice President Zuma.
The security situation in Burundi has also improved. In December 2002, three of the four largest rebel groups signed task-fire agreements with the transitional government. At the end of 2003, an additional agreement was concluded between the transition government and the CNDD-FDD. This brought an end to the large-scale civil war. All the positive changes in security have paved the way for all the elections that have taken place. The transition phase came to an end with the inauguration of President Nkurunziza (CNDD-FDD) in August 2005.
The Palipehutu-FNL of Agathon Rwasa is the only one that has remained outside all agreements. Fighting between the Burundian government army against the FNL continues without delay, but is largely limited to three provinces (Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural and Cibitoke). The FNL is a very important party in the peace process. In December, the FNL spokesman indicated that they were willing to enter into negotiations with the Burundian government. However, attacks and other acts of violence continued to be the order of the day. The government intensified its military campaign against the FNL, which also led to many arrests of individuals suspected of belonging to the FNL. In March 2006, the leaders of the FNL for peace talks arrived in Dar es Salaam and negotiations are currently (June 2006), guided by the Regional Initiative, in which South Africa plays a mediating role.
The current political situation in Burundi is described in the chapter history.
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Burundi's economic situation is deplorable. Even now that violence has diminished, the economy is in constant crisis. There is a chronic lack of foreign exchange. There is great unemployment. 64% of the population, especially in rural areas, lives below the poverty line. Agriculture has suffered for consecutive years from lack of rain. Continuing rebel attacks in some areas are also detrimental to agriculture.
In addition to the successive poor harvests due to drought, the associated price increases further affected the standard of living. At the moment, almost a million people depend on food aid.
In order to survive financially and to maintain relations with the "Bretton Woods institutions", a devaluation of the Burundian franc was inevitable in 2002. The Burundian government is currently seeking to approximate the official rate and "street rate" of the Burundian franc.
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The main element of the Burundian government's economic policy consists of the "interim strategy", as agreed between the government and the World Bank (interim PRSP). It aims to create conditions for recovery, while trying to stabilize the economy and prevent further slipping into poverty. The government released a program d'urgence in February 2006 ahead of the new full PRSP expected this summer. These positive developments have opened the way for debt relief under the "HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries)" initiative of the World Bank / IMF. The IMF and WB agreed in August 2005 that Burundi has taken the necessary steps to qualify for an interim debt relief under the HIPC initiative. Net GDP of Burundi increased annually by around 4% in the years 2006 to 2013. Yet the BNP per capita is only $ 700 (2017).
Holidays and Sightseeing
Bujumbura, the former capital of Burundi, has a striking location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Just outside the city are some of the best African beaches. White sand, turquoise waters and beach bars is not something you'd expect from a country in the heart of Africa.
Kibira Park is located at the headwaters of the Congo-Nile, between 1550 and 2660 meters high. That is a majestic rainforest of more than 40,000 hectares. It is the former sacred hunting ground of the kings of Burundi, Today it is a protected area and home to about 98 species of mammals, a dozen species of primates (there are numerous families of chimpanzees, baboons and tail monkeys), as well as about 200 bird species.
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Other unique places in Burundi worth visiting are the Karera Water Falls, the unexplored Kayove cave, the Muhwezi hot springs, the Gitega National Museum, the Livingstone rock and the sources of the Nile.
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