Burundi is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.
U.S. Government goals in Burundi are to help the people of Burundi realize a just and lasting peace based upon democratic principles and sustainable economic development. The United States encourages political stability, ongoing democratic reforms, political openness, respect for human rights, and economic development. In the long term, the United States seeks to strengthen the process of internal reconciliation and democratization within all the states of the region to promote a stable, democratic community of nations that will work toward mutual social, economic, and security interests on the continent.
Burundi and Rwanda dispute two sq km (0.8 sq mi) of Sabanerwa, a farmed area in the Rukurazi Valley where the Akanyaru/Kanyaru River shifted its course southward after heavy rains in 1965. Cross-border conflicts persist among Tutsi, Hutu, other ethnic groups, associated political rebels, armed gangs, and various government forces in the Great Lakes region.
Education is free in the country and taught mainly in Kirundi. Primary education, which is compulsory, begins at age seven and lasts for six years. Secondary education, which is not mandatory, consists of two programs, one of four years and another of three years. The University of Burundi, which uses French as a primary language, is located in the capital city of Bujumbura and is the country's only major university.
The basic type of housing in the rural areas is the hut, most commonly beehive shaped, made of strips of wood woven around poles, and now covered with tin. The huts are generally not grouped into villages but are organized in groups on a family basis.
The population is more than 90% rural; most people live in family groups dispersed throughout the mountainous regions; villages are uncommon. The chief ethnic groups are the Hutu, a Bantu-speaking people making up about 85% of the population, and the Tutsi, a Nilotic-speaking people forming about 14% of the total. The Twa, a pygmy group, account for less than 1%.
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 are Muslim. The first Roman Catholic mission was set up in 1898, and the Protestants arrived in 1926. Although the majority of the people today profess to be Christian, many retain some animist beliefs and practices.
Average life expectancy in 2000 was 42 years. Intake of animal protein and fat is inadequate and almost all diseases associated with malnutrition are found in Burundi. Total health care expenditures as of 1999 were estimated at 3.7% of GDP.
Elevation is a major factor in Burundi’s climate, greatly moderating its tropical character. The country’s generally high elevation produces relatively cool temperatures, which average only about 70 °F (21 °C) throughout the year in the central plateau area and usually drop to below 60 °F (15 °C) at night. There is a short dry season from May to August.
Since Burundi achieved independence from Belgium in 1962 tensions between the Tutsi and the Hutu, the two main ethnic groups, have persistently compromised stability. Little substantive progress towards resolving the resultant political crisis was achieved until 2000, when an agreement providing for power-sharing between the Tutsi and the Hutu was endorsed by national institutions and Hutu and Tutsi political associations. Following legislative elections in mid-2005, a government of national unity, headed by President Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza, was installed in August.
94% of the people depend on farming, mainly at subsistence level. The main food crops are bananas, beans, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes. The economy depends on coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, and cotton.