The Republika y'u Burundi (formerly Urundi) is a small landlocked nation in the Great Lakes region of Africa. 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 land-locked, much of its western border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika where it enjoys access to the Tanzanian ocean port of Dar es Salaam. The country's name derives from its Bantu language, Kirundi.
Landlocked, 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 seeking to bring an end to the supremacist claims of the ruling Tutsi minority with the growing demands for political participation of the Hutu majority.
Burundi existed as an independent kingdom from the 16th century. In the 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 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 foundation for his kingdom in Nkoma region.
Until the downfall of monarchy in 1966, kingship remained one of last links that bound Burundi with its past.
Since independence in 1962, Burundi has been controlled by a series of military dictators and has seen extensive ethnic violence including major incidents in 1964, 1972 and the late 1990s. After several years of civil war and interethnic violence a cease-fire is currently standing, mostly due to the international presence in the country.
The political landscape of Burundi has been dominated in recent years by the civil war and a long peace process and move to democracy. The current President of Burundi is Domitien Ndayizeye.
Burundi is a landlocked country with an equatorial climate . It lies on a rolling plateau, with Lake Tanganyika in its south west corner. The average elevation of the central plateau is 5,600 ft, with lower elevations at the borders. The highest peak, Mount Karonje , at 2,685 m (8,809 ft), lies to the southeast of the capital, Bujumbura. The southeastern and southern borders are at roughtly 4,500 ft. A strip of land along the Ruzizi River, north of Lake Tanganyika, is the only area below 3,000 ft: this area forms part of the Albertine Rift , the western extension of the Great Rift Valley.
The land is mostly agricultural or pasture, the creation of which has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss . There are two national parks, Kibira National park to the northwest (a region of montaine rainforest, adjacent to Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda), Rurubu National park to the north east (along the River Rurubu , also known as Ruvubu or Ruvuvu).
The farthest headstream of the Nile is in Burundi. Although Lake Victoria is commonly considered to be the source of the Nile, the Kagera River flows for 690 km (429 miles) before reaching Lake Victoria. The source of the Ruvyironza River , an upper branch of the Kagera River, is at Mount Kikizi in Burundi.
Burundi is divided into 16 administrative provinces. The capital city, Bujumbura, has by far the largest population. Smaller cities of Burundi include Gitega, Muyinga, Ngozi and Ruyigi.
Burundi's largest industry is agriculture, which accounted for 58% of GDP in 1997. Coffee is the nation's biggest revenue earner with 78% of all exported goods. Other agriculture products include cotton, tea, corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk, and hides. Besides agriculture, other industries include light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes, soap; assembly of imported components; public works construction; food processing.
The economy is supported by foreign aid from Western Europe and other parts of the world. In 2000 this amount reached US$92.7 million. 68% of the population lives below the poverty line as of 2002. The country's estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was US$0.7 billion in 2001. The currency is the Burundi franc (BIF).
As of July 2004, Burundi had an estimated population of 6,231,221, approximately half of whom are aged 14 or less. This estimate explicitly takes into account the effects of AIDS, which has a significant effect on the demographics of the country. Roughly 85% of the population are of Hutu ethnic origin; most of the remaining population are Tutsi, with a minority of Twa (Pygmy), and a few thousand Europeans and South Asians. The population density of around 206 persons per km² is the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, behind only Rwanda. The Twa are thought to be the original inhabitants of the area, with Hutu and then Tutsi settlers arriving in the 1300s and 1400s respectively.
The largest religion is Roman Catholicism (62%), followed by indigenous beliefs (31%) and a minority of Protestants (5%) and Muslims (2%). The official languages are Kirundi and French, although Swahili is spoken along the western border.
Main article: Culture of Burundi
The culture of Burundi is related to that of neighbouring countries and its prominence has been limited by the civil war. The Master Drummers of Burundi are the most famous performing group from the nation, and football (soccer) is the most popular sport.
Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:34:21
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12