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The Republic of Burundi is located in eastern Africa and with an area of 27 834 km² is one of the smallest states in Africa. In the north the country borders on Rwanda, in the east and south on Tanzania, the western border to the Democratic Republic of Congo runs partly through the Lake Tanganyika.

A large part of the country is occupied by a plateau, which is on average 1,500 m above sea level. The plateau, which is partly severely cut, rises gradually from the northeast (depression of Lake Victoria) towards the west to the edge of the Central African Rift Valley. Here heights of up to 2 760 m are reached. To the Tanganjikasenke in the south of Burundi the plateau drops steeply. Lake Tanganyika (approx. 660 km long, up to 80 km wide, depth up to 1 435 m), which also includes the neighbouring states of Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is 773 m above sea level.

The mountain range in Burundi forms the watershed between the Nile in the east and the Congo in the west. The longest river of the country (Ruvubu) is one of the source rivers of the Nile. The capital Bujumbura lies on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in the southwest of the country.

Population

About 7.1 million people live in the Republic of Burundi, 90% of them in small rural settlements. An estimated 800,000 civil war refugees are still in the surrounding states. With an average of 255 inhabitants per square kilometre, the country is as densely populated as, for example, Germany. The largest city of the country is the capital Bujumbura with about 319 100 inhabitants (agglomeration). Other large cities are Bururi (19 000 inhabitants), Cibitoke (12 000) and Gitega (24 000).

The largest population group in Burundi is the Hutu with about 85 %, the second largest group is the Tutsi with about 14 %. Twa Pygmies still live in the forest areas of the mountains and account for about 1% of the total population. The first official language in Burundi is the Bantus language Kirundi, the second official language is French and various dialects are spoken. Almost 70% of the population are Christians (mainly Catholics), who often also practice indigenous religious practices. About 23 % practice natural religions, Muslims form a strong religious minority of 10 %.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, not least because of decades of civil war between Hutu and Tutsi. Social and health services are practically non-existent. Despite compulsory schooling, literacy is only 51.6%. Almost half of the population is younger than 15 years, life expectancy is around 44 years. 3.3% of the total population is infected with the HIV virus. Population growth is 3.9%.

Political system

According to the 2005 constitution, Burundi is a presidential republic. The head of state is the president, who also heads the government (Pierre Nkurunziza, since August 2005). He is directly elected by the people every five years and can be re-elected once.

The legislative power lies with the Parliament, which consists of two chambers: the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly consists of up to 118 deputies. 100 of them are elected, 60% of these mandates are reserved for the Hutu, 40% for the Tutsi. In addition, at least 30% of all deputies must be women. Three mandates are given to representatives of the Twa, up to 15 can be co-opted. The Senate consists of 49 indirectly elected members; the seats are divided equally between Hutu and Tutsi and Twa. The term of office of both deputies and senators is five years. The parties of Burundi reflect the contrast between the two population groups. The most influential party is the former Hutu rebel movement, Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Democratie (CNDD-FDD). The Unité pour le Pogrés National (UPRONA) is dominated by the Tutsi, the Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) by the Hutu. The legal system is based on the German and Belgian. Burundi is divided into 16 provinces and the capital Bujumbura.

Economy

The Republic of Burundi is one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Due to the bloody conflicts since 1993 and a temporary economic embargo, two thirds of Burundians live below the poverty line. Agriculture is the most important sector in Burundi’s economy and is the livelihood of almost 90% of the population. The main export commodity, coffee, accounts for almost 80 % of exports and is therefore highly dependent on world market prices. Coffee and cotton are grown on large plantations, and the cultivation of tea is becoming increasingly important. Legumes, millet, maize, bananas, sweet potatoes and manioc are grown for own consumption. The rapid growth of the population and the depletion of the soil due to intensive agricultural use, mines during the civil war and the flight or expulsion of numerous farmers have meant that the population’s food requirements can no longer be met. Livestock breeding (cattle, goats) is traditionally practised by the Tutsi, but is not economically important.

The industry is poorly developed and concentrates on the processing of agricultural products. Textiles, shoes and soap are also produced. Burundi’s mineral resources include gold, copper, cobalt, uranium and nickel, which are only mined to a limited extent.

In terms of exports (coffee, tea, minerals), Switzerland is the leading trading partner with almost a quarter of the volume, followed by Belgium and Great Britain. For imports (mainly food, machinery, industrial goods and oil), these are Kenya, Tanzania, the USA, Belgium and France with relatively similar percentages.

The road network covers a total of about 10,000 km, but is very poorly developed and partly only passable in the dry season. Lake Tanganyika is used as a waterway from the capital Bujumbura to Kigoma in Tanzania. There is an international airport in Bujumbura. The currency is the Burundi franc (= 100 Centimes).