BURUNDI: BUNJUBURA CULTURE

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BUNJUBURA, BURUNDI

Bujumbura is the capital of the Republic of Burundi. The city of nearly 600,000 people is situated in western Burundi's Great Rift Valley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Called Usumbura until 1962, Bujumbura serves as a shipping centre for Lake Tanganyika trade in coffee, cotton, hides, and tin ore with neighbouring Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tourism showed promise here, too, until the latest round of ethnic and political unrest erupted.

Burundi has recently been plagued by bitter strife between its two main ethnic groups: the majority Hutus and ruling minority Tutsis. In 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, won Burundi's first free presidential election, but four months later was overthrown and killed by a Tutsi military coup. Civil unrest has been erupting ever since, rendering Burundi one of the least stable countries in Africa.

Located in east-central Africa, Burundi's land area is only slightly larger than state of Maryland. Yet, with almost six million people, it remains one of the continent's most densely populated nations. Along with Lake Tanganyika and the western Rift Valley, Burudi's geography includes a mountainous central region, and plateaus broken by lowlands to the east.

About 90 percent of Burundi folk are subsistence farmers. Coffee remains the nation's main cash crop and export, having a major impact on national economic health. French and Kurundi are the official languages of Burundi.

Burundi is a tiny landlocked country in Central Africa with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda surrounding it. It is just south of the equator and lush hills and mountains cover the land, some higher than 2700 meters. There is a large plain alongside Lake Tanganyika in the south-west that rises to a plateau, characterised by green valleys and savannah grassland. Tea and coffee are grown on the slopes on the hills and the fertile valleys are ideal for cultivating exotic tropical fruits.

Although the country is close to the equator, the higher altitude creates a more moderate temperature. The country receives a lot of rain in the form of heavy thunderstorms, especially in the two wet seasons (February to May and September to November). The drier seasons are from June to August, and then again from December to January. The lower regions along the lake and in the capital it can be very hot and humid. It can be also windy in this lower region. The total population today is 6 million inhabitants with an average growth rate of 3.1% per year. The average size of families is 5 persons.

In general, 90% of the Burundians live on agriculture.

Origins and history of Burundi population are not known. What is certain, though, is that on the arrival of the first white explorers and missionaries, Burundi was an old united Kingdom , and its borders remained almost the same, unlike other African countries in which borders were artificially set by colonisation. It is worth mentioning that Burundi was occupied by Germany at the end of the 19th century before being put under Belgian control after World War I.
There are 3 social groups or groups improperly called "ethnic groups": Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.

Unlike real ethnic groups, Burundians have spoken one and the same unique language - Kirundi - for a long time. They share the same values and live in the same villages. They all live on agriculture combined with livestock.

There is no historical or identity reference which distinguishes them.

Nevertheless, the Batwa are not well integrated into the social order. They do marry among their own families and don’t like to practice agriculture. In some areas, they are even disappearing.

Despite the cultural, territorial and administrative unity of the Burundi people, their recent history has been characterised by tribal wars between Hutu and Tutsi, the height of which was reached in 1993.

Health

The provision of healthcare is unevenly spread, with more than 70% of doctors concentrated in the capital, while many of the health centres have been destroyed completely or in part by the ongoing conflict. The ongoing conflict has resulted in the destruction and lack of maintenance of health centres, water and sanitation facilities. Bad climate conditions, insecurity, and massive forced displacements have resulted in dramatic increases in malnutrition, disease and HIV/AIDS in recent years. It is estimated there is one centre per 25,000 inhabitants. International aid agencies, operating under difficult conditions, have succeeded in reducing levels of child malnutrition, though it remains a serious problem. HIV/AIDS remains the main public health concern, but the increase in malaria is also of growing concern, both aggravated by the breakdown in health systems. In November 2000 750,000 cases of malaria were reported countrywide, with some 75 percent of new admissions to health centres afflicted by malaria. Government spending has been falling in real terms, the 2000 budget covering less than 20% of the minimum needs of hospitals and health centres.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of mortality in Burundi. In 1994 the rate of HIV infection was estimated at 15% in urban areas and 1% in rural areas. Rates are particularly high in IDP sites. In December 1998 the urban infection rate was put at 21% and the rural rate at 6%. Over 40,000 children are thought to have been orphaned by AIDS. The government estimates that three-quarters of the hospital beds are occupied by HIV/AIDS patients. Frequent displacement, combined with political insecurity, has exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS as families and stable communities have disintegrated and health services broken down.

Food security

Major food crops: pulses, plantains, roots, tubers, maize and sorghum.

Overall the 2002 food crop production is estimated at 6 percent higher than the average level of the pre-crisis period (1988-93). Food assistance remains essential for vulnerable groups, especially the large numbers of IDPs.

Education

The literacy rate is roughly 35%. Primary school enrolment has dropped since 1990, from 73% to 51%, and to below 30% in some provinces, due to civil war persecutions.