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Burundi is a country of Central Africa, having borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (233 km), Rwanda (290 km) and Tanzania (451 km). While it has no ocean coast, it is on the large, international Lake Tanganyika. Its capital is Bujambura.

It gained independence in 1962, and has gone through four wars since then. While the civil war, which killed at least 200,000 Burundians, between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi groups is more familiar as a result of the 1994 violence in Rwanda, under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, that Tribunal also has authority over Rwandan violence in Burundi. The 1994 war began on 6 April 1994, when the aircraft of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, in which Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi was also a passenger, was shot down near near Kigali International Airport in Rwanda.

On Foreign Policy magazines Failed States Index,, it ranks 24th from the bottom, although there are indicators of improvement; it was 19th in 2007 and 15th in 2006:[1]

Parameter 2009 2008 2007 2006
Demographic pressures 9.2 9.1 9.1 9.0
Refugees/IDP 8.1 8.2 8.9 9.1
Group grievance 7.5 6.7 6.7 7.0
Human flight 6.5 6.6
Uneven development 8.4 8.7
Economic decline 8.0 8.8
Deligitimization of the state 6.5 7.1
Public services 9.0 9.0
Human rights 7.6 7.5
Security apparatus 7.7 6.8
Factional elites 8.3 8.5
External intervention 8.9 8.8


As of a 2009 estimate, the population is 9,511,330, made up of Hutu (Bantu) 85%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 14%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%, Europeans 3,000, South Asians 2,000. They make up one of the highest population densities in Africa, about 300 people per square kilometer.[2]

The conflict is more ethnic than inter-religious; Burundians are Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23% and Muslim 10%. They speak Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area).[3]


An internationally brokered power-sharing agreement between the Tutsi-dominated government and the Hutu rebels in 2003 paved the way for a transition process that led to an integrated defense force, established a new constitution in 2005, and elected a majority Hutu government in 2005.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), Burundi has made much progress in leaving its civil war behind, but tensions are rising ahead of elections. The scheduled elections, brokered by South Africa, are in a generally endorsed framework accepted in September 2009, in the form of an Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and a new electoral code.

The polls will take the form of communal, presidential, then legislative – are scheduled between May and September, but opposition parties cannot operate freely, responding with violence to intimidation from the government police and the ruling party’s youth wing

ICG recommends "the region and Burundi’s other partners should reinforce election violence monitoring mechanisms and support deployment of a regional police mission. A senior regional envoy should be appointed to facilitate resolution of political disputes and party leaders warned they face sanctions if they rig elections and possible international prosecution if they commit serious violent crimes."

"In many parts of the country, local administrations are controlled by the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie – Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD). These local administrations order the police to disrupt opposition party gatherings and block them from opening local offices. At the same time, civil society organisations and some media are harassed for denouncing the ruling party’s authoritarian tendencies. [4]

Burundi's first democratically elected president was assassinated in October 1993 after only 100 days in office, triggering widespread ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions in both Rwanda and Burundi. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians were internally displaced or became refugees in neighboring countries.

The new government, led by President Pierre NKURUNZIZA, signed a South African brokered ceasefire with the country's last rebel group in September of 2006 but still faces many challenges.

Political parties and leaders

Party Leader Senate seats (of 54) National Assembly pct
National Council for the Defense of Democracy - Front for the Defense of Democracy or CNDD-FDD Jeremie Ngendakumana 30 + 1 (CNDD) 58.6%
Burundi Democratic Front or FRODEBU Leonce Ngendakumana 3 21.7%
Unity for National Progress or UPRONA Bonaventure Niyoyankana 0 7.2%

note: a multiparty system was introduced after 1998, included are: National Council for the Defense of Democracy or CNDD [Leonard NYANGOMA]; National Resistance Movement for the Rehabilitation of the Citizen or MRC-Rurenzangemero [Epitace BANYAGANAKANDI]; Party for National Redress or PARENA [Jean-Baptiste BAGAZA]

Political pressure groups and leaders include the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society or FORSC [Pacifique NININAHAZWE] (civil society umbrella organization); Observatoire de lutte contre la corruption et les malversations economiques or OLUCOME [Gabriel RUFYIRI] (anti-corruption pressure group) other: Hutu and Tutsi militias (loosely organized)

Executive branch

The President, Pierre Nkurunziza is both head of state and head of government. He has held office since 26 August 2005. There are two Vice Presidents, both of whom came into office on 9 November 2007: the First Vice President, a Tutsi, is Yves Savinguvu , and the Second Vice President, a Hutu, is Gabriel Ntisezerana.

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by president elections: the president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term (eligible for a second term); note - the constitution adopted in February 2005 permits the post-transition president to be elected by a two-thirds majority of the parliament; next elections to be held on 28 June 2010; vice presidents nominated by the president, endorsed by parliament election results: Pierre NKURUNZIZA was elected president by the parliament by a vote of 151 to 9; note - the constitution adopted in February 2005 permits the post-transition president to be elected by a two-thirds majority of the legislature

Legislative branch

Burundi has a bicameral Parliament or Parlement, consists of a Senate (54 seats; 34 members elected by indirect vote to serve five-year terms, with remaining seats assigned to ethnic groups and former chiefs of state) and a National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (minimum 100 seats, 60% Hutu and 40% Tutsi with at least 30% being women; additional seats appointed by a National Independent Electoral Commission to ensure ethnic representation; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 29 July 2005 (next to be held on 23 July 2010); National Assembly - last held 4 July 2005 (next to be held on 23 July 2010)

Judicial branch

Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Constitutional Court; High Court of Justice (composed of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court)


Burundi has one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes. Per capita income was US$ 60 in 1974.[5] It was US$110 in 2007. The economy is predominantly agricultural which accounts for 35% of GDP and employs more than 90% of the population. Burundi's primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. The primary export partners are Switzerland 27.9%, UK 11%, Pakistan 9.5%, Belgium 5.1%, Rwanda 5%, Egypt 4.7% (2008)[3]

"Since 2000, the government of Burundi has implemented a program of financial and structural reforms to stabilize the economy and revive economic activity. These have included: prudent monetary policy implemented by a more independent central bank in the context of a liberalized foreign exchange regime, prudent fiscal policy with poverty-focused expenditure priorities, and steps to strengthen and improve the transparency of public financial management.

"Economic performance has improved, but real gross domestic product (GDP) growth still averaged only about 3% from 2001-2008. Economic growth remains highly volatile due to its dependence on the widely fluctuating agricultural sector, whose volatility is largely due to climatic shocks in recent years. The 2005 drought led real GDP to grow by only 0.9% points, it bounced back strongly in 2006 to 5.1% and slightly decelerated to 3.6% in 2007. In 2008, despite the unprecedented increase in fuel and food prices, real GDP growth is estimated to be 4.5%.

It reached the "Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) decision point in August 2005 and HIPC completion point in January 2009. Debt relief to Burundi under the enhanced HIPC Initiative will total about US$832 million in net present value (NPV) terms, with IDA contributing to more than half of it (US$425 million)."[2]