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Burundi is an independent African country, about the size of Wales, lying at the north end of Lake Tanganyika. It is landlocked, bordering Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is densely populated with a population of over 6 million. 

Historically, it was ruled by a king, with chiefs under him. It was visited by the explorers David Livingstone and H M Stanley. It was annexed by Germany to become part of German East Africa together with Tanganyika. After the First World War it became a League of Nations protectorate under the Belgians - combined as Ruanda-Urundi with the similar-sized country, now called Rwanda, to the north. Both countries received independence, separately, in 1962. 

Burundi has suffered many years of inter-ethnic violence which culminated in a civil war. This resulted in millions of refugees fleeing to the neighbouring countries -- Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.  Some who fled have spent most of a lifetime in refugee camps.  Following a peace accord, there were democratic elections in 2005. The new president, Peter Nkurunziza, has committed himself to national unity and the refugees displaced internally and in neighbouring countries have begun to return. Peace is still fragile.

As a result of the Peace Accord, there has been a massive resettlement process for the Internally Displaced People and resettlement of the hundreds of thousands who have returned from refugee camps abroad.  Inevitably, there are conflicts over land rights. 

In 2007 Burundi joined the East African Community and has since developed increasingly close economic links with the other countries (Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda).

The local language, spoken by all three ethnic groups, is Kirundi, one of the Bantu group of languages. Its international language has been French, but English is increasingly spoken as it is widely used in the East African Community. (For Kirundi language resources, click here.)

Traditionally, Burundi has been a strongly Christian country, with 80 per cent of the population baptised Catholics. However, there are also many Protestant churches arising from the missionary movement and some indigenous independent African churches. For about 30 years from the late 1930s there was a remarkable religious movement which started in the Anglican Church in Rwanda, and became known as the East African Revival, which spread to neighbouring countries, including Burundi, and had an influence worldwide.

In recent years the number and influence of the Muslim population has increased.

Burundi is a mountainous country, intrinsically healthy, and has become very densely populated, to a level that is hard to sustain.  Soil erosion and exhaustion of nutrients make farming increasingly hard. The country has few natural resources and is one of the poorest in the world.

In recent years, the situation has been aggravated by prolonged droughts and severe flooding, possibly related to global warming.

Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV and AIDS not only causes immense personal tragedies  but effects productivity at both family level and nationally.

Friends of Burundi seeks to help in a small way  by assisting those who seek to alleviate the spiritual physical and emotional needs of the country.  Friends of Burundi has linked with projects as diverse as famine relief, AIDS counselling, reconciliation ministries and Bibles for prisoners.

See copy of Human Rights Watch Report 2012

The Refugee problem

Interview by Jeremy Woodham with the former Archbishop of Burundi  

Guardian article November 2011

Kirundi language resources


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