Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa. It borders Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Most of the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo lies in Lake Tanganyika. With an estimated GDP of around 261 US dollars per capita, the country has the lowest gross domestic product per capita in the world.
Burundi is one of the smallest countries in Africa, but – like its neighboring country to the north, Rwanda – is densely populated. Located between Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, the country is crossed by a high plateau (1400-1800 meters), which gradually rises and reaches the highest point in Mont Heha at 2684 meters. This mountain range on the edge of the distinctive East African Rift Valley falls steeply towards the interior of the rift valley filled by Lake Tanganyika.
The climate is tropical-humid with two rainy seasons. The temperatures are moderated by the altitude. Rainfall averages 1000 mm per year.
bodies of water
The East African landlocked country is hydrologically divided roughly in half into two catchment areas. The slightly larger part of the country, 50.6%, drains via Lake Tanganyika into the Congo or the Atlantic, the other part via the Kagera and then the Nile into the Mediterranean. The Luvironza has its source in the mountains, which flows into the Ruvuvu and represents the longest and southernmost source river of the Nile. The source of the Nile is about 45 kilometers east of Lake Tanganyika between Bururi and Rutana.
Flora and fauna
The diverse wildlife includes leopards, lions, baboons, zebras and antelope species. Crocodiles and hippos live in the rivers.
The high population growth and the resulting overexploitation of the landscape has led to the habitats of the once species-rich animal world being severely restricted or destroyed. Many of the typical African animal species only exist as remnants, are on the Red List, or are already extinct. Burundi would also be almost completely covered by very different and species-rich forest communities. These were massively cut down in favor of agricultural land or for charcoal production: between 1990 and 2020 alone, Burundi lost a forest area of 117,000 ha (40.5% of the forest cover). Reforestation efforts often use fast-growing and non-native species such as eucalyptus.
Monarchy and Colonial History
Burundi has a centuries-old history as a separate monarchy, the Kingdom of Burundi. At the end of the 19th century, as part of the division of Africa among the major European powers, it was added to Germany and, together with “Rwanda” as “Urundi”, was subordinated to the colony of German East Africa. The Germans limited themselves to indirect rule in the form of a residency; the German resident was similar to British protectorates overseeing and advising the local rulers. At the same time, the missionary work began, in which the Catholics prevailed. During World War I, the country was conquered by Belgian forces and then given to Belgium by the League of Nations as part of the Rwanda-Urundi Mandate.
In 1959, while Rwanda-Urundi was being prepared for independence, there was a stream of refugees from Rwanda who had been expelled from Rwanda, which subsequently led to increased racial thinking (especially between Tutsi and Hutu) also within Burundi due to recurring conflicts in the border area. However, the political history of Burundi is also marked by massive tensions, rivalries and clashes between different Tutsi factions. In November 1959, serious unrest broke out between Hutu and Tutsi for the first time, which was suppressed by the Belgians.
The UPRONA founder and Ganwa prince Louis Rwagasore became head of government in 1961 and was to lead the country to independence. His assassination a few weeks after the election was the prelude to decades of power struggles, which, however, did not prevent the independence that the Kingdom of Burundi received in 1962 as a constitutional monarchy under King Mwambutsa IV. Rwagasore's successors, including both Hutu and Tutsi, were overthrown or murdered. In October 1965, a Hutu uprising was bloodily suppressed; there were around 5000 dead.
In 1966 Prime Minister Michel Micombero (Tutsi) overthrew King Ntare V. Ndizeye, who had just come to power himself in a coup d'etat, and abolished the monarchy. Micombero united the posts of head of state and government in his person for the next ten years. During this period there was much unrest and fighting between Hutu and Tutsi, the most serious of which occurred in 1972-1973; probably between 150,000 and 200,000 Hutu fell victim to them. The army specifically pursued well-trained Hutu. Some of the killings are described as "bordering on genocide".
Many Hutu fled to neighboring countries, mainly to Rwanda and Tanzania, but also to Zaire (now DR Congo). They founded political movements there, including TABARA, from which PALIPEHUTU emerged in 1980. This interpreted the political conflicts in Burundi purely "ethnic" - as repression against Hutu - and opted for the armed struggle. The PALIPEHUTU armed wing was trained in the refugee camps in western Tanzania. Over the years, several parties with armed wings had formed (above all FRODEBU and PALIPEHUTU-FNL, later also CNDD-FDD), which claimed to represent the interests of the Hutu. They were gradually included in the negotiations, insofar as they were willing to do so. Splits within the rebel groups complicated the negotiation process.
In the course of a military coup in 1976, first Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (Tutsi) came to power, later in a renewed military coup in 1987 Major Pierre Buyoya (Tutsi). Buyoya initially sought an equalization with the Hutu. In August 1988, after the murder of two Hutu, another Hutu uprising broke out, which was repelled again and claimed 24,000 to 50,000 lives. A unity government was then formed, made up of half Tutsi and half Hutu. Buyoya allowed elections for the first time in 1993, which brought the Hutu Melchior Ndadaye to the presidency with the FRODEBU party. After his assassination in the same year, which in turn was accompanied by bloody riots against Tutsi and Hutu and the flight of 300,000 Hutu, his party friend Cyprien Ntaryamira (Hutu) took over the presidency. In the same year, the Hutu-dominated Forces pour la Defense de la Democratie (FDD) was formed.
Ntaryamira was killed in an assassination attempt on Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane in 1994, which triggered the Rwandan genocide. His successor, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, was overthrown by former President Buyoya in 1996. As a result, there was international pressure on the country. Negotiations led by the South African Nelson Mandela and the Tanzanian Julius Nyerere brought about the Arusha Peace Treaty in 2000, which, among other things, gave the Hutu rebel groups access to the army. In 2001, an interim government was formed, initially headed by Buyoya. Part of the FDD under Pierre Nkurunziza split off as CNDD-FDD and went into opposition. As agreed, the Hutu Domitien Ndayizeye (FRODEBU) succeeded President Buyoya in 2003 and ruled until the 2005 elections.
In 2005, Pierre Nkurunziza was elected President by both chambers of Parliament. In 2010, after a change in the electoral law, he was directly elected by the people. According to the constitution, he was not allowed to run again in 2015, but pointed out that his first election had been carried out by parliament and not as a direct election. An attempted coup on May 13, 2015 was repelled by the army; around 170,000 people fled abroad again. In the subsequent parliamentary and presidential elections in July, which were boycotted by the opposition, Nkurunziza and his party won. The elections were judged by observers as not free and not credible.