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Country Profile

Area: 27,834 sq km
Population: 8.3 million
Capital: Bujumbura (population approx. 300,000). Other cities - Cibitoke, Rumonge, Nyanza-Lac, Muyinga, Ngozi, Bubanza, Gitega.
Administrative subdivisions: 17 provinces including Bujumbura, 129 communes
Ethnicity: Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa 1%. Language(s): Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and the Bujumbura area), English.
Religion(s): Christian 80% (Roman Catholic 65%-70%, Protestant 10%-15%, indigenous beliefs, Muslim less than 5%.
Currency: Burundi franc = 100 centimes
Head of State: President Pierre Nkurunziza (CNDD-FDD)
First Vice President: Terence Sinunguruza (UPRONA)
Second Vice President: Gervais Rufyikiri (CNDD-FDD)
Minister for External Relations and Co-operation (MFA): Antoinette Batumubwira
Major political parties:
- National Council for the Defence of Democracy - Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD -FDD)
- Burundi Democratic Front (FRODEBU)
- Unity for National Progress (UPRONA)
- National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-N)
- Union for Peace and Development (UPD)
- National Liberation Forces (FNL)
- Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD).
Membership of International groupings: African Union (AU), UN, Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African community (EAC).

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GDP: US$1.248bn (2009 est.)
Real GDP Growth: 3.9% (2010 est.)
Inflation: 10.5% (2009 est.)
Population below poverty line: 70% (2009)
Major Imports: Commodities, capital goods, petroleum products, food stuffs. Major Exports: Coffee, tea, sugar, hides and, to some extent cotton.
Major Trading Partners (2009): Exports – Germany (21.6%), Switzerland (14.86%), Belgium (9.32%), Rwanda (6.8%). Sweden (8.94%), Pakistan (5.82%)
Imports - (2009): Kenya (7.5%), Tanzania (4.21%), Belgium (11.17%), Saudi Arabia (16.87%), India (4.24%), Uganda (8.62%), China (5.66%), France (5.35%), Germany (4.46%)
Exchange Rate: Franc Burundais 1,645 = US$1 (2011 estimate.)
The mainstay of the Burundian economy is agriculture, accounting for some 35% of GDP in 2011, and supporting more than 90% of the population. Insecurity, overpopulation, and soil erosion have contributed to a significant contraction of the subsistence economy in recent years. The main cash crop is coffee, with tea, sugar and hides being the other principal exports. The raw cotton trade has seen a recent revival due to Chinese funding working alongside Burundian management. Although potential wealth in petroleum, nickel, copper, and other natural resources is being explored, the uncertain security situation has prevented meaningful investor interest. Industrial development is hampered by Burundi's distance from the sea and high transport costs. Instability in neighbouring Eastern Congo and the ban on illicit mineral trading across Burundi’s borders will be the main challenges to future economic growth.

IMF Country Reports - Burundi (

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Burundi existed as an independent Kingdom for several centuries before becoming part of German East Africa in 1899. After WWI it became the Belgian-run territory of ‘Ruanda-Urundi’, with neighbouring Rwanda, under a League of Nations mandate. Following independence in 01 July 1962, Burundi was run by a series of brutal regimes dominated by the minority Tutsi group. Massacres in 1972 killed an estimated 300,000 of which the majority were Hutu. In 1987 Major Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, took control in a bloodless coup and initiated a 5-year transition to democracy.

Burundi's first ever election, held in 1993, was won by Melchior Ndadaye of the HUTU dominated FRODEBU party. Elements of the Tutsi-dominated army assassinated the new President a few months later, triggering the start of a long-running conflict between the army and Hutu rebel groups that cost an estimated 500,000 lives. In January 1994 FRODEBU gained an element of control and elected Cyprien Ntayamira as President. The unstable situation deteriorated further when President Ntayamira and Rwandan President Habyarimana were killed in a plane crash in Kigali in April 1994. This marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, and an explosion in violence in Burundi. However, the situation continued to deteriorate and in April 1994 President Ntayamira along with Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana died in a plane crash. This marked the next steps into the Rwandan Genocide while in Burundi the deaths exasperated the violence and unrest. In 1996 Buyoya instigated a military coup and again took power, but was unable to stop the violence. Under pressure from neighbouring countries in , negotiations began in 1998 and in 2000 a peace agreement was concluded in Arusha, Tanzania. It was signed by all parties except 4 hard-line rebel groups (CNDD-FDD, FNL, CNDD-N, FROLINA). Violence between these groups and the army continued, despite the institution of a transitional government in 2002. Separate cease-fire agreements were concluded with three of the groups during the second half of 2003. Shortly afterwards Buyoya was succeeded as President by Domitien Ndayizeye.

The UN deployed a peacekeeping force to Burundi (ONUB) in June 2004. Successful elections between June and September 2005 ended the transition and installed former rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza as President, with his and CNDD-FDD the party in forming powerthe dominant political force

The Parti pour la Libération du Peuple Hutu au Burundi – Forces Nationals de Libération (Palipehutu-FNL) rebel group finally entered the peace process in September 2006 after the signature of a ceasefire agreement with the government. Implementation of the agreement proved slow and it was not until May 2008, that the Palipehutu-FNL leader, Agathon Rwasa, return to Burundi for peace talks. A cessation of hostilities agreement was signed on 26 May 2008, bringing to an end the conflict between the rebel group and the Government of Burundi. On 21 April 2009, the FNL was formally registered as a political party and agreed to drop its ethnic derivative ‘Palipehutu’ (Burundi's constitution forbids party names with ethnic affiliations). On the same date, the FNL formally disarmed, and 5,000 of its ex-combatants were integrated into the Police and Army.

ONUB gradually drew down its peacekeeping troops during 2006, handing over to an integrated United Nations office (BINUB) in February 2007. BINUB’s mandate had four pillars: peace consolidation; Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration and Security Sector Reform (DDR/SSR); promotion of human rights; and co-ordination of UN agencies and international donors.

The South African Peacekeeping Force left in 2009, with BINUB coming to a close at the end of 2010. From the beginning of 2011, the UN operates a scaled-down presence, known as BNUB.

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Burundi enjoys generally good relations with neighbouring states. Regional states, including Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania maintain a role in the post-conflict process. Burundi continues to strengthen its regional position with its admission to the East African Community, comprising Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and is also a participant in the Great Lakes Conference process. Small numbers of Burundian troops were engaged in the DRC at the start of the 1998 - 2003 war in pursuit of Burundian rebels, but it was not involved in the wider regional conflict and relations between Burundi and the DRC have since been normalised. As of August 2007 there were estimated to be more than 350,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, although an equal number have returned to Burundi since 2002.

In 2008 Burundi followed Uganda with a contribution of troops to the AMISOM mission in Somalia. In March 2011 Burundi again boosted their support to the mission by deploying an additional 1,000 soldiers to the African Union force. In retaliation to the commitment by Burundi and Uganda, Al-Shabaab, an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisation, issued a terrorist threat attack on both capitals. In July 2010 this threat was carried out with a twin bombing in the Ugandan capital Kampala. This was followed by a fresh announcement from Al-Shabaab to target Bujumbura. As at May 2011, troop deployment by Burundi to AU forces in Somalia number over 4,000. The Burundian Government continue to support the AU (despite heavy casualties) and have stepped up security procedures within Bujumbura and at border crossings

Burundi's Relations with the UK

Diplomatic Representation

Britain and Burundi have good relations. The High Commissioner to Rwanda is non-resident Ambassador to Burundi. The British Embassy Liaison Office is in Bujumbura. The Department for International Development (DFID) opened an office in Bujumbura in 2002. The Burundian Ambassador to Belgium is accredited as Ambassador to the UK.

Recent Visits

Outward: Rt. Hon. Jack McConnell, MSP, the then PM’s Special Representative for Peace Building (October 2009), Ivan Lewis, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (April 2009), Hilary Benn, the then Secretary of State for International Development, (November 2005), Jack Straw, the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (January 2002), Clare Short, the then Secretary of State for International Development (February 2002).

Inward: Minister for External Relations and International Co-operation Augustin Nsanze (July 2009), First Vice President Martin Nduwimana (April 2007), Minister for External Relations and International Co-operation Antoinette Batumubwira (March 2006), Minister of State Pierre Nkurunziza (November 2004), Vice President Domitien Ndayizeye (April 2002 and again – as President – in July 2003), Foreign Minister Therence Sinunguruza in February 2003, Former President Buyoya October 2003.

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Burundi is a small land-locked mountainous country lying south of the Equator in Central Africa. It shares borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, and Rwanda. It has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons (March to May; October to December). Official languages are Kirundi, French and Swahili.

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Trade and Investment in the UK

Trade with Burundi is small. From January-November 2006, UK exports to Burundi totalled £0.94 million and imports from Burundi were £0.64 million.

Challenges and Development

Burundi is continuing its democratic progress from post-conflict to developing country status. Issues remain around governmental transparency, human rights, corruption and debt reduction. Freedom of speech is legally guaranteed and media express critical opinions. However, intimidation of the media is in evidence including the arrest of journalists. In 2009 the deputy head of anti-corruption organisation, The Anticorruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory (OLUCOME), was murdered. An effective investigation leading to trial is yet to take place, despite over a dozen suspects. Politically motivated crimes generally remain unchallenged and impunity remains an issue.

Killing of civilians, reprisal killings, torture, rape, theft, illegal and arbitrary detention, are regular human rights issues. Sexually-based violence against women, girls and boys continues to plague Burundi, with the Minister of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender confirmed 2,330 cases of rape in 2010. The judicial system has little capacity to act in a timely and impartial manner, and impunity is pervasive. In May 2011, Burundi announced it was working on a mechanism for transitional justice ,with an aim of establishing a commission by January 2012. This commission will look at war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and economic crimes between 1962 – 2008, and will runfor a period of two years.

The indigenous Twa (Pygmy) people remain marginalised economically, socially, and politically.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. 81.3% (2011) of the population live below the poverty line with income of less than US$1.25 per day. Burundi is in the Worlds bottom 10 for almost all economic and development indicators. In 2009, the IMF and World Bank waived $424 million debt; if managed well integration into the EAC could lead to economic development.

DfID spend in 2010/11 focussed on health, education, governance and regional economic integration.

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The 2002-2005 transitional government split power between the two most important political parties, UPRONA and FRODEBU, with the Presidency shared between the two parties respective leaders Pierre Buyoya and Domitien Ndayizeye.. Tutsi-dominated UPRONA was the only legal party from 1974 and provided all of Burundi's post-independence Presidents until 1993. FRODEBU, a largely Hutu party, won the elections of 1993.

Elections in 2005 ended this bipartisan consensus. Hutu rebel groups, changed into political organisations following the end of hostilities, and the foremost amongst these, the CNDD-FDD, won an overwhelming victory at all levels in the elections. Large numbers of Tutsi joined previously Hutu parties, and UPRONA and FRODEBU faded as electoral powers, though ethnic divisions remain politically salient. The new Government, largely comprised of former rebel leaders, faced a steep learning curve. In July 2006, a wide range of key opposition figures, including former President Ndayizeye were arrested after the authorities claimed to have uncovered a 'coup' plot. They were finally released after 5 months in detention. Then, in early 2007, the Party President of the CNDD-FDD was arrested and his supporters within the party removed. This split lost the CNDD-FDD their majority in the National Assembly, and the resulting paralysis of government (no significant legislation was passed between April and November 2007) led President Nkurunziza to seek alliances with UPRONA and FRODEBU resulting in the announcement of a Government of National Unity on 14 November 2007.

Since then progress has been made in building an effective democracy. 2010 elections saw CNDD-FDD remain in power with President Nkurunziza winning a second term in office. However, opposition party presence is limited after they boycotted the elections at presidential and parliamentary stages. Parliamentary opposition is almost non-existent and there is a lack of representation at legislative and executive branches of government.

BBC News Country Profile: Burundi (
BBC News: Africa (

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Last Updated: May 2011

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