Burundi

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Facts & figures

Full name: Republic of Burundi

Population: 8.7 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Bujumbura

Area: 27,816 sq km (10,740 sq miles)

Major languages: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili

Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs

Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 Burundi franc = 100 centimes

Main exports: coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, hides

GNI per capita: US $250 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .bi

International dialling code: +257

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Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi's civil war in 1994.

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Visa & travel advice

You will require:

 

1. Duly filled application form for each applicant, children included. (Download above)

2. Recent passport sized photographs

Passport valid for at least 6 months from the proposed date of entry

If travelling for business, a letter of invitation/introduction

Evidence of travelling arrangements (booking or ticket photocopy)

A stamped, self-addressed and registered envelope for passport return

£60.00 fee

  • Best period:

The climate in Burundi varies depending more on where you go in the country than on the particular season. Throughout the hot and humid lowlands, in the southwestern part of the country, temperatures average 86 degrees Fahrenheit; in the mountainous north, temperatures are lower, hovering at about 68 degrees. It’s useful to know, however, that the country has two wet seasons—February to May and September to November.

  • Safety:

Because of Burundi’s recent civil war and its overall political instability, the U.S. State Department warns travellers against visiting the country. Tourists should avoid political rallies and demonstrations and always remain aware of their surroundings; crime committed by street children and armed bandits is often directed at foreigners. It’s best not to travel beyond the capital city at night.

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The original inhabitants of Burundi were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. Today the population is divided between the Hutu (approximately 85%) and the Tutsi, approximately 14%. While the Hutu and Tutsi are considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics. Traditionally, the differences between the two groups were occupational rather than ethnic. Agricultural people were considered Hutu, while the cattle-owning elite were identified as Tutsi. In theory, Tutsi were tall and thin, while Hutu were short and square, but in fact it is often impossible to tell one from the other. The 1933 requirement by the Belgians that everyone carry an identity card indicating tribal ethnicity as Tutsi or Hutu increased the distinction. Since independence, the landowning Tutsi aristocracy has dominated Burundi.

Burundi was once part of German East Africa. Belgium won a League of Nations mandate in 1923, and subsequently Burundi, with Rwanda, was transferred to the status of a United Nations trust territory. In 1962, Burundi gained independence and became a kingdom under Mwami Mwambutsa IV, a Tutsi. A Hutu rebellion took place in 1965, leading to brutal Tutsi retaliations. Mwambutsa was deposed by his son, Ntaré V, in 1966. Ntaré in turn was overthrown the same year in a military coup by Premier Michel Micombero, also a Tutsi. In 1970–1971, a civil war erupted, leaving more than 100,000 Hutu dead.

On Nov. 1, 1976, Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza led a coup and assumed the presidency. He suspended the constitution and announced that a 30-member Supreme Revolutionary Council would be the governing body. In Sept. 1987, Bagaza was overthrown by Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who became president. Ethnic hatred again flared in Aug. 1988, and about 20,000 Hutu were slaughtered. Buyoya, however, began reforms to heal the country's ethnic rift. The Burundi Democracy Front's candidate, Melchior Ndadaye, won the country's first democratic presidential elections, held on June 2, 1993. Ndadaye, the first Hutu to assume power in Burundi, was killed within months during a coup. The second Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying him and the Rwandan president was shot down. As a result, Hutu youth gangs began massacring Tutsi; the Tutsi-controlled army retaliated by killing Hutus.

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  • Music:

Burundi is a Central African nation that is closely linked with Rwanda, geographically, historically and culturally. The drum such as the karyenda is one of central importance. Internationally, the country has produced the music group Royal Drummers of Burundi.

Burundian-Belgian musicians like Éric Baranyanka from the Burundese royal family, Ciza Muhirwa and, especially, Khadja Nin, have more recently gained prominence. Since the music is from the mind and soul, it mainly expresses what the people in Burundi feel and what they think when they beat the drums.

One feature of Burundian men's folk songs is the inanga accompaniment

 

  • Literature:

The Burundi literature is rich in heritage. Music, poetry folktales and fables have been an integral part of the Burundi literature. The younger generation in Burundi comes to know about the Burundian tradition through folktales, legends and riddles. The literature of Burundi is replete with epic poems depicting about emperors, peasants, and cattle. There oral tradition in Burundi is very common. Elders of the house used the technique of "whispered singing" to narrate various legends of the Burundi culture.

 

 

  • Film industry

Burundi has hardly any recorded cinematic history. This country has suffered tremendeously from wars and ethnic rebellion throughout the twentieth century. During the colonial period (Belgium) news and propaganda films were shown in theatres in the major cities. In 1980 Burundian Jean-Michel Hussi Nyamusimba produced the first Burundi film a French coproduction called Ni-Ni. In 1992 Burundi's first feature film, Gito l'Ingrat, was released, a Swiss French Burundi co-production directed by Leonce Ngabo. The film earned some international recognition by winning awards at the Montreal and FESPACO film festivals. He fled as a political refugee to Canada in 1995. He is currently working on his second feature film Le parfum de ciel. In the mid nineties the Collectif d'Enfants Burundais co-produced several 30-minute documentaries with Belgian Atelier Graphoui. Since then financial difficulty forced the closure of Burundi's only film production company. Nowadays Burundi still suffers from the ethnic wars and no films are currently in production.

 

  • Famous places:

 

In the ‘Heart of Africa’ landscapes comprise of green hills that are fertile with volcanic soil which is perfect for agriculture, the main economic backbone of Burundi.

 

Saga Beach: This remote beach along Lake Tanganyika boasts miles of powdery, white sand and clear, turquoise waters. It’s thought to be one of the best beaches in East Africa

  • Architecture history:

Burundians traditionally built their houses of grass and mud in a shape reminiscent of a beehive and wove leaves together for the roof. The traditional Tutsi hut, called a rugo, was surrounded by cattle corrals. Today the most common materials are mud and sticks, although wood and cement blocks also are used. The roofs are usually tin, since leaves are in short supply as a result of deforestation. Each house is surrounded by a courtyard, and several houses are grouped together inside a wall of mud and sticks.

 

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