Burundi

Environment:

Burundi is in Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo. The terrain is hilly and mountainous, with some plains, and dropping to a plateau in east. the highest point is Mount Heha at 2,684 meters (8,806 feet). Burundi straddles the crest of the Nile-Congo Watershed – the Kagera River, which drains into Lake Victoria, and is the most remote headstream of the White Nile. To the west, Burundi borders Lake Tanganyika.

Major environmental issues include soil erosion, deforestation, and habitat loss. Soil erosion results from overgrazing, and the expansion of agriculture into marginal lands. Little forested land remains, because of uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuel. Wildlife populations are now threatened by consequent habitat loss. The Convention on Biological Diversity maintains a biodiversity portal for Burundi. The ministry of water, environment, spatial planning and urban development is called Ministère de l’Eau, de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement du Territoire et de l’Urbanisme. Green Party-Intwari (Vert-Intwari) is a small ecological political party. Environmental NGOs include Forum Burundais de la Société Civile du Bassin du Nil and Organisation de Défense de l`Environnement au Burundi – both members of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Burundi’s 4 major ecoregions include, the terrestrial: tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests (1) – tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands (2) — as well as freshwater: Eastern and Coastal (3) – Great Lakes (4). Burundi has no international Biosphere Reserves. Protected areas of Burundi include national parks, nature reserves, and natural monuments. National parks include Kibira National Park, Rusizi National Park, and Rurubu National Park. Bururi Forest, Rumonge, and Vyanda are significant nature reserves. Natural monuments include Karera Waterfalls (Chutes de la Kagera) and German Gorge (Faille des Allemands).
Culture:

The earliest known inhabitants of the region were the Great Lakes Twa or “Batwa”, related to the Pygmies of neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, which make up only about 1 percent of Burundi’s present population. In terms of population, ethnic Hutu dominate accounting for some 85 percent; however, the remaining 14 percent of ethnic Tutsi disproportionately influence the government and military.

European explorers and missionaries started visiting the Kingdom of Burundi in the mid-19th century. By the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Burundi was controlled by German East Africa. During WWI, Belgian troops took over both Burundi and neighboring Rwanda, then known as Ruanda-Urundi. Belgian rule lasted through WWII, but full independence was not achieved until 1962. Following the 1965 assassination of the Hutu prime minister, Hutu-Tutsi unrest continued leading up to the 1972 Burundian Genocide. On-going ethnic conflict culminated in the Burundian Civil War, 1993-2005.

Human rights in Burundi is of on-going concern; for instance, according to Human Rights Watch, the ban on the forum for the strengthening of civil society, Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile, was only lifted by the government in 2011. In 2012, Burundi was ranked the most corrupt country in the East African Community for the second year in a row. There is a independent anti-corruption and economic malpractice observatory, Observatoire de Lutte contre la corruption et les Malversations économiques. The U.S. State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council provides detailed, up to date crime and safety reports. The U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Bujumbura still regularly issues Warden Messages.

Burundi is a member of the East African Community (EAC), which also includes Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The specialized Burundian ministry of foreign affairs of the East African Community is known as Ministère des Affaires de la Communauté Est Africaine. The EAC is working towards a common visa to boost tourism. Burundi is also a member of the economic community of the great lakes countries, Communauté Economique des pays des Grands Lacs, together with Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, which is working toward a single travel document.

Although Burundi has no official World Heritage yet, it did submit 10 Tentative Lists in 2007, including La résidence royale du Burundi: Le cas de Gishora, Le rugo traditionnel du Mugamba, and Les paysages naturels sacrés de Muramvya, de Mpotsa et de Nkiko-Mugamba. There is also a historic Livingstone–Stanley Monument at Mugere. As of 2013, there were no ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) members registered for Burundi. In terms of living culture, Burundi is famous as the land of sacred drums, embodied by the Royal Drummers.

Office National du Tourisme au Burundi maintains the official tourism website. Augustine Tours (aka Burundi Access Tours & Safaris) and Burundi Green Destinations are Bujumbura based tour operators. There are currently no railways in Burundi. Air Burundi is the national airline, flying out of Bujumbura International Airport. Brussels Airlines connects Burundi with Europe.

References:

  • Pour le développement de l’écotourisme et du tourisme culturel au Burundi by S Bigawa, C Deslaurier, O Minani, 2007
  • Renforcement Des Capacites Pour La Mise En Œuvre De La Strategie Nationale Et Plan D’action En Matiere De Diversite Biologique by S Nyamuyenzi, F Ndabahagamye, V Nyandwi, 2003