Most people may have known Burundi through media with civil and socio-economic crisis making the headlines. That has only left the world having nothing to speak about the country if not wars and poverty. Here are some realities that YALI TV wants you to know about Burundi.

Commonly called “The Heart of Africa”, “The Country of Drums”, or “The country flowing with honey and milk”, Burundi is a small country renowned for its wondrously 11,750,138 smiling and welcoming people. The name “Heart of Africa” takes origin in the Burundi position on the African Map as the heart in the human body while the “Country of Drums” comes from the fact that the drums symbolized power in the ancient times when the Burundi kingdom was ruled by kings. The Karyenda drum was the keeper of all the power and the secrets of a king, being at the same time a baton or symbol of authority of a king.

The source of Nile River has a wonderful landscape under a blue sky for almost all days; with thousands of green mountains, valleys with diverse sources of water, Tanganyika Lake being the largest of the sources. Hippos, birds, waterfalls, and wildlife parks are the main natural attractions in Burundi with their home varying from shrublands to forests and numerous lakes. The shores of Lake Tanganyika come first in the foreign attraction thanks to the naturally kept beaches such as Blue bay, Club du Lac Tanganyika Hotel’s beach, just to name a few.

Bujumbura View

Located in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge, Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and southeast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

With only 27,834 Square kilometers, the population density is 463 per Square kilometer (1,199 people per sq. meter). Three main ethnic groups make the population with Hutus being the majority (80%), Tutsis coming in second place (13%) and Batwa being the minority (3%). Interestingly, the different ethnic groups share the same language, Kirundi as the native language with French, English, and Swahili being other official languages. Moreover, 13.8 percent of the population that is, 1,636,586 people are urban. Sixty-seven percent of the population is Christian (62 percent Roman Catholic and 5 percent Protestant); 23 percent of the people follow exclusively traditional beliefs, and the remaining 10 percent being Muslims. Burundi offers free education for all from primary school to high school with an opportunity to access free higher education if candidates succeed in the national test done after high school.

Foreigners have been subjugated to Burundi cuisine with the special Mukeke and Ndagala, (the kinds of fish only found in Tanganyika Lake worldwide) taking the lead in attracting people in terms of food. Burundians eat naturally grown food in general with Amstel and Primus being the most liked beers to make the food rest in peace inside the stomach.

Driving from Bujumbura the economic capital to Gitega the political capital will only let you mesmerized by the cheapest green food sold along the way with a touristic-like view of the landscape.

The country of thousand-and-one hills is currently a republic under the presidency of Peter Nkurunziza with about 15 years in the office. However, Burundi used to be a kingdom within an unspecified period before the 66 years of colonization firstly by Germans who got replaced by Belgians after the defeat of the Second World War, until 1962 when Prince Louis Rwagasore refused to keep on digesting colonization and its aftermath. The colonizers, however, responded through Jean Kageorgis by shooting the Prince dead after only one month of independence.

Even so, Burundi continued as a democratic country with a multi-party system established by Pierre Buyoya in 1992. Buyoya had grabbed the power by plotting a coup to Jean Baptiste Bagaza, a renowned president by his economic development he led the country to.  The latter had also installed himself on power by a coup led against Colonel Michel Micombero, the pioneer of the republic replacing the monarchy. Micombero is famous in Burundi history by his ethnic intolerance that lead to genocide of Hutu ethnic group in 1972 letting thousands of people dead and buried in commons graves throughout the Burundi territory.

The Burundi political history is not that pleasant to humanity. In 1993, the first democratically elected President Melchior NDADAYE was assassinated only three months after his taking an oath as president for the only cause that he was a Hutu. His assassination resulted in a thirteen-year- civil war. Hutus rebelled themselves to form strong rebellions that only ended by Arusha peace accord in 2000. Then came transitional powers until 2005 when President Nkurunziza in the office got elected from the former rebellion and then political party CNDD-FDD.                           

Economically speaking, Burundi is predominantly agricultural, with 315 USD per capita of GDP in 2018, according to the Institute of Statistics in Burundi ISTEEBU). Agriculture and livestock are employing more than 90 percent of the population. The population rate practices the economy of subsistence with three plants taking the lead in exportation: coffee, cotton, and tea.  The plants make more than 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Reports say that the economic recovery has been strengthened in 2019 (3.3% growth in real GDP) on the back of higher coffee exports, a slight increase in public investment, and a particularly good year for agricultural production.  The population has various plants as sources of food and drinks such as beans, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca). The livestock such as cows, sheep, goats, pork, and chicken are the main sources of meat and milk. Bees are also kept and give extraordinary honey envied worldwide.

In case you did not know, Burundi is currently the cheapest country to stay in East Africa and in the world with only one dollar allowing a person to have three modest meals per day. This can be the fact to be based on to call the world population to come and visit the country of drums.

Jean Berchmans Siboniyo
Correspondence Coordinator
YALI TV Burundi