The political tensions in Burundi escalated in the lead-up to the national elections in summer 2015. A military coup was quashed in May 2015. Politically motivated harassment and violence led to thousands of Burundians fleeing over the border to neighbouring countries.

Facts about Burundi

The flag for Burundi
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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The flag for Burundi

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

As in 2010, the opposition boycotted the elections in protest against President Nkurunziza standing for election for a third term, while the peace agreement that ended the civil war from 1993‒2006 states that it is only permissible to serve two terms as president. Political and civil rights have been under intense pressure for several years.

Burundi is among the poorest countries in the world, and topped the Global Hunger Index in 2014. In 2014, the country was ranked 180 of 187 countries on UNDP's Human Development Index. Economic growth has remained at around four per cent in recent years, and is not keeping pace with rapid population growth. The political crisis has also affected the economy. Agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of GDP and employs more than 90 per cent of the population. The sector has low productivity and a low rate of investment. Coffee and tea account for 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.

Burundi has significant reserves of coltan and nickel, and the mining sector may provide opportunities in the longer term. Around half of the central government budget comes from development assistance. Corruption is widespread and affects all sectors at all levels. Education has been prioritized, including by Norway. Free health services have been introduced for pregnant women and children aged less than five years. However, access to health services is poor.

The country adopted its second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in 2012, with an emphasis on good governance, service delivery, energy, agriculture and the private sector. National strategies have also been developed for most sectors. However, implementation of the policies adopted takes time, both because of low public sector capacity and a lack of political will to pursue the country's own development goals. Alliances and enmity resulting from the civil war sometimes overshadow national interests and priorities.

War crimes

In 2014, it was decided to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to review all of the serious war crimes and human rights violations since independence in 1962 and until the time when the last rebel group signed the peace accord in 2008. The Commission is controversial, and two parties boycotted the vote in Parliament on the grounds that the Act only follows the recommendations from the United Nations and from broad national consultations in Burundi in 2009 to a limited extent.

Burundi's legal system is weak and politicized. Extrajudicial murders occur. Restrictions are placed on political and civil rights through legislation and physical blockades. Those affected include the opposition, voluntary organizations and journalists who work on security issues, human rights and uncovering corruption.

The weaknesses of the legal system also affect other matters, such as the investigation of sexual assault and domestic violence, for example. Nonetheless, attention to these topics has increased somewhat in recent years.


Women are exposed to extensive discrimination, both legal and cultural, and they have limited inheritance rights. At the same time, women are well represented politically, because the Constitution requires 30 percent of the National Assembly to be women; and in the government, nine out of twenty-one ministerial posts are held by women.

The country has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Burundi has been on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) since its establishment in 2006. Norway led the work on Burundi in the Commission during the first two years.

Norwegian development cooperation with Burundi

The bilateral cooperation with Burundi was initiated in 2007 as a result of Norway's involvement in the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. The bulk of Norway's support since 2012 has been channelled to education.

Norway supports the authorities' education programme through a multi-donor fund together with Belgium, France, the Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF. The fund forms part of Burundi's national budget and has contributed to school reform aimed at ensuring nine years of compulsory free schooling. It finances the building of new schools and upgrading of 6-year schools to 9-year schools, textbooks, teacher training, ICT equipment and other equipment for educational purposes. Emphasis is placed on improving the quality of teaching through reform of the curriculum and preparation of text books and teacher's guides. More and more children in Burundi are now attending school. One objective of the reform was also to reduce the number of children who have to repeat classes, and in the period 2011/12 to 2013/14 the proportion fell from 34 to 24 per cent.

Burundi also receives substantial Norwegian health sector support via the Global Vaccine Alliance GAVI and the World Bank.

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Norwegian organizations

Civil society in Burundi can help to ensure that the authorities are held accountable and to create meeting places across ethnic and political divisions. Norad's Civil Society Department supports Right to Play, Norwegian Church Aid, the Red Cross, CARE, Digni and Hauge Microfinance in their work in Burundi to the tune of NOK 34 million annually.

This support is channelled in particular to youth participation, vocational training and job creation, basic health services, women's rights and participation, as well as microfinance. For example, Norad's support via the Red Cross Norway contributed to strengthening Red Cross Burundi, which currently organizes 450,000 volunteers.

The situation for civil society and free media has become extremely difficult since the run-up to the elections in June 2015. An international presence and cooperation between international organizations is therefore of great importance.

United Nations

Norway has long been an important supporter of the United Nations in Burundi, especially through its active involvement in the UN Peacebuilding Commission.
Through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Norway has also supported several different measures related to human rights and the legal system in recent years.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015