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Burundi (bəro͞onˈdē), officially Republic of Burundi, republic (2020 est. pop. 11,890,000), 10,747 sq mi (27,834 sq km), E central Africa. It borders on Rwanda in the north, on Tanzania in the east, on Lake Tanganyika in the southwest, and on Congo (Kinshasa) in the west. Gitega is the capital; Bujumbura, the former capital, is the largest city and economic center.

Land and People

The country falls into three main geographic regions. The narrow area in the west, which includes the Ruzizi River and Lake Tanganyika, is part of the western branch of the Great Rift Valley and includes some lowland. To the east of this region are mountains, which run north-south and reach an altitude of c.8,800 ft (2,680 m). Farther east is a region of broken plateaus with somewhat lower elevations (c.4,500–6,000 ft/1,370–1,830 m), where most of the population lives.

The inhabitants of Burundi are divided among three ethnic groups: the Hutus (about 85% of the population), who are mostly agriculturalists; the Tutsis (about 14%), who despite their relatively small numbers have historically dominated the government and the army and are traditionally cattle raisers; and the Twa (Pygmies, about 1%), who historically engaged in hunting and gathering. There are also small minorities of Europeans and South Asians. The Tutsis and Hutus historically had a lord-serf relationship, with Hutus tending the farmlands and cattle owned by the Tutsis. Kirundi (a Bantu language) and French are both official languages; Swahili is also spoken. About two thirds of the people are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic; about 25% follow traditional beliefs and 10% are Muslim.


Burundi is one of the poorest, smallest, and most densely populated nations in Africa. Its poor transportation system and its distance from the sea have tended to limit economic growth. The economy is almost entirely agricultural, with most engaged in subsistence farming, growing corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, and manioc. Coffee, Burundi's chief export, accounts for 80% of its foreign exchange income. Cotton, tea, sugar, and hides are also exported. Cattle, goats, and sheep are raised.

The country's industries include food processing, the manufacture of basic consumer goods such as blankets and footwear, assembly of imported components, and public works construction. Heavy industry is government-owned. Burundi relies on international aid for economic development and has incurred a large foreign debt. Nickel, uranium, and other minerals are mined in small quantities; platinum reserves have yet to be exploited.

Burundi's imports (capital goods, petroleum products, and foodstuffs) usually considerably exceed the value of its exports. Germany, Belgium, Kenya, and Tanzania make up its chief trading partners. Most exports are sent by ship to Kigoma in Tanzania and then by rail to Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean.


Burundi is governed under the constitution of 2005. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term (but may be elected by a two-thirds vote of Parliament); the president is eligible for a second term. There is a bicameral Parliament. The 54-seat Senate has 34 members who are elected by indirect vote to serve five-year terms; the remaining seats are assigned to ethnic groups and former heads of state. The 100-seat National Assembly is 60% Hutu and 40% Tutsi, with at least 30% women; its members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Administratively, Burundi is divided into 17 provinces.


The Twa were the original inhabitants of Burundi and were followed (c.A.D. 1000), and then outnumbered, by the Hutus. Probably in the 15th cent., the Tutsis migrated into the area, gained dominance over the Hutus, and established several states. By the 19th cent., the country was ruled by the mwami (king)—a Tutsi who controlled the other Tutsis of the region in a vassal relationship. In 1890, Burundi (along with Rwanda) became part of German East Africa, but the Germans began to govern the area only in 1897. During World War I, Belgian forces occupied (1916) Burundi, and in 1919 it became part of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi (which in 1946 became a UN trust territory). Under the German and Belgian administrations Christianity was spread, but the traditional social structure of Burundi was not altered, and there was little economic development.

On July 1, 1962, the country became an independent kingdom ruled by the mwami of Burundi. The mid-1960s were marked by fighting between the Tutsis and Hutus and by struggles for power among the Tutsis. In 1965 a coup attempted by Hutus failed, and the Tutsis retaliated by executing most Hutu political leaders and many other Hutus. In July, 1966, Mwambutsa IV was deposed by his son, who became Ntare V. The new ruler was himself deposed by a military coup in Nov., 1966, when a republic was established.

Michel Micombero, a Tutsi who had been appointed prime minister in 1966, became president; a new constitution was adopted in 1970. Renewed fighting between Tutsis and Hutus in the early 1970s resulted in the death of many thousands of Hutus. In 1972 a rebellion attempting to return Ntare V to power was crushed by the government; Ntare was executed and the Hutus were further repressed. In 1976, Micombero was overthrown by Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (also a Tutsi), who became president and consolidated the Tutsi stranglehold on political power. His authoritarian rule led to conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, and many priests and missionaries suspected of sympathizing with the Hutu population were expelled in 1985.

Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi and army major, became Burundi's head of state after a coup ousted Bagaza in 1987. Outcry after a Hutu uprising the following year was again brutally suppressed led to reforms designed to lessen ethnic divisions. Buyoya appointed a majority of Hutus to the cabinet, including the prime minister, and encouraged enlistment of Hutus in the military. Many Hutus had fled Burundi in 1988 and settled in Tanzania, but by mid-1989 most of them had returned.

A new constitution adopted in 1992 provided for a multiparty political system; in the 1993 elections, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, defeated Buyoya to win the nation's first free presidential election. Soon afterward he was overthrown and killed in a coup attempt by Tutsi soldiers. Burundi was convulsed by ethnic violence in which thousands of Hutus and Tutsis died, and many fled the country. The coup collapsed, but civilian authority was restored slowly, and sporadic violence continued. In Apr., 1994, Cyprien Ntaryamira, a Hutu who had been chosen as president by parliament, was killed with the president of Rwanda when their plane crashed, possibly having been shot down. He was succeeded by Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, an ethnic Hutu, while a new power-sharing arrangement provided for a Tutsi prime minister.

Ntibantunganya, however, was unable to exercise control over the army. Fighting between Hutu militants, who had taken up arms after the 1993 coup and won control of much of NW Burundi, and Tutsi soldiers persisted, along with a high rate of civilian casualties and the continued flight of Hutus from the country. In July, 1996, the army overthrew the government, and Pierre Buyoya was once again installed as president. Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania applied economic sanctions against the country in the wake of the coup but lifted them in 1999 as talks between the warring factions progressed. In Dec., 1999, Nelson Mandela was appointed by a group of African nations to act as a mediator in the conflict. An accord was reached in 2000, but some aspects of the agreement were left incomplete. In addition, two Hutu rebel groups refused to sign the accord, and young army officers unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Buyoya twice in 2001.

In July, 2001, the Arusha accords, a Tutsi-Hutu power-sharing agreement, were finalized. Under them, Buyoya remained president, with a Hutu vice president (Domitien Ndayizeye), for 18 months; the new government was installed in Nov., 2001. Fighting with the Hutu rebel groups remained unaffected by both the accord and a Dec., 2002, cease-fire agreement with one of the rebel groups.

Ndayizeye succeeded Buyoya as transitional president in Apr., 2003, also for an 18-month term. Alphonse Kadege, a Tutsi, became vice president. At the same time, African Union observers began arriving in Burundi to monitor the peace. A peace accord with the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the main rebel group, was finalized in Nov., 2003, and CNDD-FDD representatives joined the government the next month. The smaller Forces for National Liberation (FNL) meanwhile continued attacks on the army. In Jan., 2004, the FNL participated in talks with the government for the first time, but no progress was made. In May, 2004, there were tensions between the CNDD-FDD and the main Tutsi and Hutu parties in the government, and the CNDD-FDD withdrew from the government for several months. The United Nations took over peacekeeping duties from the African Union the following month.

A constitution proposed in July was not signed by Tutsi parties, who wanted a guarantee that the presidency would alternate between Hutus and Tutsis and objected to the way seats were assigned in the legislature. Although a disproportionately large number of seats and government posts were guaranteed to Tutsi candidates, none of those seats were guaranteed to the candidates of Tutsi parties. The disagreement led to a cabinet boycott by the parties and stalled movement toward national elections, which were postponed until 2005. In Feb., 2005, however, the proposed constitution was overwhelmingly approved by Burundi's voters.

In Apr., 2005, the transitional period for the government was extended into Aug., 2005. The FNL agreed to a truce with government forces in May, but clashes continued to occur, and both sides were accused of violating the cease-fire. The CNDD-FDD won a majority of the seats in May's local council elections, a victory that prefigured its win in the June national assembly elections. Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the CNDD-FDD, was elected president of Burundi in August.

The following month the FNL rejected holding peace talks with the new government. UN peacekeepers began withdrawing in Dec., 2005, and completed their withdrawal a year later. In May, 2006, the FNL and the government began talks, agreeing in principle in June to a cease-fire. A cease-fire was signed in September, and by June, 2007, some progess had been made in the negotiations. In July, however, the FNL broke off the talks; FNL dissidents split from the group, leading to FNL attacks on the dissidents in subsequent months. Clashes between the FNL and the government resumed as well.

Meanwhile, former president Ndayizeye and several others were arrested in Aug., 2006, on charges of plotting to assassinate Nkurunziza and overthrow the government (Ndayizeye and most of those arrested were acquitted in Jan., 2007), and in early September the vice president resigned, accusing the CNDD-FDD of corruption. The main opposition parties boycotted the parliament beginning in July, 2007, objecting to the composition of the cabinet; a new, more inclusive cabinet was formed in November.

In May, 2008, the FNL and the government again signed a cease-fire agreement, and in June the FNL leader announced an end to the Hutu rebel group's war against the government. In Dec., 2008, under pressure from foreign mediators, both sides committed to beginning the delayed implementation of their peace agreement, but the FNL did not disarm until Mar.–Apr., 2009. Despite the progress toward peace, political repression and politically motivated violence by both sides against individuals has continued.

The last of Burundi refugee camps in Uganda and Tanzania closed in 2009, and most refugees returned to Burundi, ending a process that had begun in 2002. However, many Burundian refugees who had fled to Tanzania in 1972 accepted an offer of Tanzanian citizenship. The CNDD-FDD won 64% in local elections in May, 2010; opposition parties accused the government of fraud, but foreign observers said the voting was generally free and fair, though the campaign had been marred by violence. The opposition candidates for president withdrew from the June presidential election, asserting it would be rigged, and Nkurunziza was reelected unopposed. The July legislative elections, which most opposition parties also boycotted, were won overwhelmingly by the CNDD-FDD.

The government subsequently moved to arrest a number of opposition leaders, some of whom fled Burundi, and engineered a replacement of the FNL leadership that aligned it with the ruling party. By the end of 2011, there was increasing evidence of politically related, often clandestine killings by government and opposition forces, and in Sept., 2012, the former leader of the FNL announced that the group had declared war on the CNDD-FDD government. In 2013, the government enacted a number of restrictions on press freedom. Politically related violence subsequently continued to be a problem.

The power-sharing government was threatened in 2014 after the president dismissed his Tutsi vice president and appointed another Tutsi to the post who lacked the support of UPRONA, the predominantly Tutsi party in the government. UPRONA ministers subsequently resigned from the cabinet, and the president replaced them with other UPRONA party members who lacked the party's support. In 2015 the president formalized plans to run for a third term, arguing that his first term was not an elected one, and secured the approval of the constitutional court, reportedly through intimidation. The move led to a series of antigovernment demonstrations that were suppressed by security forces and to an unsuccessful coup against the president; hundreds of thousands of Burundians, including the second vice president (who remained abroad until 2017), fled the country by the end of the year. Some former members of the Burundian military subsequently formed a rebel force in neighboring Congo (Kinshasa).

In the June, 2015, legislative elections the CNDD-FDD won most of the seats, and the president was reelected in July; both elections were boycotted by the opposition. Subsequently a number of prominent military and opposition figures were the target of assassinations and attempted assassinations, and violent attacks, by both government and opposition forces, increased. In Dec., 2015, the African Union announced it would send a 5,000-person peacekeeping force to Burundi, but Burundi's government rejected the force. In Oct., 2016, Burundi's government, which was the subject of a preliminary International Criminal Court investigation concerning political violence and torture, voted to withdraw from the ICC, and did so a year later. By the beginning of 2017, nearly 400,000 Burundians had fled the country, mainly to Tanzania, as a result of the continuing unrest. Also in 2016–17 the government increasingly purged and targeted Tutsi members of the armed forces. A new constitution approved in 2018 extended the presidential term to seven years, increased the president's powers, and made other changes, and also effectively allowed Nkurunziza to run for two more terms. In 2019 the more centrally located Gitega replaced Bujumbura as the country's capital. Nkurunziza ultimately decided not to run in 2020, and ruling party secretary general General Évariste Ndayishimiye won the presidency that May in a contest marred by irregularties. The following month the president died and, though the constitution called for the president of the National Assembly to become interim president, the constitutional court ordered that the president-elect be sworn in immediately.


See G. C. McDonald et al., Area Handbook for Burundi (1969); R. Lemarchand, Rwanda and Burundi (1970); W. Weinstein, Historical Dictionary of Burundi (1976); M. T. Wolbers, Burundi (1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Republic of Burundi (République du Burundi). A state in Central Africa. Until 1962 a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of Ruanda-Urundi under administration by Belgium. Bounded on the west by the Republic of Zaire, on the north by Rwanda, on the east and southeast by Tanzania, and on the southwest by Lake Tanganyika. Area, 27, 800 sq km. Population, circa 3.5 million (1969 estimate). Capital, Bujumbura. Burundi is administratively divided into eight provinces, which in turn are divided into arrondissements.

Constitution and government. Burundi is a republic. In 1966 the monarchical constitution of 1962 was abolished and the government institutions set up under it were dissolved. A provisional system of state authority is being set up in accordance with acts adopted by the National Revolutionary Committee and the only political organization in the country—the National Unity and Progress Party. In accordance with the declaration of the National Revolutionary Committee of Nov. 28, 1966, the head of state is the president who is at the same time the head of government and the commander in chief of the armed forces. The president can appoint or remove ministers and the highest ranking officials and also use his legislative powers by the adoption of legislative decrees. A legislative commission has been set up which is an advisory body that states its conclusions on draft acts issued by the president and his ministers.

In the provinces the local administrative organs are headed by governors and in the arrondissements, by commissioners; both governors and commissioners are appointed by the president. In the communes, which form part of the arrondissements, the elective councils set up under the constitution of 1962 have been replaced by government officials.

The judicial system includes district and provincial courts, the Court of First Instance in the capital, the Court of Appeals (which also acts as a court of first instance in the case of crimes committed by high officials), and the Supreme Court (Court of Cassation). The highest authority for the enforcement of the laws is the procurator’s office, headed by a procurator appointed by the president.


Natural features. The greater part of the territory of Burundi occupies a plateau of an average height of 1, 500-2, 000 m made up mainly of Precambrian crystalline and metamorphic rocks. The western part of it is in the form of a meridional mountain ridge of a height of 2, 000-2, 600 m serving as a divide between the Congo and the Nile river basins. The remainder of the plateau, which decreases in height in a series of steps from west to east, is mainly hilly. In the extreme west, part of Burundi is in the East African fault zone; the bottom of one of the grabens of this area, which here is between 800 and 1, 000 m high, is occupied by the alluvial plain of Imbo. The climate is subequatorial. It is hot in the lower areas—the mean monthly temperatures in Bujumbura vary between 23° and 25° C—and moderately warm in areas higher than 1, 500 m, where the mean monthly temperatures vary between 15° and 20° C. The annual precipitation in the Central African Rift Valley is between 800 and 1, 000 mm and up to between 1, 400 and 1, 600 mm along the Nile-Congo Crest. Most of the territory of Burundi forms part of the Nile Basin (main rivers, the Ruvubu and the Kanyaru); the extreme western and southeastern areas form part of the Congo Basin (main rivers, the Malagarazi and Ruzizi, which flow into Lake Tanganyika). The topsoil consists mainly of mountain red humus and ferrolitic soils; in the Ruzizi valley the soil is black tropical. The deciduous and evergreen tropical forests that once covered the territory have been cut down for the most part and replaced by secondary savanna and crop vegetation. Among the fauna, much of it already killed off, are elephants, buffaloes, antelope, hippopotamuses, warthogs, and various kinds of monkeys. There are many kinds of birds and reptiles.


Population. The population consists mainly of Barundi, who were estimated to number about 3.3 million in 1968; there are a number of Pygmy tribes, including the Batwa, numbering more than 30, 000. Burundi also has 3, 000 Swahili and 3, 000 immigrants from Asia, mainly Indians. There are several thousand Europeans in Bujumbura. The most widespread language is Kirundi, which belongs to the northern group of the Bantu language family. The official languages are Kirundi and French. More than 60 percent of the population are Christian, about 7, 000 are Muslims, and the rest retain their local traditional beliefs. The Gregorian calendar is official.

The annual rate of growth of the population during the years 1963-68 was about 2 percent. The overwhelming majority of the population consists of peasants who cultivate their land with the hoe and raise grazing livestock. According to 1965 estimates, 1, 125, 000 inhabitants were economically active, of which 95 percent were engaged in agriculture. Migration of farm workers is common (within Burundi and in neighboring countries). Burundi is one of the most thickly populated countries in Africa (126 inhabitants per sq km in 1969). The largest towns are Bujumbura (75, 000 inhabitants in 1968), Gitega (20, 000), Bururi, Muramvya, Ngozi, Muyinga, and Bubanza.

Historical survey. The history of Burundi in ancient and medieval times has been little studied. Ancient historical sources indicate that the aboriginal inhabitants of the country were Pygmies. Later, Bantu peoples settled the Burundi territory. In the 15th and 16th centuries the territory was conquered by a tribe from the north related to the Ethiopians. Subsequently separate feudal states arose in this area. As the feudal states developed, the socioethnic groups of Burundi took shape, particularly the peasants, the Bahutu, who were the descendants of the Bantu settlers, and the feudal lords, the Batutsi, the descendants of the conquerors of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Barundi nationality was formed.

In the 18th century an independent feudal kingdom arose on the territory of what is now Burundi. The first known king (Mwami) was Ntare I, who reigned from 1720 to 1760. The kingdom reached its peak during the reign of Ntare II, who reigned from 1825 to 1852 and who fought numerous wars with the neighboring states and thereby extended the territory of Burundi to approximately its present borders. The period in Burundi’s history covering the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th was marked by internecine wars, which the European colonizers endeavored to use to their advantage. In 1899 a German military post was established in the town of Usumbura (Bujumbura), and in 1903, Mwesi II recognized the authority of the German governor over the territory of Burundi, which became a part of German East Africa.

After Germany’s defeat in World War I (1914-18), Burundi became a component part of the territory of Ruanda-Urundi under Belgian mandate. (Urundi is the Swahili name of Burundi, which was adopted during the period of colonial rule.) In December 1946, Ruanda-Urundi was assigned by the United Nations to Belgium as a trust territory. Ruanda-Urundi was combined in an administrative union with the Belgian Congo, forming a separate vicegovernorship. Legislative and executive power was vested in the king and parliament of Belgium. The country was actually run by a vice-governor (from 1959, a resident general).

During the colonial period many duties were imposed on the population of Ruanda-Urundi for the benefit of the colonialists. In 1925 forced recruitment of workers for the Katanga mines in the Belgian Congo was introduced. After World War II (1939-45) there was some development in the production of agricultural export crops. The liberation movement was gaining in importance, particularly from the end of the 1950’s. Many political parties were formed. The most influential was the National Unity and Progress Party (UPRONA) founded by Louis Rwagasore, which demanded the abolition of the colonial regime and the withdrawal of Belgian troops from the country, and the Christian Democratic Party, which wanted autonomy for Burundi within the bounds of the trusteeship system. The communal elections of 1960 resulted in victory for the Christian Democratic Party, which existed until 1962. In January 1961 the leaders of the party formed a provisional government. However the elections held on Sept. 18, 1961, for the National Assembly brought to power the UPRONA, which won 58 out of the 64 seats. Louis Rwagasore was chosen as head of the government but was assassinated on Oct. 13, 1961, by foreign agents. A special session of the United Nations General Assembly on June 27, 1962, decided to terminate the Belgian trusteeship of the territory of Ruanda-Urundi on July 1, 1962, on which date two independent states were established on the territory—the Republic of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Burundi. On July 26, Burundi was admitted as a member of the United Nations.

After Burundi’s independence was proclaimed, an internal political struggle developed, which led to the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment on Nov. 28, 1966, of a republican system. Colonel Michel Micombero became the first president and head of the government. The republican government announced that it would endeavor to utilize to the fullest possible extent the natural and human resources of the country to promote its economic development. The Burundi government announced that the basis of its foreign policy would be the principle of neutrality and nonalignment with any blocs. Diplomatic relations between Burundi and the Soviet Union were established in 1962. In 1964 an agreement for cultural and scientific cooperation was concluded between the two countries.


Political parties, trade unions, and other social organizations. The National Unity and Progress Party of Burundi (Parti de l’unité et du progrès national du Burundi, UPRONA) was founded in 1959 and is the governing party. The Burundi Workers’ Union was founded in 1967 and is a member of the Pan-African Federation of Trade Unions. The Union of Burundi Women was founded in 1967. The Rwagasore Revolutionary Youth was also founded in 1967.


Economic geography. Burundi is an economically underdeveloped agrarian country. Its gross national product was estimated in 1966 at 8, 800 million Burundi francs (about 2, 700 Burundi francs per capita). Agriculture accounts for most of the gross national product and industry for about 5 percent. More than nine-tenths of the value of exports is derived from agricultural products, mainly coffee and cotton, the great bulk of which is produced on African farms. The farms are to a considerable extent based on semisubsistence agriculture; the agricultural produce consumed on the farms of the producers themselves represents more than half of the gross national product. Industry, which has just begun to develop, is largely controlled by foreign, mainly Belgian, capital. The share of the state sector in the economy is insignificant.

After the proclamation of independence in 1962, the government’s internal policy was directed toward expanding and strengthening the national economy. In the economic development plan for 1968-72 special attention was paid to the development of the production of export crops and the introduction of new ones. Provision was also made for the development of the manufacturing industry and means of transportation and for geological prospecting. The financing of the appropriate programs is effected mainly through the enlistment of foreign capital—mostly Belgian, West German, and French—through bilateral agreements, and through the European Development Fund.

AGRICULTURE. Agriculture is characterized by survivals of clan and feudal relationships. Most farmsteads are small or very small; the average area of a peasant family’s plot of land is less than 1 hectare (ha). Some of the peasants’ farms are organized into production cooperatives (mainly for the production of export crops), and such organization is encouraged by the government. Coffee is purchased and exported by foreign companies and by the partially state-run Burundi Merchants Association. The plantations and farms owned by European colonists are few and not considerable in size. In 1967 the country’s land was divided up into 1, 008, 000 ha of cultivated land (including fallow land), 628, 000 ha of permanent pasture land, 116, 000 ha of forest land, and 1, 031, 000 ha of land not used in agriculture. Traditional African agriculture is based on a crop rotation system with various individual forms of high agriculture, such as irrigation and terracing. In the more densely populated areas there is an acute scarcity of land, particularly of pasture. The most important export crop is coffee, mainly of the arabica type, grown at altitudes of 1, 500 to 1, 900-2, 000 m. In 1968 the area under coffee cultivation was 27, 000 ha and the crop yield, 16, 800 tons. The production of cotton is being speeded up. (In the Ruzizi valley the cotton fiber yield in 1968 was 3, 000 tons.) Tea, the castor oil plant, and other plants are being introduced as cash crops. The main food crops are cassava (75, 000 ha producing 875, 000 tons in 1968), sweet potatoes and yams (110, 000 ha producing 752, 000 tons), haricots (207, 000 ha producing 121, 000 tons of dried beans), corn (112, 000 ha producing 120, 000 tons), potatoes, sorghum, raggee (Eleusine coracana), and bananas. Rice is grown in the Ruzizi valley. Industrial crops mainly for home consumption include the oil palm (along the shores of Lake Tanganyika), peanuts, and tobacco. Livestock raising plays an important part in subsistence farming, but the commodity output from it is small. Four state livestock farms are raising an improved type of cattle. In 1967-68 there were 596, 000 head of cattle, 206, 000 sheep, and 434, 000 goats.

Fishing is carried on in Lake Tanganyika. (In 1966, 16, 600 tons of fish were caught.) The main food fish is the ndagala, or dagaa (herring family), the Nile perch, and the tilapia.

INDUSTRY. Industry is not developed. The mineral resources have not been sufficiently studied. Small quantities of tin and tantalum-niobium ores are obtained in the northern and northwestern areas, rare earth ores in the Bujumbura area, and gold in the north. The hydroelectric power resources are hardly utilized. There are two thermal electric power plants—in Bujumbura and Gitega—and some 30 small hydroelectric and thermal electric power plants. The total electric power used in 1968 was about 17 million kilowatt-hours. Most of Burundi’s electric power comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo along the electric transmission line connecting Bujumbura with the hydroelectric power plant on the Ruzizi River near the town of Bukavu. The manufacturing industry is in the main represented only by small enterprises for the processing of agricultural raw materials, including coffee-cleaning and cotton-cleaning plants, oil mills, soap works, flour mills, breweries, and tanneries. In 1967 a tea factory was built. There are cement and brick factories, sawmills, textile and blanket factories, and netting and shoe factories. The main industrial center is Bujumbura. Traditional handicrafts are still practiced, such as basket and mat weaving and pottery.

TRANSPORTATION. There are no railways in Burundi. There are 7, 000 km of highways and dirt roads; 1, 000 km are hard-surface roads. There is shipping on Lake Tanganyika. The main port is Bujumbura, through which passes practically all of Burundi’s foreign trade. Bujumbura has an international airport and Gitega has a national one.

EXTERNAL ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Burundi has a chronically unfavorable balance of trade. In 1967, exports amounted to 1, 455 million Burundi francs, and imports totalled 1, 496 million. The main items of export are coffee (representing about four-fifths of the total value of exports), cotton, rawhide, and concentrates of tin and other metals. Major imports include textile goods, foodstuffs, means of transportation, various types of equipment, and petroleum products. Burundi’s principal trade partners are Belgium and the USA. The unit of currency is the Burundi franc; in March 1970, 87.5 Burundi francs equaled US $1.00.


Public health. According to incomplete data, in 1965 the birthrate per thousand inhabitants was 46.1 and the mortality rate, 25.6; the infant mortality rate was 150 out of 1, 000 live births. The average life expectancy of women is 38.5 years and of men, 35. In Burundi infectious diseases are prevalent. Among noninfectious diseases is Kaposi’s sarcoma. Diseases among the population of the Ruzizi valley and the shores of Lake Tanganyika include tuberculosis, trypanosomiasis, malaria, filariasis, yaws, and gastrointestinal diseases. In the plateau areas zoonotic diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, intestinal infections, and Kaposi’s sarcoma are prevalent. In the higher western areas of the plateau catarrhal infections, zoonotic diseases, and endemic goiter are common.

In 1969 there were 120 medical establishments with 64 physicians (one physician for every 5, 800 inhabitants), 21 of whom were indigenous. Physicians are trained in France, Belgium, the USSR, the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, and Rumania. In local training centers only medical assistants, nurses, and midwives are trained.


VETERINARY SERVICES. The primitive conditions of pastoral livestock raising and the absence of veterinary health measures are determining factors in the pathology of agricultural animals. Trypanosomiases and theileriasis are prevalent among cattle owing to the presence in Burundi of the carriers of these diseases—the tsetse fly and ticks. There are constant epizootic occurrences of rabies (73 outbreaks in 1964). Nearly all cattle suffer from helminthic diseases, such as fascioliasis and strongyloidosis. Skin diseases are widely prevalent among agricultural animals, including mange, favus, ringworm, and demodectic mange. In 1966 there were five veterinarians in Burundi.


Education. During the colonial period public education in Burundi was in the hands of Catholic and Protestant missions. After the establishment of the republic, a law on the organization of education was adopted in 1967 which granted all citizens the right to free primary and secondary education. However, many educational institutions still belong to missionary societies. The present educational system includes kindergartens for children from three to five years of age, six-year primary schools, and six-year secondary schools. Children enter primary school at the age of six. Instruction in primary schools is begun in Kirundi. In the senior classes of the primary schools and in the secondary schools, instruction is given in French, which is a compulsory subject from the first class in primary school. The secondary school is divided into two three-year cycles. In the second cycle, there is a classical and a modern division. In the 1969-70 academic year 185, 000 children attended primary school and 6, 700, secondary school. After primary school two- and four-year courses are provided in vocational-technical schools. In the 1969-70 academic year there were over 2, 000 students in such schools. Primary school teachers, after completing primary school, receive four years of training in pedagogical schools (1, 427 students in the 1969-70 academic year) or seven years of training in secondary pedagogical schools (955 students in the 1969-70 academic year). Secondary school teachers are trained in a higher pedagogical school in Bujumbura. A university center was set up in Bujumbura in 1960 and in 1964 was converted to a university with departments of natural sciences, philosophy and philology, economics, and social sciences. In the 1969-70 academic year the student body numbered 320.


Press and radio. Newspapers and journals include the government newspaper in Kirundi, Magambere, which began publication in 1967 and appears on the first and 15th of each month and in 1969 had a circulation of 10, 000, and the government newspaper in French, L’Unité et Révolution, which is issued twice monthly.

There have been radio broadcasts since 1961. The government station in Bujumbura, Voice of the Revolution, broadcasts in Kirundi, French, and Swahili.


Folk art. Of artistic handicrafts the most developed is the weaving of straw mats and various types of baskets and domestic utensils decorated with white, black, and red geometrical spearshaped and zigzag patterns. The same pattern (carved, burned, or painted) is used on wooden articles, such as vessels, shields, and quivers.


Noveishaia istoriia Afriki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968. Pages 451-63.
Karpushina, V. Burundi. Moscow, 1965.
Deux ans de la République Burundi. Bujumbura, 1968.
Simons, E. Coutumes et institutions des Burundi. Elisabeth ville, 1944.
“Le marché du Burundi.” Marchés tropicaux et méditerranéens, May 13, 1967, no. 1122.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Burundi

Capital city: Bujumbura

 Internet country code: .bi

 Flag description: Divided by a white diagonal cross into red panels (top and bottom) and green panels (hoist side and fly side) with a white disk superimposed at the cen­ter bearing three red six-pointed stars outlined in green arranged in a triangular design (one star above, two stars below)

National anthem: “Burundi Bwacu” (Hymn of Independ­ence)

National motto: Unity-Work-Progress

Geographical description: Central Africa, east of Demo­cratic Republic of the Congo

Total area: 10,747 sq. mi. (27,830 sq. km.)

Climate: Equatorial; high plateau with considerable alti­tude variation; two wet seasons (February to May and September to November), and two dry seasons (June to August and December to January)

Nationality: noun: Burundian(s); adjective: Burundian

Population: 8,390,505 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu) 85%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 14%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%

Languages spoken: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)

Religions: Roman Catholic 62%, indigenous religions 23%, Muslim 10%, Protestant 5%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
Assumption DayAug 15
ChristmasDec 25
Independence DayJul 1
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
President Ndadaye DayOct 21
President Ntaryamira DayApr 6
Prince Rwagasore DayOct 13
Unity DayFeb 5
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in E central Africa: inhabited chiefly by the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa (Pygmy); made part of German East Africa in 1899; part of the Belgian territory of Ruanda-Urundi from 1923 until it became independent in 1962; ethnic violence has erupted at times; consists mainly of high plateaus along the main Nile-Congo dividing range, dropping rapidly to the Great Rift Valley in the west. Official languages: Kirundi and French. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: Burundi franc. Capital: Bujumbura. Pop.: 7 068 000 (2004 est.). Area: 27 731 sq. km (10 707 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The point of the robotics competition, he said, was to get young people in Burundi interested in science and engineering.