gabriel ntisezerana, burundi vice president
Stephen Chernin/AP
Gabriel Ntisezerana, second vice president of the Republic of Burundi, addresses the 64th
session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009.

Focus on Burundi

January 23, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Burundi has experienced political turmoil, civil conflict, colonizing and outside governance—as well as peace, progress and international support. Learn how Burundi emerged from a 12-year civil war, and discover books and lesson plans focused on Burundi.

Background on Burundi

The small country of Burundi is located between Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Find a detailed map of Burundi on the Lonely Planet travel site.

World Travel Guide presents a quick overview of Burundi's recent history. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Burundi changed hands from Germany to Belgium, finally achieving independence in 1962. But it was then that some of the most dramatic events occurred.

Rivaling Tribes

BBC's Country Profiles section is an excellent resource for discovering more about countries around the world. You'll learn, for example, that the Republic of Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world.

Burundi has recently emerged from a 12-year civil war, one that engulfed the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in a conflict triggered by the assassination of the country's first Hutu head of state. It was only after years of ethnic fighting and the deaths of several Hutu leaders that the country's tribes finally agreed to a ceasefire in 2001.

Burundi's Civil War

Reuters AlertNet, a site covering humanitarian emergencies around the globe, has explained several developments in Burundi in recent years. The biggest struggle may have been over, but at the end of 2006, there were still some challenges facing the country's progress. The Forces for National Liberation, a guerilla group made up of Hutu members, was the only group of seven in the Hutu tribe that had not entered peace talks, until that point. The group, standing apart from their leader, Agathon Rwasa, had formally said that they were looking for lasting peace in Burundi.

According to The New York Times, in an article published in June 2008, "[T]he last of Burundi’s rebel groups" had "finally come to the negotiating table." Furthermore, the cease-fire agreement that had been signed in May 2008 was "still holding," an indication that things were looking up in Burundi after 15 years of strife.

For more up-to-date information on Burundi’s situation, visit AlertNet for the latest humanitarian news stories on the country. In this area you’ll also find a timeline, helpful outside links and a “Who works where” section listing some of the humanitarian organizations currently in the nation.

Blogging Burundi's Progress

Until August 2008, a blog called Agathon Rwasa, named after the FNL's rebel leader, aimed to expose news stories and blog posts about the Burundi situation. Its author, who wrote anonymously, covered diverse journalism in many countries to bring readers an up-to-date understanding of the activity surrounding the FNL, Burundi and injustices in other African countries.

Traveling to Burundi

Burundi is now considered more stable than many other African countries, though its visitors are often working on humanitarian issues: volunteering to rebuild and rehabilitate buildings, work in hospitals or otherwise provide free services to the country's citizens, half of which live below the poverty line. 

For a glimpse at some of the humanitarian issues plaguing Burundi, view this slideshow on hospital conditions from Human Rights Watch, an organization whose Web site provides news links and multimedia resources about countries like Burundi.

For those thinking of experiencing Burundi firsthand, check out the Africa Guide, a site devoted to information for foreign visitors. Here you'll learn about visas and immigration, as well as climate and the best times of year to visit.

Also take a look at the U.S. Department of State's site, which explains the current state of affairs in Burundi, how you can travel there and what documents are needed.

Burundi News Updates

In a country that's continually changing, it's still possible to stay current with developments in Burundi. Visit Topix to see an in-depth, chronological account of political events.

A second valuable site for news in Africa, and specifically Burundi, is IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis service provided by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Burundi Books and Lesson Plans

Social publishing company Scribd, which allows people to publish original writings and documents, has a Burundi Student Handout that helps students get a better sense of Burundi's geography, history and facts about the country's people.

"Strength in What Remains" is a nonfiction book by Tracy Kidder that tells of "a young medical student from Burundi who barely survives the civil war and genocide during which many members of his family are killed." The main character in the book, after spending "months on the run in jungles and makeshift refugee camps," eventually makes it to New York City, where he encounters more hardship but also compassion.

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