Foreign policy and defense
Burundi's relations with large parts of the
world have deteriorated significantly since 2015, when
the country's authoritarian president Pierre Nkurunziza
was re-elected under disputed forms. The UN, the EU,
regional organizations and international human rights
groups were among those who condemned the authorities'
violence against oppositionists in connection with
Nkurunziza's election victory.
Only ten years after the bloody civil war in 2005,
the outside world was concerned by the risk of a new
conflict in the country. Already in early 2014, the UN
Security Council warned that President Nkurunziza's
power ambitions could have serious consequences. UN
diplomats reported threats and harassment against
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Burundi for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
During the run-up to the 2015 elections, which were
carried out despite appeals from the outside world for
deferral and regional attempts to mediate between the
government and the opposition, at least 150,000
Burundians fled to neighboring countries, most to
Tanzania and Rwanda. As a result, this already troubled
part of Africa was subjected to further stress. Three
years later, the number of Burundian refugees in
neighboring countries had increased to nearly 370,000.
As a result of the events of the election, in
December 2015, the United States imposed sanctions on
four Burundians (a police chief, a minister, and two
coup leaders); their assets in the US were frozen and
they were banned from entry into the US. The EU had
previously imposed similar sanctions on four other
high-ranking Burundians. In March 2016, the EU withdrew
assistance to the Bujumbura government. In December of
that year, Burundi called home its ambassador from
Belgium, who was accused of supporting opposition in
Refugee streams in the region
Burundi has always been influenced by the large
refugee flows in the region and the charged relationship
between the people groups around the big lakes.
Particularly sensitive has been the relationship with
Rwanda, whose hut-dominated governments have been viewed
with great suspicion by Burundi's previous Tutsi regime.
Paradoxically, relations between the neighbors seemed
to improve since the governing conditions became the
reverse: Tutsid dominance in Rwanda and Hutu dominance
in Burundi. Some smaller border areas between the
countries are disputed, since boundary floods changed
course, but have not constituted any major conflict
The Congolese government's support for Burundian
hutumilis led to a chilly relationship between the two
countries for some years in the 1990s, but relations
have improved since the end of the Congo-Kinshasa war in
2003. However, the border area is still troubled and
there have been conflicts between the Burundian the army
and Congolese rebels.
In April 2007, Burundi, Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa
decided to revive cooperation within the Economic
Community of the Greater Zealand (CEPGL), whose
operations have been frozen for 13 years. The purpose of
the organization is to allow free movement of persons
and goods across borders. The cooperation includes a
joint bank and an institute for agricultural research.
South Africa played an important role as mediator
during the conflict years in the 1990s and was the first
to send a peacekeeping force to Burundi in 2001.
Relations have since deepened. In 2011, the two
countries signed a series of cooperation agreements on
defense, education and agricultural issues during a
visit by the South African president.
On July 1, 2007, Rwanda and Burundi joined the East
African Community (EAC), formed in 2000 by Kenya,
Tanzania and Uganda. The countries have high targets for
strengthening political cooperation, increasing regional
trade and reducing dependence on foreign aid. On July 1,
2010, the five member states formed a common market
where labor and capital can move freely across borders.
The EAC aims to create a single currency and for
countries to form a federation. However, the time limits
for this to happen have been postponed several times.
Burundi and 25 other countries agreed in 2015 on a
new free trade agreement, Tripartite Free Trade Area,
which will cover a large part of Africa. Before the
agreement can come into force, the agreement must be
approved by the parliaments of the countries.
Burundi joined the African Union (AU) Free Trade
Agreement AFCFTA in 2018. Before the free trade area can
become a reality, the agreement must be ratified at the
After purging of Hutus from the army in the 1960s,
the defense force was completely dominated by Tutsis.
The Tutsis regarded the control of the army as a
guarantee of their survival as a people group, while the
Hutu people saw the army as the primary oppressor tool
of the Tutsi minority. In 2004, a new defense force and
a new police force with ethnically mixed leadership were
formally established. According to the constitution, no
individual group of people may constitute more than 50
percent of the defense and security forces.
Burundi has contributed troops to several regional
and international peacekeeping forces, including the AU
force in Somalia (Amisom) and the UN force Minusca in
the Central African Republic. Burundi has also
contributed to UN operations in Mali, Ivory Coast, Haiti
and Sudan (Darfur and Abyei).
FACTS - DEFENSE
30,000 men (2017)
The air Force
200 men (2015)
50 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
2.0 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
8.3 percent (2017)
Soldiers are sent to peacekeeping
Burundi sends troops to the African Union's newly
formed peace force in Somalia.
The government is widening
The government is reformed, and the parties Frodebu
and Uprona receive ministerial posts.
Struggles within rebel movement
Struggles erupt between different factions of the
rebel movement FNL.
Noise and boycott paralyzes Parliament
Parliament is paralyzed by factional riots within the
ruling CNDD-FDD and a boycott led by opposition parties
Frodebu and Uprona.
Peace talks beaches
Peace talks between the government and the hutumilis
Entry into the EAC
Burundi is approved as a member of the East African
Cooperation organization is revived
Burundi, Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa revive the Greater
Zealand cooperative organization CEPGL.
Prosecuted party leader is prosecuted
CNDD-FDD's recently ousted chairman Hussein Radjabu
(see February 2007) is charged with,
among other things, planning an armed uprising.
Party chair is dismissed
CNDD-FDD chairman Hussein Radjabu is dismissed at a
party meeting. He has been a controversial leader and is
accused of being behind the factional struggles within
the ruling party.
President is acquitted of suspicion of coup attempt
The Supreme Court acquits President Domitien
Ndayizeye and some other persons of suspicion of
participation in a coup attempt (see August 2006),
while others are sentenced to prison.