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Brief History

Burundi, officially known as the Republic of Burundi, gained independence on July 1, 1962 from the UN trusteeship under Belgian administration. It was formerly known as Ruanda-Urundi. On September 18, 1962, Burundi joined the United Nations. Political unrest occurred throughout the region because of social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu, provoking civil war in Burundi in. More than 200,000 Burundians perished during the conflict that spanned from 1993 to 2005, and hundreds of thousands were displaced or fled to neighboring countries. In June 2004, the UN stepped in and took over peacekeeping responsibilities as a signal of growing international support for the already markedly advanced peace process in Burundi. In 2005, Pierre Nkurunziza, once a leader of a Hutu rebel group, was elected to president and signed a South African brokered ceasefire with the country's last rebel group in September of 2006 but still faces many challenges.


Burundi, capital Bujumburu, is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa, covering an area of 27,830 square kilometers. Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The country has an equatorial climate where also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. It has two rainy seasons from February to May and September to November, and two dry seasons June to August and December to January. The major rivers form natural boundaries for most of the country, and they include The Kanyaru, the Kagera, and the Malagarasi River. The principal lakes are Tanganyika, Cohoha, and Rweru. Burundi is rich in natural resources such as nickel, uranium, rare earth oxides, peat, cobalt, copper, platinum, vanadium, arable land, hydropower, niobium, tantalum, gold, tin, tungsten, kaolin, and limestone.


Burundi has a population of 9,863,117 (2010). Roughly 85% of the population is of Hutu ethnic origin, 14% are Tutsi, and one percent is Twa (Pygmy). The official languages are Kirundi and French. Swahili is also spoken. Burundi’s literacy rate is 59.3% (2000). Its religions are distributed among 67% Christians -62% Roman Catholics and 5% Protestants, 23% followers of indigenous beliefs, and 10% Muslims. There are small minorities of Europeans and Asians.


The government of Burundi is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on German and Belgian civil codes and customary law. It has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. The chief of state and head of government is President Pierre Nkurunziza since 2005. He has a first and second vice president. The official currency is the Burundi franc, where 1,229 francs are equivalent to US$1.


Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world due to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. 68% of the population lives below the poverty line (2002) and it has the lowest per capita GDP of any nation in the world of US $300 (2009).

The economy is predominantly agricultural which accounts for about 35% of GDP and employs more than 90% of the population. Bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, and manioc are Burundi's staple crops, followed by beans, taro, and maize. Burundi's primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Note that the Tutsi minority dominates the coffee trade.

Besides agriculture, other industries include assembly of imported components, public works construction, food processing, and light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes, and soap. Industry accounts for 20.7% of the GDP (2009).

Burundi's mineral sector is currently small, with a potential that remains undetermined. Natural resources such as commercial quantities of alluvial gold, nickel, phosphates, rare earth, vanadium, and peat are being exploited. The Burundi oil industry is one of the key elements in the economy; accounting for around 15% of its imports.

Burundi will continue to remain heavily dependent on aid from bilateral and multilateral donors. Burundi is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation.

The inflation rate is 11.1% (2009) and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$ 135.20 (2010).

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