From The Hippo’s Ears: Burundi

Facts you may not have know about Burundi:

Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country amid the African Great Lakes region where East and Central Africa converge.

Burundi has a population of approximately 10.5 million, and gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting. At any time of the day, it is common and appropriate to greet others saying amakuru (‘what’s the news?’). Amakuru comes from the verb gukura which means ‘to grow,’ or ‘to become big.’ Consequently, you are not asking about just any news, but the headlines, the big news. The answer is n’amahoro (‘it is peaceful,’ or ‘it is calm’).

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Burundi has three official languages – Kirundi, French, and English. Swahili can be found spoken along the Tanzanian border and it has some official recognition by law as a language “spoken and taught” in the country. Kirundi is spoken by the vast majority of the population.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Burundi. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

The drum such as the karyenda is one of central importance. Internationally, the country has produced the music group Royal Drummers of Burundi. One feature of Burundian men’s folk songs is the presence of an inanga, a type of stringed zither. Other popular instruments include Ingoma drums, made from tree trunks, and the inzogera, a closed bell. Popular Burundian-Belgian musicians include Khadija Nin, Ciza Muhirwa, and Éric Baranyanka.

For a taste of Burundian music, listen to Khadija Nin’s Wale Watu.

Burundian Presidential Palace.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Traditional dance is strong within Burundian culture, and often accompanies the drumming, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. Some Burundian artisans have special songs to accompany different stages of their work.

Watch an traditional drumming-dance performance from Burundi here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Sorghum festival (umuganuro)

A magnificent display of traditional dances by court dancers (intore). Also participating in the festival are drummers beating the Karyenda (“sacred drum”), an emblem of the monarchy—their performance is intended to give both musical and symbolic resonance to this festival and to other ceremonial occasions.

Sauti Za busara

This festival brings people together to celebrate African music under African skies. The 17th edition will take place in Stone Town, Zanzibar from 13th – 16th February 2020. It will feature over 400 musicians over 4 days, as well as a parade and fringe events by the local community.

9. What are the seasons like?

Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20° C (68° F ). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23° C (73° F ); the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16° C (60° F ). Bujumbura’s average annual temperature is 23° C (73° F ). Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the northwest. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (June–August), the short wet season (September–November), the short dry season (December–January), and the long wet season (February to May). Most of Burundi receives between 130 and 160 cm (51–63 in) of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the northeast receive between 75 and 100 cm (30–40 in).

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Pierre Nkurunziza has served in the position since 2005. He was the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party, until he was elected as President of Burundi. On 7 June 2018, Nkurunziza announced that he would not seek another term and step down when his current term ends in 2020. He was born in Bujumbura, and has a wife and 5 children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The economy is predominantly agricultural, accounting for 50% of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90% of the population. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture. Burundi’s primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk and hides.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Burundi?

Major tourist attractions include the Kibira National Park, Ruvubu National Park, Ruzizi River Park, and National Museum of Gitega.

Traditional dance performed in Burundi.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include urwarwa (homemade banana wine) and impeke (beer brewed from sorghum).

14. What is a popular local dish?

Burundi cuisine is very representative of the African culinary culture, as it includes beans, which are the staple of Burundi cooking, exotic fruits (mainly bananas), plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, maize and cereals, like corn and wheat. Profiteroles are also sometimes enjoyed as a rare delicacy. Not much meat is consumed in Burundi, because animal breeding is a secondary occupation; still, there are some dishes that include goat and sheep meat but cows are very sacred.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. 1,835 Burundian francs)

Burundi’s currency is the Burundian franc.

3 Course meal: 19,000 francs
Domestic beer: 2,000 francs
Cup of coffee: 3,200 francs
Coca cola (330ml): 1,500 francs
Milk (1l): 1,200 francs
Loaf of white bread: 2,000 francs
Apples (1 kg): 3,200 francs
Water (1.5l): 2,200 francs

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Do not walk around Bujumbura at night.
  • The road north of Bujumbura towards Cibitoke should be avoided.
  • Do not attempt to visit the Parc National de la Kibira or Parc National de la Ruvubu.
  • Do not travel anywhere by road at night.
  • Avoid the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border areas.
  • Carry your passport at all times.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Khadja Nin, a singer and musician. Her first album was released in 1992, and sung in Swahili.
  • Vénuste Niyongabo, a former middle-distance runner. Niyongabo won a silver medal in the 1500 m at the 1992 World Junior Championships and also came fourth over 800 metres.

 

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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: musiccity [1], [2], [3].