Description of Burundi
Burundi is officially called the Republic of Burundi. It is located in the southeastern part of Africa in the Great Lakes region. The country is completely surrounded by land. It shares a northern border with Rwanda, a border in the east and the south with Tanzania, and a western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Burundi is sometimes considered to be a part of Central Africa. The capital of the country is Bujumbura and although the country is completely landlocked, a portion of the border on the southwest side is adjacent to the Lake Tanganyika.
For more than 500 years the Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa peoples have lived in the area. For more than 200 years, the country was ruled as a kingdom. At the start of the 20th century, Belgium and Germany occupied the area and Rwanda and Burundi were a part of a European colony called Ruanda-Urundi. The Hutu and Tutsi have many social differences that have led to political unrest in the area. This led to a civil war during the middle years of the 20th century. The country is currently run as a democratic republic with a presidential representative.
Burundi has one of the lowest GDP’s of any country in the world and is one of the 5 poorest nations. There has been suffering from corruption, war, and little to no access to education. There is a dense population in the country and a substantial amount of emigration. Out of 140 countries that were surveyed by the 2012 Global Connectedness Index, it is the least globalized.
In percentages, the Global Hunger Index from the year 2013 shows that Burundi is the hungriest country in the world.
The last monarchy of Burundi is thought to have started during the late part of the 17th century. When Germany was defeated in the First World War they handed control of a section of Africa to Belgium. On the 20th of October, in 1924, the land, which is what is now Burundi and Rwanda, became a mandate territory for the League of Nations in Belgium. It was called Ruanda-Urundi. The Belgium’s let the people of this territory continue to rule under a kingship dynasty.
After the Second World War, the region was considered a trust territory under the United Nations. In the 1940s there were several divisions in the country caused by policies. In 1943, the powers were then split by the legislative division of the government into the chiefdoms and the lower chiefdoms. The chiefdoms were put in charge of the land and the lower sub-chiefdoms were then established. There were also powers given to the native authorities. Belgium allowed political parties to be formed in the region during 1948. These political factions would end up being a major influence for the country’s freedom from Belgium.
On the 20th of January in 1959, Mwami Mwambutsa, who was the ruler of Burundi, requested that Rwanda and Burundi be separated and that Ruanda-Urundi be dissolved. About 6 months later, there were political parties formed that brought attention to Burundi’s independence from Belgium and for the separation of Burundi and Rwanda. The Union for National Progress was the first of the political parties.
On the first of July in 1962, the country claimed its independence. The name was legally changed to Burundi and Mwami Mwambutsa the 4th was named as the king. The country joined the UN just over 2 months later.
Once they claimed independence a constitutional monarchy was created and both the Tutsis and the Hutus had representation in parliament. When the king appointed a prime minister from the Tutsi tribe, the Hutus, felt cheated since they were the majority in parliament. The Hutu dominated police attempted to lead a coup, but it was thwarted by the Army. The next Hutu prime minister that was named was then assassinated in 1965. This led to a series of attacks on the Tutsi by the Hutus. There has long since been hostility between the two groups.
Democracy was first attempted in 1993 when Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu was elected as the head of state in the first election. He was assassinated in the fall of the same year and this led to several more years of violence between the 2 groups.
From 2006 through today, the country has seen many reconstruction efforts, which are finally beginning to take effect. Many of the refugee camps are now closing down and refugees are returning to the country. However, with this return there have been some conflicts occurring regarding properties.
There are several major cities located throughout Burundi that you may want to visit. The largest city in the country is the capital, Bujumbura. It is located on Lake Tanganyika on the north east shore. The second largest city in the country, which is also the former colonial capital, is Gitega. It is located in the center of the country. Bururi is located in the southern part of the country and Cibitoke is located in the northwest. Another northern city is Ngozi and in the northeast you will find Muyinga.
Aside from the cities of the country there are several other places of interest as well. Kibira National park is located at the top of Zaire-Nile and offers 40,000 acres of preserved forest. This is the largest untouched natural area in the entire country. This forest is home to baboons, chimpanzees, as well as monkeys. They all scatter with the sound of approaching humans. The park offers a network of over 180 kilometers of paths and tracks that are mostly used by motorized tourists and guard patrol vehicles. The guards will go undercover to scout for the tourists so that you will be able to see the various animals and birds that live in the area. There are thermal springs hidden among the mountain chains. You can access the park through tea plantations that are located in Rwegura and Teza.
Rusizi Natural Reserve is located near the capital city, Bujumbura. This park offers a natural shelter for families of hippos and antelopes that come to the river and park in the search for land to graze. When you near the end of the track you may run into some crocodiles sleeping on the river banks in the sand. The Rusizi Palmgroves offer a wonderful landscape that will allow your mind to drift away. The land offers rich vegetation that is made up of tall palm trees, and euphorbia, which are thorny bushes. This is a paradise for many birds that come to the area to feed. If you have the patience you will be able to see hippos paddling in the waters.
Ruvubu National Park is on both areas next to the Ruvubu river. The area is limited by the high rise mountains. The park has been completely returned to the wild and freed from all human inhabitants. The path network is about 100 kilometers in length and there are several observational lookouts along the way. You will choose your camp and stay there for the night. You can track the buffalo and listen to the many wonderful songs of the African birds along the way.
Bururi Natural Reserve is a wonderful place to visit. In order to visit the park you will first need to visit the INECN office that is located in Bururi. The entry fee for the park is BIF5000 and for an additional BIF5000 you may arrange a guide. Here you will find around 117 different bird species, and at least 25 mammal species that have been identified. Visitors will enjoy a wonderful walking circuit among the trails and botanical lanes. The region is located about 33 kilometers away from Roumonge and the rode through the park will take you along miles of lakes and breathtaking panoramas.
Vyanda Natural Reserve can be accessed through Rumonge. One of the main attractions of visiting this nature reserve is the chimpanzees that you will be able to see while visiting. Unfortunately, the visitor’s facilities are pretty much non-existent. However, if you go to the INECN you should be able to get a visit organized. Typically, you will need to set up your own transport through the area, but you may be able to secure local transport. If you see chimps on the excursion you will be expected to pay BIF 10,000. The cost of the trip is BIF5000, if you do not see the chimps. The chimps that live in this forest are not used to humans, so do not expect any kind of interaction with them as you might find in some of the other places.
Rwihinda Lake is a sanctuary for many migrating aquatic birds that come to the site to reproduce. These birds are protected and can nest on the green swamps and the islets that the lake has to offer. Herons and crested cranes are found living a quite peaceful life in this area. Visitors may drift on barges to get a closer look at the many species of birds without scaring them.
Karera Falls and Nyakazu Break are located in the natural forest reserves. Currently, these reserves are being further developed so that cercopithecus monkeys and chimpanzees will have enough food to stay in the area and procreate. If you are looking for a natural massage, visit the Mugara reserve where the thermal waterfalls will soothe your muscles. For a nice swim and a rest, visit the Tanganyika beaches.
Located in the western area of the country is Bujumbura. If you go east you will be able to see Gitega. This is a large market located in the center of the town. There is also the Museum of Traditions, which contains ancient pictures, commentary, and utensils. There is also the Drummers of Giheta, which is a one of a kind show. If you want to see it make sure that you book your tickets in advance. After you visit this area, move on to Rutana to visit the Nykazu Break and the Karea Falls. This offers wonderful views of the Kumoso plain. Gihofi, should be the next stop on your trip. This is a booming town that offers a new sugar refinery right in the middle of the plantations country.
In the southeastern part of the country you will want to visit Nile Sources located near Rutovu. Make sure that you take your swimsuit with you or you will miss out on the wonderful hot springs located in the area. You will also see one of the last traditional villas. These round habitations are surrounded by fences and surrounded by ploughed fields and grazing meadows.
Going north, just before you reach the city of Bugarama, you will find a very important market center which offers high quality fresh foods. Here you can go through the forest of Kibira. Ngozi and Kayanza are just a bit further. These are two of the larger trade villages of the area. You can take a boat out on Rwihinda Lake and admire the many species of birds that reside there such as fishing eagles, wild ducks, and crested cranes.
There are several landmarks in the country as well. If you climb to the top of the hill in Bujumbura you will be able to visit Prince Louis Rwagasore’s mausoleum. He was the Uprona party founder and a hero for the independence of the country.
The Livingstone-Stanley monument is located 10 kilometers just south of Bujumbura. This stone marks the spot where the famous explorers H.M. Stanley and David Livingstone spent a couple of nights as the guests of Chief Mukamba. They were exploring the northern part of the Lake Tanganyika.
There are so many places to visit in Burundi, it is impossible to name them all. When you first arrive in Bujumbura you will want to make sure to go to the National Office for Tourism to see what is available for you. The country is a wealth of natural wonders that you will want to make sure that you get to see while you are there.
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