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Introduction

Insecurity, including serious crime, is still a problem in Burundi and potential visitors are advised to check the latest travel advisory from the U.S. State Department.

From its mild climate to its wildlife, Burundi offers a window to Africa that is often missed. Chimpanzees are among the most common animals to be found, along with hyena, buffalo, antelope, wildcats, baboons and some of the best bird-watching in Africa. Lake Tanganyika has hippos, crocodiles and more than 400 species of fish. Between this range of wildlife and beauty Burundi has vibrant urban markets.

Burundi gained independence in 1962. It had been a United Nations trust territory, under Belgian administration, and prior to that a German colony. Ethnic conflict has plagued the nation, even after Burundi's first democratic election in 1993. Since then, more than 200,000 Burundians have perished and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. A national assembly and senate elected President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2005, but by 2010 Burundian citizens will elect the president directly. Burundi's government and the United Nations have worked to disarm thousands of soldiers and former rebels. Burundi has made significant steps in recent years to establish lasting peace, but sporadic insecurity lingers. Violence is most common in outlying areas but gunfire is not uncommon on the streets of the capital, Bujumbura, where a curfew is usually enforced.

Burundi's population is approximately 85 percent Hutu and 14 percent Tutsi. Both groups speak the same language and share many cultural characteristics. A central component of Burundi's culture - both past and present - is drumming. Visitors to Burundi can be sure to experience a captivating performance, mixed with movement as much as sound.

Situated between Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, the landlocked country of Burundi occupies a high plateau divided by several deep valleys. With 8.4 million people, tiny Burundi is one of Africa's most densely populated nations. The climate is moderate and very humid, particularly along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Travelers will be most comfortable during the dry season that runs from June to September and December to January. The official languages are French and Kirundi. Swahili is also common and English is frequently spoken, especially in tourist areas.

The capital, Bujumbura, boasts a wide array of tourist establishments, and popular hotels offer many comforts, including air conditioning, modern electronic equipment, swimming pools and tennis courts. Quality French and Greek restaurants are prevalent in Burundi's cities, as are many restaurants serving local cuisine. Several establishments on Lake Tanganyika provide a wide variety of entertainment, from boating to sailing to fishing. There is also a popular public beach. Although Burundi is in a transitional period, it could have great tourism potential in the coming years.


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