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Country Reports

Burundi Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The ruling CNDD-FDD party dominates the state at all levels, and key government decisions remain the exclusive purview of President Pierre Nkurunziza and his inner circle of former civil-war generals, rendering the policy-making process unpredictable. Despite the 26 January announcement of party secretary-general Evariste Ndayishimiye as CNDD-FDD presidential candidate in the May election, incumbent President Nkurunziza is capable of withdrawing this and inserting himself as candidate. This would be most likely in the event of statements and violent protests against Ndayishimiye's candidacy by CNDD-FDD supporters (privately orchestrated by party leaders), especially members of the party's youth wing and militia, the Imbonerakure.Ndayishimiye's announced candidacy has decreased the likelihood of a pre-election anti-Nkurunziza coup attempt by CNDD-FDD and military elements. However, if Nkurunziza were to install himself as candidate, the probability would increase again. Burundi's (primarily European) aid donors have since 2015 largely suspended direct assistance, which had accounted for around half of the government's budget, severely impacting state finances. The government has sought (with very limited success) new Russian, Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Gulf Arab and OPEC (OFID) investment and assistance, as well as selling shares in state-owned companies (e.g. sugar producer SOSUMO). These lost funds, and reliance on agricultural goods for exports, will continue to cause very low central bank foreign-exchange reserves (equivalent to 1.5 months' worth of imports in November 2017), leading to payment constraints. While priority access to foreign currency is provided for fuel, medicine, and fertiliser imports, this is still not sufficient to avoid regular shortage. An Ndayishimiye presidency would increase the likelihood of renewed donor assistance, however new allegations of post-election human-rights violations would act as a spoiler for this.Burundi’s economy will continue to record lacklustre growth over the short term as political discord continues to damage the business climate. Foreign-currency shortages drive the sizeable differential between official and parallel market exchange rates.
Last update: February 25, 2020

Operational Outlook

Burundi’s operational environment remains highly challenging, with roads, electricity, and telephone access all limited. Continuing political instability and insecurity frustrate the rehabilitation of Burundi's infrastructure, which was also severely impacted by the 1993–2005 civil war. Corruption is an endemic problem, reaching the highest levels of government, and Burundi has been identified as the most corrupt country in the East African Community (EAC). Bureaucracy and regulation have reached high levels because of political expediency and the need to accommodate former militants in an expanded government structure and civil service.

Last update: January 31, 2020

Terrorism

Very high

The frequency of small-arms attacks in the capital, Bujumbura, remains below its 2015–16 height, with incidents now occurring less than once a month. Attacks against security forces and ruling party and government assets continue regularly outside Bujumbura, particularly in Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, and Cibitoke provinces, and will likely increase in frequency ahead of the May 2020 election. Burundi backs militants who raid into Rwanda's southwest, and Rwanda assists DRC-based Burundian anti-government militant groups, who raid into Burundi's northwest. The election of a new Burundian president in May and Burundi reducing its support for Rwandan armed groups would likely cause Rwanda to decrease its assistance to Burundian armed groups.

Last update: January 31, 2020

Crime

Petty and violent crime is widespread. Common crimes, often committed by armed bandit groups, include mugging, purse-snatching, burglary, and carjacking. Crime poses a particular risk to foreign visitors. Government and security forces (particularly the police and Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing and militia) regularly demand bribes at official and unofficial road posts. Ambushes and robberies by armed criminals, militant groups, and occasionally security forces (including Imbonerakure) against road vehicles are most common in Burundi’s north-west. There has been a significant increase in targeted political killings since the mid-2015 electoral unrest. Impunity remains a serious problem, and numerous perpetrators are acquitted or their cases dismissed. Victims often refuse to testify, fearing reprisal by the perpetrators, particularly when they are members of security forces.

Last update: January 31, 2020

War Risks

The likelihood of a coup attempt originating from within the ruling CNDD-FDD party and the military before the May presidential election has been decreased by the announcement of presidential successor candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye. However, incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza remains capable of withdrawing this and inserting himself as candidate, in the event of which coup risks would rise again, due to Nkurunziza's continued failure to obtain the restoration of donor budgetary assistance and sanctions relief. Security forces' violence directed against Burundi's minority ethnic-Tutsi community would likely trigger Rwandan intervention in the form of material support for anti-Nkurunziza armed groups. Conventional interstate war with Burundi's neighbours is unlikely.

Last update: January 31, 2020

Social Stability

High

Constitutional changes, which essentially ended political power-sharing and formalised the augmented control of President Nkurunziza and the ruling CNDD-FDD party, were passed by referendum in May 2018 without significant unrest. This indicates that targeted state violence against the opposition and civil society has minimised the scope for anti-government protests. Consequently, mass anti-government protests like those seen in Bujumbura during April–May 2015 (against Nkurunziza’s third term) are now unlikely, including around the May, July and August 2020 elections. However, the announcement of Evariste Ndayishimiye as CNDD-FDD presidential candidate has increased the likelihood that opposed party elites will orchestrate violent protests by party supporters and Imbonerakure, aiming to have his candidacy withdrawn.

Last update: January 31, 2020

Health Risk

Extreme

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all travelers over one year of age upon entry to the country. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is generally recommended for travelers over nine months of age.

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Cholera: A newly licensed cholera vaccine (Vaxchora) has just been made available and may be prescribed for adults traveling to areas with active cholera transmission. The vaccine prevents severe diarrhea caused by the most common type of cholera bacteria. As the vaccine is not fully effective, hygienic precautions should also be taken (e.g. drinking only bottled water, eating only thoroughly cooked foods, washing hands regularly, etc.).

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Heavy rains during the country's rainy season (February to May) commonly cause flash floods and may result in hazardous mudslides, damage to infrastructure, and significant disruption to travel in the country.

Bujumbura is located in close proximity to an active fault line; though earthquakes are infrequent, there remains the possibility of a large-magnitude earthquake. Previous regional earthquakes have been felt in the region, though there has been no infrastructure damage or casualties.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

High

Though national highways are in fairly good condition, most interior roads are in a poor state, often making travel by road extremely dangerous; drivers often have aggressive driving habits, making serious accidents common. Poor vehicle maintenance and driving standards make traveling by public transport (including taxis, mini-buses, and "moto" motorbike-taxis) potentially unsafe.

Road blocks and identification checkpoints are common. There have been increasing reports of robberies at fake police checkpoints. Access to and from Bujumbura is controlled by police at night.

Though all airports are currently open, given recent instability flights could be canceled and airports forced to close on short notice. Since the outburst of violence in December 2015, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, and FlyDubai have canceled their flights to and from Bujumbura.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

The country has limited infrastructural development, especially outside of Bujumbura. Prolonged power outages and water shortages are regularly reported in the summer, even in Bujumbura.  

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Burundi has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary depending on elevation. In the lower regions (the Imbo Plain) temperatures can reach 23°C while in higher regions (Mount Heha), they seldom go above 15°C.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +257
Police: 22 22 51 25

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019