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Landlocked in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, Burundi is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Though the country has now embarked on a peace process, it has been scarred by a civil war that began in 1994 and is perceived internationally to be ethnic in nature. Burundi’s human rights record is equally marked by its history of internal conflict, and the State has been widely criticised for not addressing the extensive rights violations that took place between 1962 and 2008.
Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa. It borders Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Burundi is one of Africa's smallest countries. Bujumbura is the capital city.
Population and Language
The population of Burundi is 8.5 million. Ethnic groups in Burundi include Hutus, Tutsis and the Twa.
The major languages are Kirundi (official), French (official) and Swahili.
History and Politics
Burundi is one of the world's poorest nations. Although it has now embarked on a peace process, the country has been left heavily scarred by a civil war, perceived internationally to be ethnic-based, that began in 1994.
The executive power is exercised by a President of the Republic, and the President is head of both State and government. Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi's civil war. He was re-elected in June 2010. The election was, however, boycotted by the opposition which complained of fraud in the earlier district elections.
The legal system is based on German and Belgian civil codes and customary law.
Burundi's main exports are coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, and hides, and the economy depends largely on agriculture. Key trading partners include Germany, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
Media and Civil Society
Freedom of speech is legally guaranteed by the constitution. The country has a vibrant independent media that, despite occasional government censorship, continues to criticise the government. Despite the emergence of a more pluralistic press, journalists have been arbitrarily arrested, harassed, or threatened on many occasions. The government has harassed media outlets through judicial authorities and prolonged pre-trial detention. Some death threats received by journalists appeared to come from State agents. Radio is the main source of information since newspapers are an unaffordable luxury for many Burundians, while readership also remains low due to low literacy levels. The government runs the sole TV station, the only radio station with national coverage, as well as the only newspaper that publishes regularly.
Human Rights and Children's Rights
Aside from concerns regarding freedom of expression noted above, the government is reported to have intensified restrictions on freedom of association during and after the elections. Human rights defenders, as well as journalists, are also at risk. Concerns have also been raised about the independence of the judiciary, investigations into torture committed by the intelligence service, and extrajudicial executions by the police and army. Women and girls may be victims of rape and other sexual violence, often committed with impunity.
Burundi ratified the the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 19 October 1990, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 24 June 2008, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography on 6 November 2007.
- Hauser Global Law School Program, GlobaLex, "The Burundi Legal System and Research"
- BBC: Burundi Country Profile
- UNICEF: Burundi Country Page
- Amnesty International, "Annual Report 2011: Burundi"
- Index Mundi, Burundi Country Page