|General background: Burundi's first democratically
elected president was assassinated in October 1993 after
only four months in office. Since then, some 200,000
Burundians have perished in widespread, often intense
ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions. Hundreds
of thousands have been internally displaced or have
become refugees in neighboring countries. Burundian
troops, seeking to secure their borders, intervened
in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
in 1998. More recently, many of these troops have been
redeployed back to Burundi to deal with periodic upsurges
in rebel activity. A new transitional government, inaugurated
on 1 November 2001, was to be the first step towards
holding national elections in three years. However,
the unwillingness of the Hutu rebels to enact a cease
fire with Bujumbura continues to obstruct prospects
for a sustainable peace.
Slightly smaller than Maryland
Equatorial; high plateau with considerable altitude
variation (772 m to 2,670 m above sea level); average
annual temperature varies with altitude from 23 to 17
degrees centigrade but is generally moderate as the
average altitude is about 1,700 m; average annual rainfall
is about 150 cm; wet seasons from February to May and
September to November, and dry seasons from June to
August and December to January.
Hilly and mountainous, dropping to a plateau in east,
Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu) 85%, Tutsi (Hamitic)
14%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%, Europeans 3,000, South Asians
Religions: Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%,
Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23%, Muslim 10%
Language: Kirundi (official), French (official),
Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on German and Belgian
civil codes and customary law; has not accepted compulsory
Economic overview: Burundi is a landlocked,
resource-poor country with an underdeveloped manufacturing
sector. The economy is predominantly agricultural
with roughly 90% of the population dependent on subsistence
agriculture. Its economic health depends on the coffee
crop, which accounts for 80% of foreign exchange earnings.
The ability to pay for imports therefore rests largely
on the vagaries of the climate and the international
coffee market. Since October 1993 the nation has suffered
from massive ethnic-based violence which has resulted
in the death of more than 200,000 persons and the
displacement of about 800,000 others. Only one in
four children go to school, and more than one in ten
adults has HIV/AIDS. Foods, medicines, and electricity
remain in short supply. Doubts regarding the sustainability
of peace continue to impede development. A Geneva
donors' conference in November 2001 brought $800 million
in pledges, and an IMF-staff-monitored program could
lead to a further agreement in 2002.
Communication/Telephone system: Primitive system,
sparse system of open wire, radiotelephone communications,
and low-capacity microwave radio relay. Satellite
earth station - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean).
Places of interest:
Travel tips: Burundi remains a dangerous destination.
Fighting is at its worst in outlying areas but gunfire
is not uncommon on the streets of the capital, Bujumbura.
Civilians, the Burundi military and government officials
have been targeted.